Home / Accueil

Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, K2C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1997/06/05

General view of the Cereal Crops Building at the Central Experimental Farm, 1995.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995.
General view
General view of the greenhouses at the Central Experimental Farm, 1995.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1995.
General view
General view of the Main Barn at the Central Experimental Farm.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view

Other Name(s)

Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada
Central Experimental Farm
Ferme expérimentale centrale

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1886/01/01 to 1980/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/09/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada, located in urban Ottawa, Ontario, is comprised of various structures and buildings embedded within a large rural landscape. Flanked by broad expanses of farmland, its central area consists of the administrative core, housed in a variety of eclectic and picturesque structures, and encompasses an arboretum, specimen plantings, and intricate ornamental gardens. Official recognition refers to the cultural landscape with its natural, built, and landscaped components at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

The Central Experimental Farm was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1997 because:
- as a cultural landscape, the more than 400-hectare farm in the heart of the Nation's Capital reflects the 19th-century philosophy of agriculture and carefully integrates an administrative core and a range of other buildings with arboretum, ornamental gardens, display beds and experimental fields in a picturesque composition;
- since its establishment in 1886, the farm has made significant scientific contributions to agriculture in Canada by uniting scientific experimentation with practical verification, as exemplified by the development of the hardy strains of wheat that were so influential in expanding Western Canadian agriculture;
- a rare example of a farm within a city, the Central Experimental Farm has become a symbol of the central role agriculture has played in shaping the country.

Eager to introduce profitable new agricultural methods and products, the federal government created the Central Experimental Farm in 1886. The Department of Agriculture selected a rectangular parcel of land, over 400 hectares in area, approximately 3 kilometres from Parliament Hill. Located on a desirable site, due to its variety of soil types and access to land, water, and rail transport, the farm would serve both Ontario and Québec. As the city of Ottawa grew, the Farm was gradually absorbed into the urban environment and is now situated well within the city limits.

The plan of the Farm is based on three clearly defined zones: a central core of administrative, scientific, and functional farm buildings and spaces; the experimental fields, plots, and shelterbelts; and the arboretum, ornamental gardens and experimental hedges. The Farm’s Picturesque landscape is the result of a movement promulgated by a 18th-century English aesthetic theorists and practitioners who sought to bring landscape design closer to an idealized nature. One convention of this movement was the adoption of certain standard features of the British country estate, including large stretches of lawn and fields, use of water, masses of trees and shrubbery, and winding pathways. These features, designed to enhance nature’s inherent beauty by emphasizing its irregularity, variety, and intricacy in form, colour, and texture, integrate harmoniously with the administrative, scientific, and functional farm buildings. The Picturesque qualities of the Farm are a significant aspect of the 19th-century philosophy of agriculture.

This philosophy also recommended the use of chemistry and genetics to make farm life more productive and appealing. Its proponents sought to develop better farming methods by applying a new scientific methodology to farming. Since its establishment, the Central Experimental Farm has contributed substantially to the development of Canadian agriculture through scientific research, experimentation, and practical verification. The Farm has addressed issues such as human and animal health, the importation of plants and livestock, the identification and control of imported insect pests, and soil fertility. It also contributed to the expansion of agriculture in western Canada through the development of hardy strains of wheat, and in eastern Canada through research on forages and grasses. The Farm soon became the headquarters of a national system of experimental farms, as its central location and administration served to address a range of national agricultural issues.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1997.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location in the urban centre of Ottawa, encompassing a variety of soil types, cleared fields, and various buildings;
- its pastoral appearance, as well as the orderliness and neatness critical to the Farm’s scientific pursuits;
- its plan, made up of three clearly defined zones: the central core of the functional farm, science and administration buildings; the experimental fields and plots with their bordering shelterbelts; and the arboretum, ornamental gardens and experimental hedges;
- the buildings, which illustrate the Picturesque character with their compatible scale, varied volumes and silhouettes.

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of the central core include:
- the intimate scale of the interior of the zone, and the campus-like atmosphere;
- the compatible scale and design of both Prince of Wales Drive and the Driveway, which have evolved from the main north-south and east-west roads in the original 1880s plan and link the Farm to the city;
- the placement and design of the core administration buildings with their wood-clad exteriors, and their relationships to each other and to their landscape setting, which reveal their original functions and the orderly development of the original 1880s Picturesque plan;
- the associations of the buildings with key figures in the development of Canadian agriculture, such as William Saunders, Charles Saunders, and Sir John Carling;
- the buildings’ small, single-storey board and batten style, conveying their continued role as part of a complex of support buildings;
- the model farm, intended to demonstrate the most efficient and orderly layout of farm buildings.

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of the experimental fields, plots, and shelterbelts include:
- the orderly organization of the fields based on a grid system reinforced by a regular system of roadways and access lanes, and distinctive internal fencing of red “pencil posts” with white tops;
- the open cultivated fields, with their variable sizes, colours, textures and seasonal variations;
- the relationship between the open fields and the heavily screened Driveway with its parkway characteristics of curbs and streetlights, which emphasize the integration of a farm within a city;
- the shelterbelts, made up of hardy trees which protect the fields;
- the core brick-clad science and administration buildings;
- the viewscapes including the view from the corner of Baseline and Fisher, the view southwest from Carling Avenue across the fields, the framed view looking east from Fisher along Cow Lane; and the view from any point along the periphery into the open fields.

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of the arboretum and ornamental gardens include:
- the Picturesque nature of the site, evidenced in the skillful use of topography and water, and the incorporation of the shoreline of the Rideau Canal, Dow’s Lake, and the lagoons into the visual composition;
- the circulation pattern in the arboretum, laid out in a typically Picturesque design of curving promenades and constantly changing views;
- the glass and metal frames of the greenhouses;
- the arboretum itself, including a wide variety of specimen trees and shrubs, planted to test and demonstrate suitable tree species for various hardiness zones of Canada.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1997/06/05

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Extraction and Production
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Science

Function - Category and Type

Current

Food Supply
Farm or Ranch
Health and Research
Research Facility

Historic

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Québec.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

1818

Status

Published

Related Places

Side view

Main Dairy Barn

The Main Dairy Barn, also known as Building No. 88, is the central farm building on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. It is a large three-storey banked barn building with…

Exterior photo

Dominion Observatory

The Dominion Observatory is a symmetrical, two-storey, stone building that features a central, four-storey octagonal tower flanked by two “T”-shaped flat-roofed wings, which are…

General view

South Azimuth Building

The South Azimuth Building is a small, picturesque, Gothic stone building that features a rusticated stone base, a crenellated cornice, and slate louvers in the window openings. …

Exterior photo

Photo Equatorial Building

The Photo Equatorial Building, also known as Building No. 9, is a small, symmetrical, one-storey, stone building that features a rusticated stone base, a crenellated cornice,…

General view

Horticulture Building

The Horticulture Building, also known as Building 55, is located on the driveway at the Central Experimental Farm, National Historic Site of Canada, in Ottawa. The two-storey,…

Exterior photo

Laboratory Services Building No. 22

Laboratory Services Building No. 22, is one of two modern research buildings facing Carling Avenue at the northern perimeter of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF). The…

Front view

Rideau Hall, Dairy Building

The small Rideau Hall: Dairy Building is situated on the grounds of the Rideau Hall Complex, the home of the Governor General, in Ottawa. The picturesque, octagonal building is a…

Corner View

Service Building

The Service Building, also known as Building No. 56 and Storage Building, is located at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) National Historic Site of Canada in Ottawa. The long,…

General view

Main Greenhouse Range

The Main Greenhouse Range, also known as Building No. 50, Main Greenhouse and Motherwell Greenhouse, is a series of interconnected greenhouses centrally located at the Central…

General view

K. W. Neatby Building

The K.W. Neatby Building is located on a large landscaped lawn at the north-west edge of the Central Experimental Farm(CEF). The building is a large, “G-shaped” flat-roofed…

Front façade

William Saunders Building

The William Saunders Building, also known as Building No. 49, is prominently sited on the Main Lawn at the Central Experimental Farm National Historic site of Canada in Ottawa.…

Exterior photo

CEF, Horticulture Building, No. 74

CEF, Horticulture Building, No. 74 is located at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. The two-and-a-half storey research building displays the influence of Revival…

Corner view

Seismology Survey Building

Situated at the Observatory Campus on the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) Seismology Survey Building, also known as Building No. 7, is a rectangular three-storey brick, steel and…

General view

Machine Shop (#4)

The Machine Shop (#4) is a plain single-storey, brick and concrete building located on the Observatory Campus at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The L-shaped structure…

General view of the place

Geophysical Laboratory 3

The Geophysical Laboratory 3 is located at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The modern, two storey, L-shaped building has a prominent two-and-a-half storey entrance block.…

Corner view

Observatory House

The Observatory House is located on landscaped grounds at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The large and dignified two-and-one-half-storey structure is constructed in…

Corner view

Nutrition Building

The Nutrition Building is located on landscaped grounds in a pastoral setting at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The L-shaped, brick building has a steeply-pitched hip…

Exterior photo

Heritage House, No. 60

Heritage House, No. 60 is a prominent building located in a pastoral setting at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. The handsome house, designed in the Queen Anne…

Corner view

Engineering Research Building

The Engineering Research Building is located at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. The building consists of a two-and-a-half storey office block with a shingled,…

General View

Arc Biotech Building (No. 34)

The Arc Biotech Building (No. 34) is located at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The rectangular building is a two-storey, red brick structure, topped by a hipped roof…

Historical view

Swine Showcase Building No. 91

The Swine Showcase Building No. 91 is located at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. The structure is a T-shaped building comprising three parts. Its long elevations…

Corner view

Carpenter's Shop

The Carpenter’s Shop, also known as Building 98, is a one-and-a-half storey, wood frame building located west of the Main Dairy Barn at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in…

Façade

Heritage House (Building 54)

The Heritage House (Building 54) faces the Central Lawn at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa. Designed as a residence it is a two-and-a-half storey structure with a…

General view

Small Dairy Barn

The Small Dairy Barn, also known as Building 95, is located close to the Agricultural Museum at the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada in Ottawa. The…

Façade

Cereal Crops Building

The Cereal Crops Building, also known as Building 75, is located at the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site of Canada in Ottawa. The brick and stone structure…

Façade

Potting Shed

The Potting Shed, also known as Building 77, is located within the core area of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) National Historic Site of Canada in Ottawa. The building is of…

General view

Cereal Barn

Located at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) National Historic Site of Canada in Ottawa, the Cereal Barn, also known as Building 76, is the principal processing workshop and…

SEARCH THE CANADIAN REGISTER

Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Find Nearby PlacesFIND NEARBY PLACES PrintPRINT
Nearby Places