Description of Historic Place
The Parliament Hill - West Block is a highly picturesque, building of Nepean sandstone, mansard copper roofs, iron cresting, and Gothic detailing. Facing the centre lawn of Parliament Hill, the present building incorporates two extensions. A distinguishing feature is the tall Mackenzie tower. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Parliament Hill - West Block was designated Classified because of its important historical associations, architectural quality and environmental impact.
Designed to accommodate the civil service, the Parliament Hill - West Block is directly associated with the administrative arm of the federal government during the country's formative years. Together with the 1859-65 wings of the East block, and the Library of Parliament, the Parliament Hill - West Block ranks with the best mid-19th century Gothic Revival buildings in the world. The product of three separate building campaigns, it presents an essay in the evolution of the Gothic Revival style from mid-19th century to the early 20th century.
In addition to being a national landmark in its own right, the West Block plays a critical role in establishing the overall character of Parliament Hill and strongly influences the character of the west end of Wellington Street.
Jacqueline Adell, Parliament Hill Complex, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 86-052; West Block, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 86-052.
The heritage character of the Parliament Hill - West Block resides primarily in:
-its picturesque massing and footprint;
-the rich interplay between materials, textures and colours: rock-faced Nepean sandstone walls contrast with dressed Ohio, Cleveland and red Potsdam sandstone trims;
-its mansard roofs sheathed in weathered green copper;
-surviving portions of the 19th- and early 20th-century interior plans, features and finishes, including certain compatible 1960s interior features and finishes;
-its site, setting and landmark qualities;
-the original site relationship between the West Block and the Centre and East Blocks, which remains virtually intact, and relationships on the east and south sides, namely driveways and lawns, which continue as originally conceived.
Key elements that define the heritage value of the 1859-65 building include:
-the east wing, south wing and southern half of the west wing, which are in the English Decorated Style, characterized by a distinctive use of ornament;
-in the interior, the principal north-south and east-west corridors, principal entrance vestibules and principal staircases, which continue to control the circulation pattern.
Key elements that define the heritage value of the 1874-78 wing (attached to the west wing of the original 1859-65 building) include:
-the harmonization with the existing building, but with an emphasis on greater height and rich detail;
-its principal feature, the Mackenzie Tower, the best-preserved element of this wing, whose exposed iron truss work supporting the spire is a rare surviving example of complex 19th century iron truss systems;
-the interior, with its smooth cream-coloured stone, white plaster, a strongly veined green marble, and panelled and carved wood;
-the stair arcading screening the staircase from the elevator shaft–particularly noteworthy as all that remains of the original elevator, one of the earliest passenger elevators in Canada;
-the spiral staircases, and the former office of Alexander Mackenzie above the entrance vestibule, with its elaborate stone, wood and plaster decoration.
Key elements that define the heritage character of the 1906 wing (running east-west between the 1859-65 and 1874-78 wings) include
-changing turn-of-the-century tastes for a simpler handling of materials and minimal decoration.