Sunday, January 24, 2016

Charmed by Chalmers

There is one mid-century modern builder in Ottawa that has always intrigued me, yet I do not know much about the company. The builder is Chalmers and they constructed a number of striking and unusual houses in Ottawa during the 1950s to 1970s. I do not have any floor plans or marketing materials by the builder, but I wanted to share a bit of what I know about Chalmers. I would love to hear from anyone who knows more about the builder and/or has floor plans for the houses!

When I was a Realtor, I had a chance to visit a couple Chalmers-built houses. Inside, the designs usually centre on a very large living room, often with a vaulted exposed-beam ceiling. Large windows and prominent fireplaces are also characteristics of the designs. Even semi-detached designs built by Chalmers have striking interiors with these features. 

Outside, Chalmers-built houses often have various textures, especially wood, and sometimes have dramatic roof-lines. In some cases the exterior may have a rustic look, perhaps inspired by chalets in the European Alps. (Exterior images courtesy of Google Maps)

Typically, the houses can be found scattered throughout the Alta Vista and Faircrest Heights neighbourhoods. In particular, there are clusters in the area of Summit Avenue and Mountbatten Avenue, Crestview Road and Ronald Avenue, Hillary Avenue and Palen Avenue, and on Chattaway Avenue. There are also a handful in Urbandale (near Elmvale Acres), Arlington Woods, Glabar Park and on Shanegal Crescent in Windsor Park Village (Hunt Club). There is a pocket of large, sprawling Chalmers homes located next to the Billing’s Estate. This neat little area of houses also has a street named “Chalmers” and I have heard that the builder constructed a house in the neighbourhood for himself.

In Faircrest Heights the Chalmers semi-detached houses are quite wide and designed to look like one large sprawling house, instead of two units. In some cases a two-car garage is located to one side, yet one half is for each unit - meaning the homeowner of one unit has to walk over to the front yard of the other unit to get to their garage.
Here are a few examples of Chalmers houses across the city:

The real estate team I work for had a Chalmers-built house for sale on Chalmers Road. The house has an extremely large living room at 26 by 18-feet! The kitchen and family room space has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and skylights. Huge windows and 3 fireplaces make this a perfect example of a Chalmers design. 


  1. I’m so glad to have found your blog! I have also always been intrigued by this Chalmers developer and his typical (sprawlingly wide) yet uniquely-designed houses scattered throughout Alta Vista as I live in one of these houses, in the cluster around Mountbatten and Summit avenues, and as the growing market for a large house in proximity of downtown has finally stricken two Chalmers houses in my area, I’ve decided to write a formal request for heritage designation. I’ve written a good paragraph about the architecture of these houses but I couldn’t find much information on Chalmers himself, which wasn’t even found in the City archives, so I was wondering if you had any information dug up on this mysterious yet fascinating developer.

    I'm Xavier by the way - I'm commenting as "Anonymous" only cause I don't have a blogging account.

    1. Hello Xavier. Thank you for the note! I love the idea of giving the area a heritage designation. Unfortunately, the only information I have on Chalmers and your neighbourhood is what I have shared on this post. Good luck!


    2. Hello again,

      As it happens, I think I've found another quite interesting street with the more experimental type of Mid-Century Modern houses in Ottawa, in the Beechwood/Vavier area right next to the Beechwood Cemetery, and the houses look interestingly similar to the Chalmers-built ones, but perhaps with more experimental and less "traditional" (if you will) features such as sloped roofs facing inward and what not. The street is called Michel Circle. It's also built on a hill, which makes for an interesting streetscape, also much like the Billings Estate District.

      Hope to see a new article on that!

    3. Hello Xavier,

      Thanks for the comment. I posted a few images of the houses in that area of Vanier on the blog a few years ago: I wish I knew more about the area...but alas I know very little. The houses are intriguing!

      Take care,