Royal Canadian Mint
Classified Federal Heritage Building
© (CIHB, 1979.)
320 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1905 to 1908
1909 to 1909
1916 to 1916
1951 to 1951
Event, Person, Organization:
Chief Architect David Ewart, Department of Public Works
Royal Canadian Mint
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Royal Canadian Mint is a sandstone clad building composed of a front, three-storey pavilion, facing Sussex Drive, which houses the administrative offices, and conceals a rear, lower portion with workshops. The most visible street side elevation combines a massive square central tower, flanked by two symmetrical lower wings and features late-gothic inspired detailing. Several later additions were made to the south side of the main building and a nearly separate refinery was constructed on the north in 1935. The FHBRO designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Royal Canadian Mint is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Royal Canadian Mint, one of the most important financial institutions of the country, is associated with the national historic theme of Canada’s growing monetary independence. Its founding in 1905 constituted a late response to the Klondike gold rush. The building’s construction fits within an important period of growth for Ottawa, at a time when a series of federal institutions and building were being strategically placed in the capital, in response to Laurier’s ambition to make it “the Washington of the North”.
Designed by the chief architect of Public Works, David Ewart, the Royal Canadian Mint is a very good example of Late Gothic decorative treatment over a Beaux-Arts-inspired design, characteristic of his buildings in Ottawa. The choice of this medieval, fortified appearance was consistent with the building’s function as a centre of the country’s wealth. Functionally, the building was divided into distinct sections in order to best serve the dual administrative and industrial function of the Mint.
Because of its position within a series of federal buildings along Sussex Drive, and due to its outstanding design, the Royal Canadian Mint contributes to establishing the formal character of this portion of the thoroughfare. The wrought iron fence and two gatehouses, which still guard the building, are testaments to the high security needed when precious metals were still stored and processed on-site. The prominence of its design and location contribute to making the building a familiar city landmark.
Marc de Caraffe and Janet Wright, Royal Canadian Mint, 320 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 84-006; Royal Canadian Mint, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 84-006.
The character-defining elements of the Royal Canadian Mint should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic and functional design, and high-quality craftsmanship and materials, as demonstrated in: the clear expression of the dual function of the Mint, with administrative and institutional functions housed in the massive three-storey structure looking onto Sussex Drive, and the industrial aspect, namely the striking of coins, lodged in the lower rear wing and auxiliary buildings; the Late Gothic expression of the design, as can be seen in the strong horizontal lines of the granite bands and window transoms, in the sense of mass imparted by the rough Nepean sandstone walls, buttresses, and octagonal turrets, and in the medieval-inspired decorative elements such as the stone shields and crenellations; the Beaux-Arts layout of the building, with its symmetrical front elevation, central tower containing a rotunda and the main staircase lit from above; the latter additions to the building, such as the very successful 1935 refinery and the compatible 1951 wing;
The building’s visual prominence and contribution to the formal character of this portion of Sussex Drive, as evidenced in: security elements such as the wrought iron fence and gatehouses, which guard the building complex; its relationship to Sussex Drive and to the adjacent institutional buildings.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
The main part of the Mint was constructed between 1905 and 1908 to plans drawn up at the Department of Public Works under the direction of chief architect David Ewart. The guard house was built at the same time. Small additions were made to the south side of the main building in 1909, 1916 and 1951. The nearly separate refinery on the north was constructed in 1935 to plans by the architect H.G. Hughes. The building will be transferred from Public Works to the Royal Canadian Mint Corporation. See FHBRO Building Report 84 06.
Reasons for Designation
In July 1984, the Royal Canadian Mint was classified because of its historical interest, its important role in the prospect of Sussex Drive, and the quality of its architectural design. In 1979, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board designated the Mint a National Historic Site, as it is one of the most important financial institutions of the country.
The evolution of the Mint was indicative of Canada’s growing monetary independence. Its founding in 1905 was a late response to the Klondike gold rush. Its position in a series of federal buildings whose construction was planned along Sussex Drive, as well as its style, were an apt reflection of David Ewart’s response to Laurier’s ambition to make Ottawa "the Washington of the North". Architecturally, it is a pleasing example of the combination of Late Gothic decorative treatment and beaux-arts-inspired design, which is characteristic of Ewart’s buildings in Ottawa.
The heritage character of the Mint resides in the main facades of all of its buildings, particularly the very successful refinery which dates from 1935. The wing added in 1951, which although now clearly dated is compatible with the whole, does not detract from the visual value of the site and is integral to its historical interest.
The building’s plan gives clear expression to the dual function of the Mint. The massive three-storey structure looking onto Sussex Drive, with its central tower containing a rotunda and its main staircase lit from above, represents the administrative and institutional functions of the building; the lower rear wing and auxiliary buildings express its industrial aspect, i.e. the striking of coins. This clear distinction must be preserved.