News / Ottawa

Ottawa archivists find portrait of city's first mayor

John Scott was mayor of Bytown from 1847 to 1848.

This portrait of Mayor John Scott was recently discovered and placed in the hallway with all of Ottawa's other former mayors.

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This portrait of Mayor John Scott was recently discovered and placed in the hallway with all of Ottawa's other former mayors.

A likeness of the man who presided over Ottawa before the city even had its name is now hanging in the corridors, after a lucky discovery, which has only led to more mysteries.

A portrait of John Scott, the first mayor of Bytown, is now on a wall in old city hall, just outside current Mayor Jim Watson’s office, alongside the portraits of dozens of other mayors.

The city’s archivist, Paul Henry, said they only recently restored and hung the former mayor’s portrait after it came in a donation from the Ottawa Historical Society.

Henry said the painting came in listed as a portrait of an unknown man, but city staff knew they had a piece of history on their hands.

“Once we opened up the collection and we started looking at it we recognized the portrait,” said Henry. “We knew who he was, because we had a photo montage of early mayors.”

Scott was the first mayor of Bytown from 1847 to 1848. He resigned as mayor to take a seat in the provincial legislature of the time and ultimately died at 33.

Henry said this has been a missing piece in the collection of portraits and it’s nice to have it displayed.

“It’s nice when we can find these lost treasures as it were and bring them back into the light.”

Where the painting has been all these years remains a mystery, however. The historical society gave it to the city in 2012, but they’re not sure when it came into their hands.

The painting was likely hung in Ottawa’s first city hall, which burned to the ground in 1931. The other mystery around the painting is a small key that conservators found tucked behind the frame when doing the restoration work.

Henry said they believe it’s a bank or safety deposit key, but don’t know what it might open.

“We have no idea. It’s the next mystery for this particular painting.”

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