Capital of Canada, in eastern Ontario, on the hills overlooking the Ottawa River, and divided by the Rideau Canal (1832) into the Upper (western) and Lower (eastern) towns; population (2001 est) 774,100, in a metropolitan area (with adjoining Hull, Québec) of 1,063,700. Industries include engineering, hi-tech and information technology, telecommunications, biotechnology, food-processing, publishing, lumber, and the manufacture of pulp, paper, textiles, and leather products. Government, and community and health services employ a large section of the workforce. Ottawa was founded 1826-32 as Bytown, in honour of John By (1781-1836), whose army engineers were building the Rideau Canal. In 1854 it was renamed after the Ottawa River, the name deriving from the Outaouac, native Canadian Algonquin people of the area.
The site of Ottawa was explored in 1613 by Samuel de Champlain, who named the Rideau River and the Chaudière Falls, but permanent settlement was not established until the 19th century. In 1800 the lumber centre of Wrightsville (or Wright's Town, later Hull) was founded on the northern side of the Ottawa River, but the southern shore was not settled until 1826, when Bytown evolved around the headquarters of the Rideau Canal project. The town developed alongside Hull as a timber and fur-trading centre, and was renamed Ottawa on its incorporation in 1855. As capital of the United Provinces of Canada in 1858, its territory comprised parts of Québec and Ontario. On confederation in 1867, it retained its position, becoming capital of the Dominion of Canada. After the coming of the railway in 1870, it grew rapidly as a distribution centre for lumber to the expanding towns of southern Canada. Pulp and paper industries were established later to process trees unsuitable for sawn timber, using hydroelectricity generated on the Ottawa River.
The National Art Gallery, which contains over 25,000 works of art; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (1985), with over 158,000 images; the National Archives (1872); the National Gallery of Canada (1880); the National Library (1953); the Canadian War Museum (1880); the Canadian Museum of Nature (1990); and the National Museum of Science and Technology. The Canadian Museum of Civilization (1989), which contains one of the world's largest collection of totem poles, is located in Hull, Québec, on the opposite shore of the river, a town linked to Ottawa by four bridges.
Ottawa is situated at the head of navigation on the Ottawa River, between the Chaudière and Rideau Falls, where the Ottawa River Valley widens out from the Canadian Shield, an ancient, highly-eroded mountain system. The Rideau Canal enables access for small vessels to Lake Ontario at Kingston, 145 km/90 mi to the south; the 200 km/125 mi-long waterway incorporates a chain of lakes. The city lies on the Trans-Canada Highway, and the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific main railway lines, 355 km/222 mi northeast of Toronto and 177 km/110 mi west of Montréal.
Religious foundations include the Roman Catholic cathedral of Notre Dame, and Christ Church Cathedral. Rideau Hall, the residence of the governor-general, is situated in the suburb of New Edinburgh. The three neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings 1859-65, with bright green copper roofs, dominate the city from their position on Parliament Hill in Upper Town. The central building is a 1920s reconstruction of the original which was destroyed by fire in 1916, and is surmounted by the 89 m/293 ft-high Peace Tower. Ottawa's oldest building is the Commissariat (1827), originally used as an office and storehouse during the construction of the Rideau Canal, now Bytown Museum. The city is regularly laid out in rectangular blocks. In the late 1940s, it received a facelift from Parisian architect Jacques Greber, who created numerous parks and tree-lined avenues.
Ottawa has 29 museums and galleries. The National Arts Centre (1969) comprises conference halls, an opera house, theatre, and arts complex. Ottawa's Tulip Festival, held annually in May, began in 1945, when Holland sent 100,000 bulbs to show their gratitude for Canada's role in liberating their country. The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, the world's largest of its kind, has been held annually since 1993.
Major universities are the University of Ottawa (established 1848 as the College of Bytown) and Carleton University (which dates back to the 1942 foundation of Carleton College).
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