Description of Historic Place
Government House, the former residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories, is set in a landscaped park in Regina, Saskatchewan. The original building is a two-storey, brick mansion set on a stone foundation, featuring a low-hipped roof, a porte-cochere, an attached greenhouse, designed to accommodate formal public areas, vice-regal private quarters, as well as kitchen, pantry and staff facilities. The building has been rehabilitated with the addition of a large wing to one side and now is a large bustling complex that serves as an administrative building with offices of the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, a museum, and a venue for state occasions. The designation refers to the original house and grounds.
Government House was designated a national historic site in 1968 because:
- it was the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories from 1891 to 1905 and of Saskatchewan from 1905 to 1945;
- Government House is one of the few surviving territorial government buildings;
- its design is typical of many late 19th-century public buildings.
At the time of its completion in 1891, Government House served as residence for the chief administrator in the territorial capital for what was then a vast portion of Canada. The capital had moved in 1883 from Battleford to temporary quarters in Regina when the railway confirmed its southern route across the prairie. Then, on a 22 hectare (53-acre) site on the south side of Dewdney Avenue, the permanent residence was built from plans supplied by the office of Thomas Fuller, Chief Architect for the Federal Department of Public Works. In 1891, Joseph Royal was the first of four Lieutenant Governors to take up residence here; with the creation of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, Government House continued its administrative and ceremonial functions for the province’s six Lieutenant Governors until 1945.
Government House was built on the open prairie but was intended to evoke an English country estate. In the spirit of self-sufficiency, the vice-regal complex had a gardener’s cottage, stables, a windmill with a well and storage tanks for its water system, an icehouse, a henhouse and extensive vegetable gardens. The gardeners made extensive plantings along the model of a small mixed farm in Edwardian England, combining formal areas of trees, shrubs and flower beds delineated from the outlying service areas. Much of the original acreage was sold to the City of Regina for various adjacent developments. While the outbuildings are gone, some of the original landscaped spaces remain.
The house was designed in the Italianate style, chosen for its simplicity and economy. The original building is two storeys high, clad with buff brick with limestone trim on a stone foundation, and a low hipped roof of grey metal. A greenhouse was added to the west side in 1901. In 1907-1908, the heating system was overhauled, electricity was introduced, and a line connected from the city’s water system. In 1921, a sunporch was added to the north side, and in 1928 a two-storey ballroom was added on the south side, and additional bedrooms upstairs. Renovations were also undertaken in the mid-twentieth century and again in 2005, when a major addition was constructed.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1968.
Key elements that express the heritage value of Government House include:
- its remnant identity as a landscaped rural estate;
- evidence of the garden’s original design, layout, circulation patterns, and plant materials used to define the boundaries as well as a series of open spaces, each with specific function;
- the house’s placement in the midst of the original grounds;
- the brick and stone construction materials;
- the house’s Italianate design with a symmetrical façade, low-pitched roof and shallow cornice, topped in the centre with a broad rectangular skylight ringed with windows, its three flanking bays of segmented arched windows on the ground floor which repeat the larger arches of the centered porte-cochere;
- its sympathetic additions up until the time of designation, including the service wing on the north side which repeats the established window pattern and terminates in the diminutive sunporch of 1921, the ballroom addition on the south side, providing a separate entrance for public occasions, and the glass conservatory to the rear, reassembled in 1928;
- surviving evidence of its original layout as a formal residence;
- its interior elliptical lightwell which brings light from the skylight into the ground floor foyer;
- its use of high quality interior materials such as tiled fireplaces, “mahoganized” millwork, bevelled glass, an interior archway on carved columns, and the elaborate wood staircase that continues into the upper main hall as the balustrade around the second-floor lightwell;
- surviving original fittings such as the original chandelier in the dining room.