2023 14-2 April Heritage

Lighting up the early home of Joseph Tassé at 211 Guigues

By Nancy Miller Chenier
211 Guigues Avenue,
Photo: Gilberto Prioste
Joseph Tasse President French Canadian Institute c.1872. Photo: CRCCF

Several municipalities in Ontario have developed blue-plaque programs celebrating links between notable individuals of the past and buildings where they lived.  If there was such a program for Lowertown, this two-and-a-half-storey front-gabled home dating from the early 1870s would have one. For several years, it was the home of Joseph Tassé, described in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as a journalist, author, translator, office holder and politician.

While in Lowertown, he trained as a lawyer, moved to journalism, and then took the post of official translator to the House of Commons. He was elected president of the Institut canadien-français in 1872 and re-elected for a second term. From 1878 to 1887 he served in the House of Commons as a Conservative member for Ottawa. From 1891 until his death in 1895 he sat in the Senate.

211 Guigues Avenue, 2014. Photo: Bruce Deachman

In May 1877 he was still living at 211 Guigues Avenue and the house, then fully decorated for the Pope’s Jubilee celebration, was described in the Ottawa Citizen as follows:

Mr. Joseph Tasse’s on Church Street, the lower storey was brilliantly illuminated and ornamented with flowers, the verandah being gracefully lined with Venetian lanterns of various colors. At the second story, a large inscription: Vidit annot Petre (He has lived the years of Peter) had a splendid effect. We noticed on the upper window a superb tiara nicely goldened with the keys of St. Peter, the Papal arms, and the words Vive Pie IX.

Today, this same house continues the tradition of adding special decorations albeit to celebrate less directly religious events. In December 2014, Bruce Deachman featured the house in an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Taking to the streets for some Christmas enlightenment.” A colourful photo of the house generously endowed with Christmas lights and other seasonal ornaments was captioned as a “Lowertown house on Guigues Avenue, all dolled up for the holidays.”

In the absence of a plaque, the occupants have found their own way to celebrate this heritage house!