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The history of the Byward Market lives on at Cundell Stables

Caroline Mercer, apt613
October 24, 2017

A small sign marking “Cundell Stables” hangs over a laneway between a tea shop and a row of brick houses. Across the street is a whiskey bar, calmly waiting for evening to envelop the Byward Market. The sound of whinnying fails to compete with the rumble of cars driving up York Street. The sign provides the only suggestion that a horse stable sits metres away.

As I approached the address John Cundell gave me, a small boy appeared at the door. Three-year-old Koleson, who may one day be the fifth generation to run Cundell Stables, trotted back inside to tell his grandfather I had arrived.

“We’re part of Ottawa’s history,” Cundell told me as we sat down in his living room, surrounded by family photos and a bounty of horse show ribbons. “People come in here all the time to look at the stables. They can’t believe we have a stable in the back. When you go out to the front, you’re in the city. It’s like two different lives within thirty feet.”

Cundell’s grandfather started dealing horses on George Street in the Byward Market in 1890. The stable moved to York Street in the 1940s, but the business has been family run since the start. Today, Cundell keeps two Belgian draft horses and six miniature horses in a stable tucked behind the only home where he’s ever lived.

“My grandfather sold horses to the fire department. We had the garbage contract in 1918. We plowed the streets and removed snow from the sidewalks. We used to dig foundations so that people could build their houses. Back then, everything was done by horse or man. They built the Parliament Buildings with horses,” Cundell said.

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