The Aylen-Henry House is one of Ottawa’s oldest buildings residing at 150 Richmond Road in the Westboro area. Constructed of stone (the tin roof was added later on), this substantial homestay housed Irish labourers that worked for Peter Aylen.
The property’s history and occupants are the subject of a variety of stories about the roughness and crime facing people who lived in Bytown in the early 19th century. Notably, Peter Aylen was known as the “King of the Shiners.” The Shiners were the Irish followers that terrorized Bytown in the early 19th century, often being accused of terrorizing residents through acts of vandalism and of performing more serious crimes including assaults, arson, rape and murder. The “Shiners” moniker appears to come from either the shiny tall hats they wore, or from the French word “cheneurs” or other origins, depending on what you read.
John “Buffalo” Heney a leather merchant, whose surname also forms part of the title of this property, purchased the property in 1854 and opened a farm on the land. The property was later transferred to Frederick A Heney, John’s son, who eventually became one of Bytowns largest land owners.
The plaque mounted on the front of the building reads:
As built in the 1830’s, this building housed labourers on the farm of Peter Aylen. Aylen was notorious as the leader of the shiners, Irish labourers whose riotous habits enlivened early Baytown. In the 1870’s, John “Buffalo” Henry added the metal clad roof.
If you’re interested in finding out more about this property, there is an exceptional article written by Dave Allston in the Kitchissippi Times titled “The hidden history of Kitchissippi’s own pioneer house.” The article sets out in detail the history of the building in an effort to ‘confirm or dispel some of the misconceptions about its past.’ The picture below is featured in the article along with other historical depictions and is provided courtesy of the City of Ottawa Archives.
Location Address: 150 Richmond Road, Ottawa, ON, K1Z 6W2