Man with a vision converts former church to apartments in 1956

(Orville Parks converted the first St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church to a 4 unit apartment building in 1956. This is the building as it appears today at the corner of Hobin Street and Carp Road in Stittsville. Photo: Stittsville Central)

(Editor’s Note: My Grandfather, Orville Parks, was a man with a vision, was well-respected and one of the finest carpenters in the area – building many of the older Stittsville homes and barns in the former Goulbourn Township. He worked hard from his early years growing up on the family farm in Fallowfield to constructing his own home at age 17 for his family on Stittsville Main Street. He and his wife Ermel (nee Faulkner) raised 10 children in their home. It was no surprise he had the foresight to purchase and convert an old church that outgrew it’s congregation and was asked to build the new one.)

The original St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was located on Old Carp Road (at the corner of Hobin Street and Carp Road). Construction of the old church began in 1872 with completion and dedication in 1875. From those first services in 1875, the old church served its people well until 1956. The last couple to be married in the church was Elroy and Ann McCooeye in 1953.

As the population of Stittsville was increasing after the Second World War and the congregation was growing, it was felt that a larger church was needed. The church elders decided to build this new church on Church Street (now Mulkins Crescent). The elders knew there was only one man with the skills to take on a project of this magnitude – Orville Parks.

(Photo of the original St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Carp Road in the 1930’s)

Orville was not only a dedicated congregation member, but one of the best carpenters in the former Goulbourn Township. From my Grandfather’s log books, I learned much about the build of the new church and the old. I share the history with you, concentrating on his legacy project the conversion of the old church.

The work on the new church building began in 1955, with Orville as the lead carpenter. He was paid $2.00 per hour for his work. He recruited other good local men, like Sterling Graham as his carpenter assistant, and the group completed the job in 1956. The church was dedicated and began serving its congregation in 1956. It continues to have an active congregation.

Orville Parks was not just a local carpenter – he was a man of energy and enterprise. He purchased the ‘old’ church on Carp Road with the foresight that it could be put to new use. So, in 1956, the building was purchased by Orville and his wife Ermel (one of the Faulkner girls from the homestead on Faulkner Trail). The price paid for the ‘old’ church – $3,500.00. This was a substantial amount for an old building in the 1950’s.

Upon payment of $27.00 for the deed, he got right down to work on his vision: he was going to convert the old church into four apartments. He knew there was a need for such a rental building in Stittsville.

A new well was drilled by Hughie Sparks; Alex Graham and one of the ‘Skimmings boys’ hand dug the area for a new septic tank. Orville purchased new doors, locks and plywood from Stittsville Lumber (Hobin Bros. – located at the current Quitters location); additional lumber from Howard Perkins in Bell’s Corners; W.J. Bell Construction provided the gravel and cement; the floor tiles came from Stradwicks in Ottawa; Clifford Switzer made the furnace oil burner at his welding shop on Stittsville Main; Orville’s son, Weldon O. Parks & Son Electrical did all of the electrical work; Glen Scott Fuels (his son-in-law), installed two furnaces and delivered the oil throughout the years. These are just a few of the local people who worked on this huge undertaking, by one carpenter with an entrepreneurial spirit.

The build took about one year at a total cost of $9,452.55 for his vision to be executed. Orville and Ermel called the building, nothing original – Carp Road Apartments – and most people referred to the building as just that.

One year after he started, all four apartments were leased in 1957. In January, the first tenant moved in. Apartment #1 was rented to Mr. Larry Langil at $80.00 per month. Keith Paul moved in on February 1 and paid $70.00 per month for Apartment #2 and stayed there until June, then moved into Apartment #4 in July and paid $80.00 per month. In August, Mr. Elmer West moved into Apartment #2 and continued to pay $70.00. On August 29, Mr. Oliver moved into Apartment #3 and paid $70.00 per month. All tenants continued to reside in the apartments until 1960 with some remaining longer. Mr. Wheatley moved into #1 in July 1957. Imagine those rents today!

Wheatley moved out in 1959 when he hired Orville to build his new home on Stittsville Main. The red brick house built for Mr. Wheatley is located beside the Stittsville Legion and was later the home of Mary and Johnny Davidson. Mrs. Davidson was a math school teacher at Stittsville Public, so their new home was convenient for her as she could ‘walk to school’.

The Carp Road address was the first ‘apartment building’ in Stittsville. What an endeavour to be taken on by one man with a vision and a crew of local talent!

In 1987, Ermel sold the building after Orville’s death. Today, the apartments still exist with the same exterior and they continue to be rented as Orville’s legacy project lives on.


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