Description of Historic Place
The Rideau Hall Complex, also known as Rideau Hall and Landscaped Grounds National Historic Site of Canada, consists of over 25 components designated collectively, bordered by Sussex Drive, Mackay Street and Dufferin Road in Ottawa. The complex consists of buildings, structures and landscape features that together constitute the vice-regal estate of the Governor General of Canada. Spaciously arranged on a 36-hectare site, the components of the complex are styled in the tradition of a 19th-century British country estate. The designation is confined to the footprint of the property.
Rideau Hall Complex is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
Rideau Hall Complex was originally constructed in 1838 for Thomas McKay, a local industrialist noted for his involvement in the construction of the Rideau Canal and the early development of Bytown, now Ottawa. In 1864, the Canadian government rented the Rideau Hall Complex, which at the time consisted of an eleven room villa (present-day MacKay Castle) and the surrounding 26 hectares of land. After the Canadian government purchased the property in 1868, the residence of the Governor General was permanently transferred to Ottawa, transforming the former manor farm to a vice-regal estate. Governor Generals and their spouses were housed at this official estate and brought their individual refinements and developments. With the emergence of a united and independent Canada it became, as the estate of the Crown's representative in Canada and a symbol of one aspect of the Canadian government, a focal point of political and social life in the Capital.
Rideau Hall Complex is valued for its very good functional design as it follows the use patterns typical of a 19th-century British country estate. The northern section of the grounds is allocated for various utilitarian structures and buildings, including sheds, garages, and workshops. The southern section of the property is dedicated to residential and pleasure grounds, namely MacKay Castle, Rideau Cottage, the private gardens and broad sweeping lawns that lead to the cricket pavilion and tennis courts. The complex also provides a very good example of the naturalistic and informal English landscape style that is evident in the organic arrangement of the estate. Additionally, it is noted for its very good craftsmanship and material usage, varying from the wood of the stable and the brick of the gate lodge to the stone masonry of MacKay Castle. The Rideau Hall Complex is a very good example of important designers works, including that of Thomas McKay and Thomas W. Fuller.
Rideau Hall Complex retains the character of a 19th-century British country estate, despite additions, such as the gate and comptroller’s lodges, the cricket and tennis pavilions, and the skating shack. As the first development in the area, Rideau Hall Complex established the present character of its surroundings in acting as a symbolic link between the Canadian government and the Crown. It is also a nationally recognized symbol of the National Capital Region and as an aspect of the Canadian government.
Sources: Rideau Hall Outbuildings and Grounds, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report 86-024; Rideau Hall, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Review Office, Building Report 85-066; Rideau Cottage, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Review Office, Building Report 86-002; Rideau Hall Complex, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 86-024.
The character-defining elements of the Rideau Hall Complex as a whole should be respected.
Its very good aesthetic and functional design, and craftsmanship and materials, as evidenced by:
- its varying massings, including rectangular, circular, octagonal, and T-shaped;
- its varying heights ranging from one- to three- storeys;
- its use of varying structural materials, including stone, brick, iron, wood and board-and-batten siding;
- the varying architectural styles, ranging from Beaux-Arts to British Classical Revival that harmoniously create a vice-regal estate modelled on the tradition of a 19th-century British country estate;
- the Beaux-Arts inspired design of MacKay Castle with its symmetrical bow front design, simple pedimented frontispiece and three-storey massing;
- the British Classical Revival design of Rideau Cottage with its entrance bordered by pillasters that support a pedimented canopy under a hip roof and two-storey massing;
- the separation of northern service buildings, including a gasometer, root cellar and several sheds and garages, from the southern pleasure grounds, including MacKay Castle, Rideau Cottage and assorted pavilions;
- the varying landscapes and landscape features that preserve the English landscape aesthetic, including the ornamented gates and fences, the horseshoe-shaped garden, the Terry Fox Fountain of Hope, the Governor General’s private gardens, Lady Byng’s rockery and trees planted by visitors such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Prince Albert.
- the architectural, historical and traditional character of the buildings and layout that are representing the evolution of the estate, and the many functions which supported a vice-regal residence, including the buildings in the service area and with the former farm.
Rideau Hall Complex retains its character of a 19th-century British country estate, which establishes its present setting and preserves the complex as a national symbol of the National Capital Region, demonstrated by:
- the outbuildings, including the gate and comptroller’s lodge, the cricket and tennis pavilions and the skating shack that have retained their relationship with their associated landscape;
- the northern service sector surrounded by grounds of the most utilitarian nature with relatively narrow roads and rough grass;
- its location at the end of the ceremonial route from Parliament Hill which reinforces its historic and spatial associations with the Canadian government;
- the prominent gates, fences and guard house that enclose the significant green space thereby separating it from the surrounding residential area.