How the 2017 ‘Ottawa’ sign ended up in a field far from downtown

The Ottawa sign in the ByWard Market is a beacon where tourists from around the world and local residents alike gather to take pictures.

So why is there another one in a field far from downtown in the city’s south end?

“I don’t know if it’s drawing any tourists out here,” says Jamie Clarmo, owner of The Stable Restaurant near Metcalfe.

There are no crowds, not many selfies and certainly less attention than the sign received at its first home about 30 kilometres away.

The sign is the original Ottawa sign that first welcomed visitors in the ByWard Market in 2017. It was put on York Street to mark Canada 150 celebrations. It was supposed to be temporary, but it was so popular the ByWard Market BIA decided to keep it.

In 2019, the old sign was replaced with a newer, shinier one that lights up.

The old sign now stands just off Highway 31. The letters are a bit crooked, but they’re all there.

The letters spent years in the back of a yard in Findlay Creek, according to the sign’s ‘guardian,’ Randy Ryan. He says they arrived from downtown and spent years in his industrial yard before finding their new home last month.

“We were cleaning up the yard, and we decided to just put it up in my yard in Metcalfe,” says Ryan.

But, how did he end up with the sign in the first place?

“Well, we worked for a sign company at one time and that sign company recommended me this other sign company,” he said. “They just needed to get rid of it somehow, so I volunteered to take it because I had a backhoe at the time working with them, and I just said, ‘Yeah, drop it off at my yard and see what comes of it.”

Since displaying the sign, it has received attention both good and bad.

“People stopping steady looking at it,” says Ryan.

But that also includes Ottawa Bylaw.

“I was told I had junk on my property. I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about. Now I’ve been told I should straighten the T’s up at least.”

He says he may do that at some point. He adds a local group has even offered to paint it.

As with any good art piece, this one has certainly generated attention. 

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