How to save Sparks Street – Part II – Let’s hear Lotta’s voice again!

The City of Ottawa wants your views on how to revitalize Sparks Street, Canada’s first pedestrian mall.

I’d like to add something new to what I wrote in a previous blog post, where I suggested building upon the only pre-existing “anchor” that already draws people from coast to coast to this narrow dark pedestrian mall – that anchor being Canada’s most iconic address, 56 Sparks Street, made famous by celebrated humanitarian, Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee, USC Canada.

My suggestion was to develop a centre or museum on Sparks Street that is dedicated to the important role that Canada and Canadians have been playing in international humanitarian assistance over the decades since World War II and beyond.

And name the site, “The Lotta Hitschmanova International Humanitarian Centre”, in honour of the woman (a refugee to Canada herself) who made Sparks Street so well known to Canadians across the country.

I have a second suggestion to make – whether the first is implemented or not – to give visitors to Sparks Street the chance to hear Lotta’s iconic voice again.

More than anything else – it was hearing her voice in those heartfelt appeals on the TV and radio that so inspired Canadians in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Lotta’s bust currently rests on the wall beside the entrance to 56 Sparks Street. Imagine what it would be like to have a recording of her old TV and Radio PSAs playing for visitors as they pass by.

Let’s take a tip from the nearby Oscar Peterson memorial at the National Arts Centre – where his music can be heard right alongside Ruth Abernethy’s amazing sculpture.

Imagine: Visitors to Ottawa would stroll down Sparks Street, suddenly hear this voice from the past (Lotta), stop in their tracks and have a listen, take a photo or two, tell their friends back home.

And thus more and more visitors from across Canada would have a reason to visit Sparks Street, hang around a bit longer, and maybe even visit that Lotta Hitschmanova humanitarian centre once it is built.

David Rain

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