Description of Historic Place
The Royal Canadian Mint is a sandstone clad building composed of a front, three-storey pavilion, facing Sussex Drive, which houses the administrative offices, and conceals a rear, lower portion with workshops. The most visible street side elevation combines a massive square central tower, flanked by two symmetrical lower wings and features late-gothic inspired detailing. Several later additions were made to the south side of the main building and a nearly separate refinery was constructed on the north in 1935. The FHBRO designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Royal Canadian Mint is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Royal Canadian Mint, one of the most important financial institutions of the country, is associated with the national historic theme of Canada’s growing monetary independence. Its founding in 1905 constituted a late response to the Klondike gold rush. The building’s construction fits within an important period of growth for Ottawa, at a time when a series of federal institutions and building were being strategically placed in the capital, in response to Laurier’s ambition to make it “the Washington of the North”.
Designed by the chief architect of Public Works, David Ewart, the Royal Canadian Mint is a very good example of Late Gothic decorative treatment over a Beaux-Arts-inspired design, characteristic of his buildings in Ottawa. The choice of this medieval, fortified appearance was consistent with the building’s function as a centre of the country’s wealth. Functionally, the building was divided into distinct sections in order to best serve the dual administrative and industrial function of the Mint.
Because of its position within a series of federal buildings along Sussex Drive, and due to its outstanding design, the Royal Canadian Mint contributes to establishing the formal character of this portion of the thoroughfare. The wrought iron fence and two gatehouses, which still guard the building, are testaments to the high security needed when precious metals were still stored and processed on-site. The prominence of its design and location contribute to making the building a familiar city landmark.
Marc de Caraffe and Janet Wright, Royal Canadian Mint, 320 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 84-006; Royal Canadian Mint, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 84-006.
The character-defining elements of the Royal Canadian Mint should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic and functional design, and high-quality craftsmanship and materials, as demonstrated in:
-the clear expression of the dual function of the Mint, with administrative and institutional functions housed in the massive three-storey structure looking onto Sussex Drive, and the industrial aspect, namely the striking of coins, lodged in the lower rear wing and auxiliary buildings;
-the Late Gothic expression of the design, as can be seen in the strong horizontal lines of the granite bands and window transoms, in the sense of mass imparted by the rough Nepean sandstone walls, buttresses, and octagonal turrets, and in the medieval-inspired decorative elements such as the stone shields and crenellations;
-the Beaux-Arts layout of the building, with its symmetrical front elevation, central tower containing a rotunda and the main staircase lit from above;
-the latter additions to the building, such as the very successful 1935 refinery and the compatible 1951 wing;
The building’s visual prominence and contribution to the formal character of this portion of Sussex Drive, as evidenced in:
-security elements such as the wrought iron fence and gatehouses, which guard the building complex;
-its relationship to Sussex Drive and to the adjacent institutional buildings.