GO Centre: 378 Elgin Street

In December 1975, Gays of Ottawa moved to 378 Elgin at the corner of Gladstone in the second floor, to enlarge the facilities and have a more centralized location. It opened officially on January 2, 1976. 

During the time of the Centre's time here, GO lobbied for the City to provide access to City property for queer events and dances, as no community centres offered space or events for LGBT people. 

GO also organized a news conference at the Centre after the May 1976 Club Baths Raid, and provided space for a new lesbian-specific group called Lesbians of Ottawa Now, who was organizing a National Lesbian Conference.

In January 1977, GO meets with representatives of the police and MPP Michael Cassidy to discuss better protection and relations, especially as it concerned bathhouses and assaults in public parks. As a result, a police liaison for the community is appointed for the first time.

In May 1977, Barbara Thornborrow contacts GO for assistance when she is fired in the armed forces for being a lesbian. GO and LOON produce a TV program called "Out of the Closets" that is shown on local stations and becomes a monthly program for a time.

On February 16, 1979, disaster struck. The building the GO Centre was located in caught fire and was completely destroyed. There were people in the Centre for a meeting on planning the Celebration '79 national conference that was due to take place that summer. 

Rose Stanton recalls that she and her partner couldn't attend the meeting, but that she was on the phone with David Garmaise discussing details when he said "I smell smoke, just a minute". Luckily, everyone got out of the building unharmed, but the majority of the paperwork was gone. There is a story of someone, perhaps Garmaise, heroically trying to rescue at least some of the paperwork before it went up in flames.

Though most reports say there was no foul play and blame the fire on faulty wiring, some, like Stanton and John Duggan, suspect arson. Duggan recalls a chance meeting with someone who asked if the case of arson was ever solved. They discussed a possible suspect, a man who attended GO on a regular basis but had a history of setting buildings on fire. The twist that it could have been someone from our own community, and not a hate-motivated event, is very unexpected.  

If you know more details about this place, please email info@bankstreet.ca to share dates, facts, images or more.



378 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1N1