The structure is located in Richelieu Park in Vanier and is easily accessible. The area is well used by dog walkers and a walking trail runs directly in front of the “bunker”.
A buttressed concrete wall about 40-60ft in length runs along the north face of a 12 foot high mound. There is an entrance portal with an eroded date marked “1944” that only became visible when snow was rubbed across the surface of the inscription.
The concrete walls are decaying and there are iron support tie-rods visible along the wall. A small crevice has been chipped away by curious onlookers but nothing is visible without inserting a lit camera into the room.
Further exploration of the property reveals that the area was once used by the missionary society known as “White Fathers” , a Roman Catholic Society of Apostolic Life founded in 1868. They used the property to train missionaries headed to Africa and built a number of structures on the property including North America’s only operating urban maple sugar shack. (this will be working in the spring!). They owned the land from 1938-1976 and it is now owned and operated by the City Of Ottawa.
“Another construction, somewhat more mysterious, is also present behind the cross, in the forest. Along the path, a shelter was dug in the solid rock and solidified with concrete and steel cables. This construction served as a root cellar for the White Fathers’ crops. Like many other religious orders, the White Fathers cultivated the land and this cellar allowed them to store their harvests during the cold winter months as well as during the summer months. Construction of the cellar began in 1943 by digging with an excavator in the rock. The White Fathers completed the work in November of 1944 by covering the cellar with soil using a bulldozer.”
This unusual structure is an interesting piece of Ottawa's history that is definitely worth checking out if you happen to be out in the area.