Ottawa artist restores newspaper box thrown from bridge onto frozen canal
At the spot near Ottawa’s Flora Footbridge where a brightly painted newspaper box normally stands, Tim Hunt saw nothing but empty space.
As the paper’s “resident artist,” Hunt had been asked by the paper years ago to paint a mural on one of their newly purchased boxes. Struck by the sudden disappearance of this same box, he immediately called the editor-in-chief.
Over the phone, Hunt learned that sometime during the evening of December 22, the newspaper box had been ripped from her home, hoisted into the middle of the Flora footbridge, and thrown onto the frozen surface of the canal below.
“I guess someone wanted to see what would happen if it fell,” he said.
What happened, Hunt said, was significant damage to the metal sides. The painted mural was dented and peeling off. The plexiglass door was broken, the hinges open.
Beside the box on the pockmarked surface of the ice lay copies of the Mainstreeter, a hyperlocal community newspaper that served the Old Ottawa East neighborhood.
When Hunt learned of the damage, he volunteered to restore the box before the next issue of the newspaper went to press.
Lorne Abugov, editor-in-chief of the Mainstreeter, said his phone and email “lighted up” shortly after the box was found missing.
“It’s kind of a fixed point,” he said. “By that point, I think others had already gotten involved in what we’re going to call the rescue effort.”
Shortly after the box was discovered, local resident and Mainstreeter employee John Dance descended a stepladder into the canal.
“John, you know, took a certain risk when he went to the box,” said Abugov. “It wasn’t entirely safe.”
Another three residents “jumped into action,” Abugov said, and helped Dance haul the box back up the ladder and out of the canal.
The box was so crumpled it couldn’t stand upright and “not really capable of holding newspapers,” Abugov said.
Instead of returning it to its normal place, neighbors scattered the remains in pieces – the broken door in one house, the metal body in another.
“I wanted to fix it”
As the original painter and skilled locksmith, Hunt undertook the restoration.
“Also, I felt a little possessive about the box,” he said. “I wanted to restore it to its original state.”
Hunt tugged at the parts, hammered out the dents, cut a new plexiglass door, and repainted the exterior.
The next issue of Mainstreeter was due for release on February 9th, and Hunt had the box completely refurbished back in place two days before the deadline.
But Hunt’s box wasn’t the first to suffer an “incident,” Abugov said.
Not the first “incident” for Mainstreeter
About two years ago, the Main Streeter purchased five cases from a newspaper in Carleton Place that was going out of business. Back then, it commissioned five local artists to each paint a box with a unique design that highlighted an aspect of the neighborhood.
Within six months, one was stolen near the Lees Avenue transit station — and never found.
Only four remain, including Hunt’s newly renovated lodge near the Flora footbridge.
“It feels good to see it back there,” he said. “And it was really good for me that a bunch of people helped get it out of the canal.”