Friday, June 8, 2012

Modernism for the Masses - Elmvale Acres & Urbandale

If you drive through the streets of the Elmvale Acres and Urbandale Acres neighbourhoods, you will notice a series of strikingly modern houses. These were mass-produced by a handfull of tract builders - some of which built the same plans in various Canadian cities, and even in other Ottawa neighbourhoods. Many of the designs are quite small - especially compare to the standards of new houses.

Below are a couple of journal articles on the houses as well as some selected plans.

I wonder what happened to the miniature house models? I want them!

The option with the 2-sided fireplace is fantastic!

This is one of my favourite plans in the area with its strikingly modern facade. At 1061 square feet it is not large, but the vaulted ceilings make the space feel much larger than it really is. Below is a photo of the design showing the roof beams protruding from the front of the house - a great detail.

Knight Homes - Cavalier. Below is the beautifully modern facade of this design. A few people have inserted a window on the blank front dining room wall - but I like it blank, the way it was originally intended.

This a a great back split design where you descend a half flight of stairs into the dining room. Below is an ad with another Knight Homes design.

While I do not have the plans for the Economy Home Builder's houses in the area, here are a few from 1961 newspaper ads.

This design is unusual as the main living spaces are on the lower level - half underground. Essentially the basement of a high-ranch design is outfitted with the main living spaces. I am not sure why they did that, but my theory is that is was more economical, thus making the house more affordable.

You may know Mastercraft as the builder of the new SOHO condos in Ottawa, but they used to build houses in the mid-century.

I have the entire brochure for the Edstan homes development in the area. It is reproduced below. 
Edstan also built similar plans in Bell's Corners and Riverside Park.

One of the features I like about this design is the side hall and door to the carport and yard. I recently saw an updated version of this design where the homeowners took down all of the walls on the main living level to create an open concept living/dining/kitchen. It looked amazing! Their style still suited the mid-century spirit of the house - so I approve.

The side door entry halfway down the basement stairs make this design conducive to renting out the basement.

One of the few two-storey designs in the neighbourhood.

Campeau also built extensively in Elmvale Acres, many plans of which have been featured in past posts.


In follow up to a question from a reader, below is what I suspect is the plan for their house, built by Campeau in Riverside Park. It is similar to those constructed by other builders in Elmvale Acres and Urbandale. This is the only version of the plan I have.


  1. Love your blog posts. We live in a home our neighbors say was built by economy home builders but looks a lot like the bungalow in the middle of your second graphic. It is interesting to see how all these houses in Elmvale have been changed over the years.

  2. Thanks for featuring Elmvale. I live in Riverview Park, practically next door to Elmvale, and I only recently (finally) had the chance to explore the area to the southeast. I saw what you saw: an excellent stock of modest, mid-century homes exhibiting pride of ownership and good upkeep.

  3. Great stuff. I've lived in Alta Vista since 1970 and am surrounded by many of the homes you describe here. I've always wondered about when each of the neighbourhoods was developed and you have pretty much answered all of my questions.

  4. The current streetview picture of the CBI Mount Orleans house (near the top of this post) is my house! Sadly, while we absolutely LOVE our house, we are quickly outgrowing it. We'll be sad to leave it but are hoping to stay in the neighbourhood so maybe we'll end up in a bigger house that you've also featured on your blog:)

  5. Thank you for this!! So fascinating to read about our little neighbourhood and to imagine what it looked like when it first was built. We love our classic suburban home to raise our family in!