Description of Historic Place
The Canada’s Four Corners Building is located at the intersection of Sparks and Metcalfe Streets. Built of roughly dressed stone and contrasting smooth stone finishes, it is a highly-embellished Second Empire building, that features a commercial premises at street level and offices above. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Canada’s Four Corners Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Canada’s Four Corners Building is associated with the commercial development of Sparks Street in the early 20th century. This area has been, since the 1880s, the core of Ottawa’s central business district. The Montreal Telegraph building, as it was then known, was first a rental property. Its first tenant was the Merchants’ Bank of Canada. Both companies were part of the financial empire of the prominent Montreal entrepreneur, Hugh Allen. The construction of the bank’s Ottawa headquarters by the MTC reflects this interrelationship amongst Allen’s companies. Founded in 1852, the MTC operated Canada’s most important telegraphing system. The building was owned by the MTC until 1954, when it was sold to its long-time tenant, the Canadian National Railways. It is now a retail and office complex.
The Canada’s Four Corners Building is valued for its good aesthetics. The large building features a sophisticated design with detailing from a variety of different sources including the Renaissance Revival. Good functional design is evidenced in the multi-functional role, combining a traditional bank, manager’s residence, and commercial rental space. Very good craftsmanship and materials are evidenced in the masonry.
The Canada’s Four Corners Building maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the character of the commercial streetscape setting and is familiar landmark to local residents, people working in the vicinity and pedestrians.
Dana Johnson, Canada’s Four Corners Building, 93 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-021; Canada’s Four Corners Building, 93 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 85-021.
The character-defining elements of the Canada’s Four Corners Building should be respected.
Its good aesthetic design, good functional design, and excellent quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the four-storey corner massing;
-the exterior walls of sandstone masonry;
-the eclectic elevation with a different composition at each level;
-the ground floor consisting of three bays along Sparks Street and two on Metcalfe, all separated by sandstone piers of Renaissance Revival design with raised pedestals, and the keystones with oval-shaped carved coats of arms;
-the roughly dressed stonewalls, smoothly dressed surrounds and carved heads as keystones and the strong belt course that separates the first floor, from the second;
-the narrow belt course that leads to the recessive second storey, with its smaller arched windows, smooth stone surrounds without keystones, and heavy dentilled cornice under the fourth storey.
The manner in which Canada’s Four Corners Building maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the character of its commercial streetscape setting in downtown Ottawa and is a familiar landmark as evidenced by:
-its ongoing relationship to its prominent corner site on two busy streets in the core of Ottawa’s business district;
-its scale, design and materials that maintain a visual and physical relationship with the surrounding buildings and complements the Sparks Street streetscape;
-its prominent location, sophisticated design and use by several corporations, which make it a familiar landmark to visitors, passing pedestrians, and local residents.