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Former U.S. Embassy

100 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1985/01/08

Front facade of the Former U.S. Embassy showing the original multi-paned, double-hung sash windows and wood entrance door, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, M. Therrien, 2011.
Front façade
Corner view of the Former U.S. Embassy showing its cube-like massing, reflected in the rectilinear footprint, flat roof, and symmetrical composition centred on the main entrance of the principal elevation, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, M. Therrien, 2011.
Corner view
Detail view of the Former U.S. Embassy emphasizing the façades modelled on Italian palazzos that employ classical architectural proportions, orders and finely carved details, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, M. Therrien, 2011.
Detail

Other Name(s)

Former U.S. Embassy
United States Chancery (Former U.S. Embassy)
Chancellerie des États-Unis (l'ancienne ambassade des États-Unis)

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1931/01/01 to 1932/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/01/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Former U.S. Embassy, also known as the United States Chancery, is designed in a Beaux-arts classical style and finished in limestone. The building has a cube-like massing, a flat roof and symmetrical composition centred on the main entrance. Its principal façades employ classical architectural proportions and orders and the classical details are finely carved. The building faces Parliament Buildings National Historic Site of Canada. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Former U.S. Embassy is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
This embassy was the first permanent home of the U.S. Legation in Canada, the first foreign mission at Ottawa, and thus a benchmark in Canada’s gradual assumption of sovereignty over foreign affairs. It was also one of the first of a series of purpose-built embassy buildings constructed by the U.S. government around the world, signifying the rise and establishment of the United States as a leading world power. Executed in the Beaux-Arts style, it is one of the most refined examples of its type in Canada and an important late work of American architect Cass Gilbert.

Architectural Value
The Former U.S. Embassy is a very good example of United States government architecture of the early 1930s. It features a simple rectilinear form, classically designed elevations of pale Indiana limestone wrapping around the principal symmetrical entrance and side elevations, a flat roof, and a setback penthouse. Externally and internally the design employs a simple palette of high quality materials expressing the importance and prestige appropriate to a United States chancery embassy. The building is valued for its excellent aesthetic qualities and its excellent functional design.

Environmental value
Occupying a prominent site opposite the Queen’s Gate to Parliament Hill, the Former U.S. Embassy respects and harmoniously reinforces the highly visible Wellington Street edge of the Hill and is a distinguished landmark feature of the Parliamentary precinct.

Sources: Sally Coutts, Former United States Embassy, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 84-027; Sally Coutts, Former United States Embassy, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 84-027.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Former U.S. Embassy should be respected.

Its excellent aesthetic qualities and its excellent functional design, for example:
- the principal front and side façades of the embassy, including those of the penthouse and the front boundary wall with its gate posts to the sides, designed in the Beaux-Arts classical style and finished in limestone;
- its cube-like massing, reflected in the rectilinear footprint, flat roof, and symmetrical composition centred on the main entrance of the principal elevation;
- the set-back service core penthouse, at roof level, which is partially obscured by a stone parapet balustrade running around the Indiana limestone front and side elevations;
- the façades, which are modelled on Italian palazzos and employ classical architectural proportions, orders and finely carved details, and which demonstrate very careful attention to design and high standards of workmanship;
- the original multi-paned, double-hung sash windows and wood entrance doors of the principle facades;
- internally, the Beaux-Arts style circulation spaces, including ceremonial hallways and stairs which lead to the principal offices, together with corridors accessing offices of secondary importance, and more functionally treated corridors and stairs leading to the support offices and spaces;
- the decorative treatment relating to the original hierarchical ordering of these spaces and stairs and the rooms to which they lead;
- the elevator, including doors, surrounds, and controls at all floor levels, and the elevator cabin with its wood finishes, trim, controls and light fixture;
- the washrooms, which generally retain their original layouts, doors, fixtures, tiled floor and wall finishes.

The manner in which the Former U.S. Embassy reinforces the ceremonial character of its location on Wellington Street, as manifested in:
- the building’s harmonious fit within a row of similarly scaled and finished buildings, all of which face onto Parliament Buildings National Historic Site of Canada;
- the embassy’s principal façades, front masonry wall with iron railings, entrance and side door steps, and gate posts with decorative iron arches and light fixtures, which contribute positively to the surrounding ceremonial context.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date

1985/01/08

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type

Current

Government
Office or office building

Historic

Architect / Designer

Cass Gilbert

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

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

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

2466

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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