Description of Historic Place
The Saxe Building is an early high rise building that stands on the north side of Sparks Street in the core of the Ottawa business district. Semi-glazed terracotta cladding, extensive glazing and arched upper-storey windows distinguish this seven-storey reinforced concrete structure. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Saxe Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Saxe Building is associated with the commercial development of Sparks Street westward towards Bank Street in the early 20th century. The building was constructed as a speculative rental property by the Canada Life Assurance Company, the earliest Canadian-owned company of its type. Its offices were located on the ground floor while the upper storeys were rented to clients. Office building speculation was so rare at the time, that the construction represented a major innovation in corporate policy. The Saxe Building was also an early response to the government demand for high-rise office accommodation immediately south of Parliament Hill. The Canadian Legion owned the building from 1944 -1955.
Valued for its very good aesthetics, the Saxe Building is a seven-storey reinforced concrete structure and an early Ottawa example of a high-rise structure completed before the 1910 building by-law authorized this type. The English semi-glazed terracotta façade provides a sculptural effect over the plain structural system. The extensive glazing and arched upper storey windows are a decorative motif derived from the buildings of Louis Sullivan. Good craftsmanship is evidenced in the terracotta of the façade.
The Saxe Building maintains an ongoing relationship to its site and reinforces the character of its central business district setting in Ottawa. It is familiar to residents, to people working in the vicinity and pedestrians.
Sources: Dana Johnson, Nineteen Federally owned Properties - Sparks Street, Saxe Building, 75 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-019; Saxe Building, 61-63 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 85-019.
The following character-defining elements of the Saxe Building should be respected.
Its very good aesthetics, functional design, and craftsmanship and materials, for example:
-the tall, narrow massing of the seven-storey symmetrical façade;
-the reinforced concrete construction with side and rear walls of brick;
-the façade’s cladding of English semi-glazed terra cotta;
-the extensive glazing and the arched upper storey windows;
-the interior, with entrance hall panelled in Missisquoi marble and mosaic marble floor covering;
-the offices walls panelled in African mahogany, and the cast plaster mouldings, cornice and beams.
The manner in which the Saxe Building maintains an unchanged relationship to setting in Ottawa and is a familiar landmark as evidenced by:
-the building’s ongoing relationship to its streetscape and the surrounding buildings;
-its design and materials that maintain a visual and physical relationship to adjacent structures in the commercial core of downtown Ottawa;
-its location and height that makes it a well-known landmark.
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection