Description of Historic Place
The Village of Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District is located east of Ottawa centre within an elbow of the Ottawa River. The Village of Rockcliffe Park was a planned residential community first laid out in 1864 by Thomas Keefer, created as a partial subdivision of the large estate belonging to his father-in-law, Thomas McKay. The distinguishing feature of Rockcliffe's development, through more than a century, is its long-term ability to ensure the continuity of its early character. While the village boundaries established in 1908 remain discernable, Rockcliffe Park amalgamated with the City of Ottawa in 2001.
The Village of Rockcliffe Park was recognized as a Heritage Conservation District by the former Village of Rockcliffe Park in 1997 (By-law 97-10).
The heritage value of the Village of Rockcliffe Park lies in its historical associations and development as a community, but also as an excellent example of the English picturesque suburban planning traditions of the late nineteenth century.
Much of the land that lies within the current boundaries of the Village of Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District once formed part of Thomas McKay's large estate, which he acquired in the 1830s. A Scottish stonemason and an astute businessman, he was responsible for building the Rideau Canal's first eight connecting locks leading up from the Ottawa River. Its original layout, subdivided in 1864, was strongly influenced by British and American suburban trends of the nineteenth century. Borderland suburbs were, to a large extent, a visual phenomenon. Carefully designed to enhance the existing character of an area, early residential suburbs were intended to inspire the sense of living in an Arcadian environment.
Despite the beauty of the site, its proximity to New Edinburgh and Rideau Hall, and the lower taxes of Gloucester Township, much of the Estate remained unsold during the nineteenth century. Occupied primarily by cottages in the late 1800s, higher density development and crowding in downtown Ottawa during the early decades of the twentieth century resulted in a gradual flight of a number of families from Ottawa's downtown neighbourhoods to Rockcliffe Park. Improved transportation routes leading to the area in the early twentieth century, in addition to the existing streetcar service, made the Estate more accessible to those who worked in the city. Among the many prominent Ottawa residents who chose to relocate, Rockcliffe Park has been the home of former Prime Ministers, Lester B. Pearson and John Diefenbaker. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands also lived in the Village during the Second World War.
In the case of the Village of Rockcliffe Park, the architectural character of individual residential and institutional properties is secondary to their landscaped settings. A diverse collection of styles and period is represented, tied together by a shared approach to site development and a self-conscious development of village character. If there is a theme to the architectural diversity, it is the use of revival styles such as the Tudor, Georgian and Queen Anne. The country theme is expressed in Rockcliffe Park by an architecture that uses careful siting, natural materials, and careful proportioning to create an informal elegance appropriate to the idea of rural ambience within a larger urban setting.
The character of the early homes reflects the mix of residents who settled in the area. Comfortable, red brick, stone or stucco homes, typical of the Edwardian period began to appear in the early 1900s. They were frequently inhabited by the civil servants and merchants who had initially built cottages in the area. Allan Keefer, the grandson of Thomas C. Keefer's (who initially planned and subdivided McKay's Rockcliffe property) designed some of the homes built in Rockcliffe during this period. Allan Keefer's varied interpretations of British styles serves to reinforce the picturesque character of this conservation district. Most of his large residences were eventually converted into diplomatic missions during the second half of the twentieth century. Other prominent architects who designed homes in the Village include W.E. Noffke and A.J. Hazelgrove.
Source: Village of Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District, October, 1997 City of Ottawa
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Village of Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District include its:
- deliberate rural character of the Village
- evidence of T.C. Keefer's highly developed conception of the English picturesque tradition in the subdivision of his Estate
- history of local planning initiatives that has resulted in informal planning of the Village layout
- strict by-law regulations which has dictated rules for new development, including setback restrictions, required frontage and square footage requirements, which has resulted in relatively homogenous streetscapes
- current road pattern which reflects the incremental development of the area
- prominence of local schools and institutions within the centre of the Village
- recreational landscape, including recognized parks, lawn bowling and tennis clubs and rowing clubs.
- traditional English picturesque layout, emphasizing the natural features of the landscape and incorporating them into design elements
- varied architectural styles, mainly in various 'revival' styles, including Tudor, Georgian and Queen Anne.
- houses designed by prominent Ottawa architects, including W.E Noffke, Allan Keefer and A. J. Hazelgrove.
-nearly exclusively individual architect-designed building stock of various sizes, reflecting the diversity of people that settled in Rockcliffe Park.
- country architecture theme, reflected in the careful siting, use of natural materials and careful proportioning.