Description of Historic Place
Keyhole Castle is a private residence, set on an ample lot in Prince Albert’s most refined older residential neighbourhood, East Hill, which is located on a ridge commanding a view of the downtown commercial district and the North Saskatchewan River. Constructed in 1913, it is a two-and-a-half storey red brick mansion in the Queen Anne Revival style that features an exuberant use of massing and detail, giving the architecture both its energy and its individualism. The name derives from the “keyhole” shape of the windows in the dormers of its corner tower and in its red tile roof. All of its details are painted white for vivid contrast with the dark brick. The official recognition refers to the house on its property.
Keyhole Castle in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was designated a national historic site in 1975 because it was erected in the Queen Anne Revival style which exemplifies the eclecticism and individualism in late 19th and early 20th-century architecture.
The Queen Anne Revival style of architecture is known for its lively juxtaposition of a variety of stylistic motifs, creating a rich and exhuberant whole. This is illustrated at Keyhole Castle where the exterior of the brick house makes a distinctive statement on the street with its scale, massing, roofline and detailing. It rests on a spacious double lot of mature plantings. A ''porte cochère'' on the tower side balances the gabled front entrance with the one-storey sunroom and gallery on the opposite side. The fanciful roof of red Cuban tile is punctuated by a conical tower and several scrolled gables with white trim, keyhole windows and a bracketed cornice. Brick detailing around the openings play off in a rhythm against the patterns of the roof brackets, the columns by the gallery and the balustrades under the lower front windows.
Prince Albert is the gateway to northern Saskatchewan. The original owner of Keyhole Castle, Sam McLeod (1853-1929) was one of its pioneer merchants, a lumberman and later a politician. He brought in an American architect, Erich W. Wojahn, to design Keyhole Castle. Its 1219 square metres (4,000 square feet) include the usual domestic features for a prestigious home of the period, as well as a library, spacious sunroom and gallery, servant’s room and a small ballroom set under the steeply pitched roof of the third floor. Luxurious materials such as exotic hardwoods, inlays and marbles are used in the finishing, as well as gold leaf detailing in the dining room, beveled and stained glass, and custom-made door and window hardware throughout.
Keyhole Castle, well known to the community of Prince Albert, represents the optimism and vision of the early citizens of this northern community.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1975.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of Keyhole Castle include:
- the eclectic architectural style based on Queen Anne revival, characterized by the irregular massing, the polygonal tower and the steeply-pitched red tile roof;
- the scrolled gables containing windows in a keyhole shape from which the house derives its name;
- the high quality of the craftsmanship in its abundant exterior detailing of wood and plaster ornamentation, as well as decorative brickwork around the openings;
- the flanking gabled features of the sunroom gallery and the porte-cochere on the ground floor, with this scrolled line picked up over the front entrance;
- lavish interior finishes including the inside front door with its beveled glass lights and distinctive scrolled hardware, the mahogany panelling of the dining room with its built-in china cabinet and sliding doors with stained glass opening onto the living room, the three fireplaces faced with Italian marble, the staircase with its low balustrades, a sweeping handrail, and carved newel post, the generous use of stained glass and inlaid wood floors, and the third floor ballroom dome with its Italian gold-leaf chandelier;
- the siting of the house on a landscaped lot within an upscale residential neighborhood.