Friday, November 1, 2002

Ottawa wasn't always so boring - or maybe I'm just hanging out with the wrong class of people

LeBreton dig unearths seamy lifestyles. A hotel latrine has given up syringes and vials used in Ottawa's 1890s drug culture.

Oh, how I miss excavating treasures from latrines and piles of garbage!

"Dating back to the 1890s, the glass syringes and opiate bottles are part of a cache of artifacts recovered from a latrine at the Occidental Hotel, a raucous bar and inn that served the working-class Flats until the area burned down in 1900. Those vials packed an opiate punch that in late 19th-century Ottawa was legal and widely used by doctors, who prescribed opiate derivatives like morphine for ailments including menstrual cramps, tuberculosis, diarrhea and dysentery. Citizen advertisements for "fine-grade Turkish opium" dating from the same period show the drug was widely available, says Carleton University history professor Bruce Elliott."

"Were the opiates for medicinal purposes? "Not necessarily," said Mr. Daechsel, who speculated the hotel may have been used as a haven for drug users seeking a break from their hard-scrabble lives. "The one thing that struck us about all of the sites that we've been involved with," Mr. Daechsel said, "is that there was just an enormous amount of liquor being consumed on that site -- whether it was wine or harder liquor or beer."


Anonymous Margaret Thomson said...

Was it not found that there were stables near that hotel, and that the use of the opiates included veterinary use? Just interviewed my mother who lived on the flats, as did I until age 4. Her father and mother were in the 1900 fire and my mother, born twenty-one years later, has many memories of the Flats.


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