amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cafe Nostalgica, 603 Cumberland to be demolished

I arrived at the Café Nostalgica yesterday for the blUe Mondays reading series (a magical night of sound and words) and there was a big honking sign out front:

“This building to be demolished to make way for a cold, generic building with no history or humanity.”

Ok, that’s not what the sign said exactly. I may be paraphrasing, but it might as well have. Am I not the only one who is horrified by this pending demolition?

These days U of O is tearing down buildings left and right. Here’s footage of 178 Laurier being demolished, and a bit of its history.

I don’t know the history of 603 Cumberland, the site of the Graduate Students Association & Café Nostalgica, but I do know the café has been in operation since 1995 in that location and has been the centre of the U of O’s art and culture scene more than any place else on campus.

Café Nostalgica is where I cut my poetic teeth, so to speak, standing at the open mic as part of Trevor Tchir & Kristy McKay’s Thursday night open stage and staying for incredible music and poetry til the wee smalls.

Kristy and I were taking Seymour Mayne’s Advanced Creative Writing Poetry Workshop at the University of Ottawa in the fall of 2001, after having taking the first workshop in 2000/2001. Kristy recruited a bunch of us to help her add poetry to the evening, which was mostly an open stage for music.

This is where I first encountered the late Steve Sauvé, whose hilarious and poignant poetry both make me laugh and broke my heart.

This is where I first heard the Max Middle Sound Project, with Max, Melanie Little and Peter Norman doing Moon Potatoes.

This is where I first heard the amazing music of Trevor Tchir, Rozalind MacPhail, John Carroll, Kevin Grant, Mélissa Laveaux, Peter Webb, the Lighthouse Keepers, the early pre-Soul Jazz Orchestra Phil Lafreniere and so many more.

This is where Lenny served Charles and I jumbo rumbos and the reason why we staggered out of there at 1 am, sadly missing out on even more music and poetry because we had to get up to go to work.

To commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the open stage in 2003, Trevor had a bunch of us gather at the café one evening to record a live CD called Thursday Heroes: Live at Café Nostalgica. I had the pleasure of performing my Drum Song poem with the help of Phil Lafreniere on the drums.

The café continues to put on great nights of music and poetry and display artwork by local artists. A few years back I even reviewed its food for Cheapeats Ottawa.
I will miss the old red brick house on Cumberland, and I know many of you will too. I wish Ottawa U would consider the heritage of its buildings and their history. Too many of its buildings are cold, concrete and uninviting.

“Set a candle on every table in this room,
The Thursday Heroes are bound to be here soon.”
Trevor Tchir, Thursday Heroes


Amanda said...

thanks, Patrick. it seems a shame that it can't be restored. i'm surrpised it isn't a heritage building. i'd be curious to hear what Heritage Ottawa had to say. i look forward to the festival and hope that you include lots of poetry too.

Kristy said...

Hi Patrick,

Trevor and I had heard through friends (Marielle Berube and Pierre Chretien of the Souljazz Orchestra) about the upcoming demolition of 603 Cumberland.

We certainly did make the most beautiful memories in that building, and those memories are something that can't be torn down or taken away. We treasure them completely.

In addition to helping run the Poetry and Music open stage I also bartended at Cafe Nostalgica for some time, and it would be crazy of me to say that I don't agree with the structural points that you bring up. (I know that basement, I've seen the inner skeleton of the house!) The poor old thing really has seen prettier days, hasn't it?

I would love to hear more about the plans for the new building as they become available. What you have said so far sounds good - if GSAED can make an effort to honour the role that Cafe Nostalgica has played in the artistic community of the University of Ottawa and the city, this would be welcomed with open hearts, I am sure.

This is the first that I have heard about the three-day festival prior to the demolition of 603 Cumberland. While Trevor and I are currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, we would be THRILLED to make the trip out to take part in this event. Please send us more information, so we can make arrangements. We are way overdue for a visit, and this would be a momentous occasion to come home for.

Stay in touch.

Thank you, Amanda, for posting this. You've captured the beauty that so many people found there.


Sarah said...

Just to let you know, GSAED (Graduate Student Association) is deciding to tear down the building and constructing a new building in its place, at the cost of graduate students. GSAED currently rents the building. Unfortunately running a fully licensed restaurant out of a 100-year-old house really destroys the building if not properly renovated to sustain the business...