Connaught Building National Historic Site of Canada
(© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 1993)
559 Mackenzie Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1913 to 1916
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 559 Mackenzie Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Part of a grand design for the national capital in the early 20th century, this imposing building is a tangible expression of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s vision for Ottawa. The eclectic combination of Gothic and Tudor Revival features, with castellated turrets and textured stonework, reflects the desire to create a distinctive architecture for the capital that was compatible with the Parliament buildings. Built between 1913 and 1916 to house government offices and a customs warehouse, the building was named for HRH the Duke of Connaught, then governor general of Canada.
Description of Historic Place
The Connaught Building is a large, multi-storey Tudor Gothic-style departmental building located in central Ottawa facing Major’s Hill Park, Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel. The designation refers to the building on its legal lot at 550 Sussex Drive.
The Connaught Building was designated a national historic site in 1990 because it is a tangible expression of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s commitment to the enhancement of architecture in the National Capital.
The heritage value of this site resides in its architectural style, design, materials and location. As Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier aimed to transform Ottawa into a more handsome national capital and supported a federal building program led by David Ewart, Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works (1897-1914). Under Ewart’s direction, a modified Tudor Gothic style, compatible with the buildings on Parliament Hill and thought appropriate for a capital associated with the British Empire, was used to build a federal identity in Canada’s capital. The Connaught Building is among Ewart’s finest achievements in uniting Tudor Gothic styling with Beaux-Arts principles. It is also the last of a group of major federal buildings designed by Ewart for the capital before World War One. It originally served as the new Ottawa Customs Examining Warehouse and offices for the Department of Customs and Internal Revenue. It was named in honour of HRH The Duke of Connaught, who served as Canada’s Governor General between 1911 and 1916.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, February 1990.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Connaught Building include: the location near Parliament Hill along Sussex Drive; The siting, flush to the sidewalks; Its rectangular massing with slightly projecting central and end pavilions, the expression of Beaux-Art principles, evident in its symmetrically organized facade with central main entry, its focus on the main entry under a high tower elaborated with Tudor-Revival style detailing, and its use of contemporary structural design of steel and concrete with stone cladding; the Tudor Gothic detailing such as Tudor-arched openings, oriole bays, turrets, gables, predominantly rough-faced stonework, and decorative stonework as in corner quoins, false buttresses, crenelations, spandrels, coats of arms, rosettes, niches, trefoils, and finely articulated lintels; remnants of the interior spaces that testify to its original Beaux-Arts axial layout and to its former use as a customs warehouse and offices; the successful adaptation to its narrow sloping site, as seen in: its finely wrought detailing; strongly marked vertical elements linked in upward progression by spandrels; and the use of slightly projecting central bays to form towers; the visual prominence of the building as seen from the Byward Market and from Parliament Hill.