The listing: 229 Clemow Ave., Ottawa
Asking Price: $2.09-million
Taxes: $20,873 (2019)
Lot Size: 50- by 100-feet
Agents: Josh Eyking, Broker, Re/Max Hallmark Realty Group
A political salon
A fixture of Ottawa’s political and media social scene is on the block, as the long-time home of political strategy and communications power couple Bruce Anderson and Nancy Jamieson is for sale.
“Yeah, some of our friends aren’t thrilled with us, that’s fair to say,” said Ms. Jamieson, who has hosted many events and gatherings at the couple’s Glebe neighbourhood home over the past 24 years. “We have friends and family that cross the political spectrum, members of parliament, cabinet ministers, the odd prime minister, lots who are journalists. They are all pretty sad. ‘Why are you selling it?’ Because it’s very big, and it’s just two of us and the dog now.”
Mr. Anderson, who has in the past been a regular columnist contributor to The Globe and Mail and was a familiar face on CBC Evening News’ At Issue panel, has a résumé that reads like the index to a history of modern political research. The former president of Decima Research, founding partner of Earnscliffe Strategy Group and owner of boutique research and advertising firms admits that many a political brainstorm has taken place under his roof.
“We've definitely over the years have had people come to our house in the middle of election campaigns and sat around over a bottle of wine and a piece of pizza and talked about what was going on, and talked about strategy, polling, advertising, debate prep.”
But like any good political consultant, the couple keeps mum on exactly what was discussed.
"I can remember some specifics, but since the bodies are still warm and above ground, it’s probably better if I don’t recount exact details,” Ms. Jamieson said.
“I sometimes think that our neighbours ended up hearing some fairly frank political stories because they drifted up into the ether,” Mr. Anderson said.
The house today
“The Glebe itself is the most desirable downtown location,” said listing agent Josh Eyking, describing the leafy precinct of mainly century-old homes mere minutes from Parliament Hill and minutes away from the Rideau Canal and Lansdowne. “Clemow itself is known for larger lots, larger homes … there’s a lot of prestigious people there: some politicians, CEOs, people that own accounting firms, law firms. A fixer-upper on Clemow gets high one to two [million dollars]; something in good condition [can] get anything between $2-million to $4-million.”
The two pools of potential buyers highlight the tension between Ottawa as a company town and a budding tech capital: Mr. Eyking thinks the size and location might make it ideal for an embassy, or as the stately home of one of the many newly minted Shopify Inc. millionaires.
The orange-brick house with Tudor-style plaster and beam on the upper floors has five bedrooms, five bathrooms and a two-car garage. Through the front door into the square foyer is a trip back to 1910 (when the house was built) with dark oak floors, dark trim, doors on every wall and a set of stairs up to the second level. The house has some modernized rooms, but the layout has been kept more traditional with many segments, small-ish rooms and multiple paths open to your destination.
To the right is Ms. Jamieson’s favourite space, a long library with red walls, a tiled fireplace and built-in bookshelves that travels from the front of the house to the rear. “It is filled with my hundreds of books. It is probably my favourite place to sit on a Saturday afternoon with a book curled up on a couch with a cup of tea,” she said.
On the other side of the foyer is a formal dining room, this one has a blue theme and another tiled fireplace, and a small powder room and phone cubby just off the back of the room. Passing through here takes you past the “servant’s” staircase to the upper level, and into the updated kitchen, done in a “Tuscan” style with Travertine-style tile floor, and warm yellow walls and tan-and-rust granite counters with dark wood cabinetry and stainless steel appliances. It’s dominated by a beefy butcher-block-topped island in pale green, and there’s a side door to the driveway as well as an eat-in seating area with a windowed wall and a door that opens onto the back patio.
This level’s best room is tucked away behind the library and the stairs, the impressive 20-foot-by-26-foot great room with 13-foot vaulted ceiling. “A truly unique feature … a room I can only compare to something you would see in Parliament,” Mr. Eyking said.
“When we stuck our heads in that room, we said we’re going to want to live here,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’ve watched a lot of football games on a big screen there, we’ve entertained a lot of political discussions there.”
“One of my fondest memories, is having a Christmas party here many years ago – a big sit-down dinner, there were 75 people, music and everything else. About halfway through dinner, one of my daughters came downstairs and in her hand was a bloody tooth … and she’s showing it to me and the person who I was sitting beside, who happened to be Paul Martin, the minister of finance at the time.”
Much to her surprise, the famously penny-pinching finance whiz offered a little fiscal stimulus to the young girl. “I said, ‘You’ll have to skip right back upstairs and put that under your pillow, and the tooth fairy will come.’ And Paul, who is a lovely man, is basically going, ‘So, how much does the tooth fairy pay.’ And I was like, I think it’s only like a quarter, maybe 50 cents. And he’s like ‘No, I’m sure the tooth fairy pays at least a loonie.’ ”
The second floor has four charm-filled bedrooms, including the master with the same vaulting ceiling and plaster decorations as the great room. There are little sitting areas and office nooks scattered about, too. The third floor attic rooms could be used for storage (there’s also a cedar closet) or hobby rooms, and there’s a three-piece bath and the final bedroom (currently an office). The basement has been refurbished to host a home gym and a spacious laundry room.
One more story
The great room happens also to be an excellent concert space. “I think it was built by a judge, if I’m not mistaken, and I believe it was from the days of those débutent events and he wanted something with a little bit of grandeur to it,” Mr. Anderson said.
“One of the things we do to raise money [for an internship the family maintains] is an event at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield [up the Gatineau River, in Quebec]. It’s country music themed, and we cajole politicians and media figures to agree to sing a country song with professional musician. We usually have had rehearsal nights at our house," he said. “So we had [former Liberal cabinet minister] Scott Brison over rehearsing his Conway Twitty song. He’s an aficionado, and he probably thought he was going to be one of the strongest MPs rehearsing that night. Little did he know that Megan Leslie [president and chief executive officer of World Wildlife Fund Canada and former NDP MP for Halifax] had been taking singing lessons. I remember she went first, rehearsed her Patsy Cline song, and blew us all away. He looked at me, and I knew he was thinking ‘I’m going to have to up my game a little bit.’ That’s one of the memories that I’ll always cherish.”
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