Description of Historic Place
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. Located at the north edge of the Central Experimental Farm on a campus-like site bounded by Carling Avenue and Observatory Drive, the South Azimuth building forms a picturesque ensemble with the Dominion Observatory and the Photo Equatorial building (1914). The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The South Azimuth Building is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The South Azimuth Building is considered to be an extension of the Dominion Observatory due to the fact that it once played a supporting role in the Observatory’s scientific endeavours and sheltered astronomical equipment. As such, it is one of the best examples of the important historic theme of the advancement of pure and applied scientific research at the national level in Canada. Established to aid and improve the survey work of western Canada through the investigation and application of positional astronomy, the Observatory also served as a world-class centre for astronomical and geophysical research, and developed a national profile as the source of Dominion Observatory Official Time. Lined up on the prime meridian, the South Azimuth was essential to the proper functioning of the meridian circle telescope housed in the former transit house. Built to help define the azimuth, the South Azimuth building formerly sheltered a telescope and a meridian pier, which marked a position south of the meridian circle telescope.
The Dominion Observatory is one of four major public buildings constructed in Ottawa during the expansionist years of the Wilfrid Laurier government as part of Laurier’s efforts to turn Ottawa into the ‘’Washington of the north’’, and heralded Ottawa’s transformation from a lumber town to a capital city. Scientists of national standing directly associated with the Observatory include its co-founders William Frederick King and Otto Julius Klotz, along with John Stanley Plaskett.
The South Azimuth Building is an excellent example of an eclectic blend of Romanesque Revival and Edwardian Classicist styles. Built to shelter astronomical equipment, the South Azimuth building is a simple, one-storey building that resembles a small medieval tower. Constructed of the highest quality materials and craftsmanship, the South Azimuth building is characterized by a crenellated cornice, slate louvers in the window openings, and a rich and vibrant palette of stone including a rusticated limestone base, rock-faced variegated Nepean sandstone walls and dressed red Sackville sandstone quoins and window and door surrounds.
The South Azimuth Building reinforces the picturesque character of the campus-like setting of the observatory within the Central Experimental Farm, by virtue of its distinctive design and materials. An essential part of the harmonious ensemble that includes the Dominion Observatory and Photo Equatorial buildings, the South Azimuth building has long been familiar to the residents of Ottawa as part of the Dominion Observatory campus.
Sources: Jacqueline Hucker, Dominion Observatory, South Azimuth and Photo Equatorial buildings, Ottawa, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 92-35, 92-41, 92-42; Dominion Observatory, South Azimuth and Photo Equatorial buildings, Ottawa, Ontario. Heritage Character Statement 92-35, 92-41, 92-42.
The following character-defining elements of the South Azimuth Building should be respected.
Its eclectic blend of Romanesque Revival and Edwardian Classicist styles, excellent functional design, and extremely high quality materials and craftsmanship as manifested in:
-the form and symmetrical composition of the building;
-the building’s simple functional layout which was intended to shelter a meridian pier on which was placed a telescope;
-the distinctive and vibrant exterior treatment which is characterized by a rusticated limestone base, rock-faced variegated Nepean sandstone walls, and a contrasting smooth, red Sackville sandstone cornice and window and door surrounds;
-the building’s crenellated stone cornice and slate window louvers.
The manner in which the building reinforces the picturesque character of the observatory’s campus-like setting within the Central Experimental Farm, as evidenced in:
-its distinctive design and materials which contribute to the harmonious relationship between the Dominion Observatory and the Photo Equatorial buildings as a picturesque ensemble;
-its location, which lined up with the prime meridian at a position south of the former meridian circle telescope housed in the transit house.