Description of Historic Place
The Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Grounds National Historic Site of Canada, on the south shore of Regina’s Lake Wascana, is a monumental structure, designed according to Beaux-Arts principles of symmetry, grandeur and elaborate ornamentation. Three-storeys high, with its long rectangular section crossed at its centre by a large porticoed pavilion, the structure rises in a massive dome atop a colonnaded octagon. The building is a steel construction, sheathed in smooth buff-coloured limestone. It dominates the surrounding landscaped grounds, laid out in drives, paths, formal flower gardens and woods of mature trees. The designation refers to the building and the grounds.
The Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Grounds was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004 because:
- the building and its grounds embody the ambition and drive of the Saskatchewan people and are a highly visible, well-known symbol of the province of Saskatchewan, its government, its people, and its membership in Canada, embodying in their design, symbolism appropriate to the province’s history as a unit both within Canada and the British Empire;
- beautifully enhanced by its carefully designed grounds, the Saskatchewan Legislative Building is a stunning example of an imposing, large-scale building exhibiting a consummate design and execution of Beaux-Arts principles, including axial planning, symmetry, controlled circulation patterns, and a clear expression of function within and without, from the perspective of its overall design down to its fine details; and,
- the building and its grounds, including paths, gardens and recreational spaces, are one of the best examples in Canada of a well-preserved landscape designed according to Beaux-Arts and City Beautiful principles, including those of symmetry, variety and civic grandeur.
Already the capital of the North-West Territories since 1883, Regina was confirmed as the capital of the new Province of Saskatchewan the year after it was inaugurated in 1905. The choice of the building site for the capitol south of the city boundary provided the space that allowed then-Premier Walter Scott to hire Montreal landscape architect Frederick Todd in 1907 to plan the grounds. The Wascana reservoir was enlarged and deepened to create a lake, the building was sited on a rise of land on the south shore of the lake, and an extensive public works program installing drives, paths and plantings commenced. The design of the new legislature was chosen through an international competition and, in 1907, the commission awarded the contract to the Montreal firm of Edward and W.S. Maxwell. Their design best captured the spirit of the young province, its confidence of continued rapid growth and prosperity, and its partnership in Canada, as well as a visual link between the province and the British model of government, a constitutional monarchy.
The firm of Peter Lyall and Sons of Montreal began construction in 1908. In the spring of 1909, the premier decided to replace the red brick exterior with buff Tyndall limestone from Manitoba, installed under the direction of stonemasons trained in Britain. Governor-General Earl Grey laid the cornerstone during a vice-regal visit in 1909 when the building was still under construction. When construction completed in 1912, energies were focused on landscaping the surrounding grounds. With its axial planning and symmetry, various and fine details, and its overall civic grandeur, the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Grounds together form one of the best examples in Canada of a well-preserved landscape designed according to Beaux-Arts and City Beautiful principles. The gardens, woods, tennis courts, walkways and drives, along with the monumental legislature proved the vision of the new province in 1905 to make this a destination of lasting beauty and pride.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, June 2004.
Key elements that express the heritage value of this site include:
- the cultural landscape of the legislative building within its grounds designed according to principles of the City Beautiful movement and centred on Wascana Lake;
- viewscapes to and from the legislative building, with its lawns, flower beds, shrubs and trees encircled and crossed by walkways and driveways;
- the siting of the legislative building on a slight rise;
- its built features within the grounds that symbolize the people of Saskatchewan, including the war memorial on the west side near Albert Street, two memorials to former premiers, monuments to democracy, mapping surveyors, boy scouts, and the Regina Boat Club, and on the east side, the red granite Trafalgar Fountain;
- the legislative building with its Beaux-Arts Classicism/Edwardian Baroque design illustrated by the three-storey, rectangular massing, cross-axial plan with central dome set on a colonnaded base, its symmetrically organized façade with a formal portico at each end, and a pedimented main entry;
- its regularly arranged windows, with rectangular multi-pane windows on the first and third storeys, and large round-arch sash windows with multi-pane fan lights on the second storey;
- its fine exterior masonry in Tyndall sandstone, with dramatic cornices, sills, transoms, channeling, stringcourses, and carved detailing;
- the high quality of its materials, including the stone, marbles and woods all carved with great skill by craftsmen brought in for their expertise;
- the fine craftsmanship including the stone carving within the façades of shields, and stone carvings of allegorical figures of settlers and aboriginal people, wheat sheaves, and garlands;
- its original layout and public spaces such as the grand staircase, sky lit rotunda under the dome, and the library, galleries, and Legislative Chamber with their fine finishes featuring marble, oak, and carved limestone detailing, ornamental plasterwork, and carved mantelpieces;
- original fixtures, including lighting, clocks, and hardware incorporating symbols of the Province;
- the Legislative Chamber, lined with visitors and press galleries, beneath an arched ceiling set with a skylight, and featuring carved oak woodwork of great craftsmanship, laden with symbols and coats-of-arms;
- symbolic furnishings such as the Confederation Table, used at the Quebec Conference in 1865 and given to the North-West Territorial Council by the Government of Canada, and artwork including murals and theme galleries of art collections named for the six major waterways of the province.