Description of Historic Place
The Coach House is a handsome, modestly scaled stone building with asymmetrically placed entrances and round-arched windows. Its picturesque roofline features steeply pitched gables, small hips and low chimneys. Constructed in 1867-68 in the Gothic Revival style, the Coach House was designed as a service building for Gorffwsfa, a large house on property overlooking the Ottawa River. The L-shaped Coach House stands in a prominent location on Sussex Drive facing the gates of Rideau Hall. Two formal one-and-a-half-storey stone façades (the outer faces of the L-shape) face south to Sussex Drive and west over the grounds of the Prime Minister’s Residence. The two-and-a-half-storey rear elevation of the Coach House, hidden from the road, contains garage entrances. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Coach House illustrates two themes in Canadian history. First, it is representative of the development of large properties throughout Canada beginning in the 1850s, its construction date of 1867-68 coinciding with the period of Ottawa’s development as the nation’s capital. Second, it reflects the recommendation of the Greber Plan to create an official residence for the Prime Minister and develop Sussex Drive as part of ongoing improvements to the national capital. The Coach House is associated with two early owners of the estate, Joseph Currier and Gordon Edwards, both of whom were prominent in Ottawa’s lumber industry and society. The building is an example of residential expansion beyond Ottawa’s borders following its designation as the national capital. It illustrates the important expropriations relating to the development of the scenic Sussex Drive between Rideau Hall and Parliament Hill.
The Coach House is a very good example of a Gothic Revival building. Facing Sussex Drive the Coach House responds to its sloped site with a low massing, a picturesque roofline with steeply pitched gables, small hips, and low chimneys. Gothic influence is also seen in the asymmetrically placed entrances, round-arched windows, and contrasting treatment of the limestone walls. Originally U-shaped in plan, the building is now L-shaped since the 1956 demolition of its cliff-side east wing. The building presents two formal facades to the street (south) and towards 24 Sussex (west), and although front and rear treatments differ, the composition remains coherent. The building is of a good functional quality, and its layout clearly reflects the distribution of uses: stables (now garage) at the lower level and coach house (formerly residential space, now offices) above. It now operates as a RCMP garage and offices, the modern equivalent of a coach house. Craftsmanship and materials are very good and of high quality as seen in the exterior stone work, the chimneys, voussoirs, surrounds, headers, cornerstones, roof with its cedar shingles, the original wood windows and circular windows. The finishes and detailing of the surviving interior elements include the fireplace and wood trim. J.M Currier of Springfield Massachusetts designed both the Coach House and the Prime Minister’s Residence in its original form at 24 Sussex Drive. Architect A.T. Galt Durnford was responsible for its conversion into a residential building.
The relationship between the Coach House and its associated landscape has changed over the years, yet its character is retained. One of two remaining buildings from the original estate, the Coach House served as a residence for a time before returning to its original function. Changes have occurred to driveways, the surrounding grounds and the building’s footprint resulting from the removal of the east wing. A visible element amongst the official residences and scenic views of Sussex Drive, the Coach House reinforces the character of the ceremonial drive. It is a secondary structure that supports the character of the Prime Minister’s Residence and blends well into its Confederation Boulevard setting. Although less memorable than Rideau Hall, the Coach House is familiar locally.
The following character-defining elements of the Coach House which must be respected include:
the low scale and massing, and detailing which include twin gabled roofline, dormers and two stone-faced one-and-a-half-storey façades comprising the outer faces of the L-shape that face south to Sussex Drive, and west over the grounds of the Prime Minister’s Residence, and the asymmetrically placed main entrances;
the two-and-a-half-storey rear elevation with ground floor garage doors separated by windows, second-storey two-and three-bay windows, and exterior of horizontal wood siding with lower walls of stone;
the quality of the workmanship of both the exterior and interior including the stone construction, chimneys, voussoirs, surrounds, headers and cornerstones, the original wood windows, circular and round arched windows, and interior finishes including fireplace and wood trim;
the building’s relationship to the site in terms of its contribution to the 24 Sussex Drive and its visual and physical relationship to the Prime Minister’s Residence;
its location on the property of the Prime Minister’s Residence facing the gates of Rideau Hall.