Description of Historic Place
The Former Geological Survey of Canada Building is a prominent building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. A corner building, the two principal facades face Sussex Drive and George Street. It is a well-proportioned, three-storey stone structure of classical influence. Its many regularly placed windows give the building a well-balanced appearance. Behind the structure is an attractive courtyard. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Former Geological Survey of Canada Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Former Geological Survey of Canada Building is associated with the early development of Ottawa, formerly known as Bytown. The building’s varied history reflects many themes, including the important social and economic roles of hotels, and the staging of cultural and political events in 19th century Bytown. It is also associated with the continuing development of Sussex Drive as a primary commercial and symbolic corridor in the city. The early role as the museum and offices of the Geological and Natural History Survey of Canada, the first Canadian museum of national scope, adds to the historical value of the building. The building is also associated with James Skead (1817-1884) a prominent local businessman who became a member of the provincial legislative assembly, and Alfred Selwyn (1824-1902), a noted geologist who became director of the Geological Survey of Canada.
The Former Geological Survey of Canada Building is valued for its very good aesthetics and is one of the oldest extant buildings in the downtown area. The well-proportioned, classically inspired building has Italianate detailing evidenced in the bracketed eaves and the elaborate cornices. Classical influence can be seen in the massing and the rigidly symmetrical window arrangement. Good functional design is evident in the adaptability of the design. Good craftsmanship can be seen in the limestone walls and the detailing of the stonework.
The Former Geological Survey of Canada Building reinforces the historic / commercial / institutional character of the market area in Ottawa and is a familiar city landmark to local residents, people working in the vicinity and pedestrians.
Julie Harris, Former Geological Museum, 541 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-058.
Geological Museum (former), 541 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 85-058.
The character-defining elements of the Former Geological Survey of Canada Building should be respected, for example:
Its very good aesthetics, good functional design, and good craftsmanship, for example:
-The three-storey, L-shaped massing of the structure with a low-pitched metal roof;
-The walls of irregularly coursed limestone, with dressed stone window surrounds, sills, string coursing and corner quoins;
-The principal (Sussex Drive) façade;
-The hipped, low-pitched metal clad roof on the Sussex Drive section and the gable roof on the George street wing;
-The simple Italianate detailing, including bracketed eaves, and cornices;
-The even, regularly placed door and window openings with distinct classical decorative trim identifying each storey;
-The wood-framed staircase at the main entry;
-The patterns of access into the building.
The manner in which the former Geological Museum is compatible with the formal character of the setting that contains official and governmental buildings, and is a familiar city landmark as evidenced by:
-Its scale, design and materials that maintain a visual and physical relationship with the surrounding block of buildings and complement the streetscape;
-Its familiarity to visitors, passing pedestrians, and local residents owing to its location on a busy corner of Sussex Drive and its National Historic Sites commemorative plaque on the Sussex Drive façade.