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Blackburn Building

85 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1986/07/17

Blackburn Building Recognized Federal Heritage Building; Parks Canada | Parcs Canada
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Construction Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1913/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/12/02

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

In the central business district of Ottawa, the Blackburn Building is situated on the north side of Sparks Street. It is a large, ten-storey, reinforced concrete structure with a stone-facing. Its tripartite composition is distinguished by the vertical thrust of its modernized columns set between large expanses of glass. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Blackburn Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Blackburn Building is associated with the development of early 20th-century Ottawa. Robert and Russell Blackburn commissioned the multi-functional structure containing retail, office and hotel space built in three sections between 1911-1913. It was also Ottawa’s earliest high-rise development and upon completion, it was the grandest and most ambitious non-governmental, commercial building project in the city. As such, it reflected the prominence of the Blackburn family in the commercial life of Ottawa.

Architectural Value:
The Blackburn Building is a good example of the early use of reinforced concrete based on the Kahn system of steel members encased in concrete, and exhibits very good functional design. Its complex exterior reflects its three-stage construction process. It is an early, large-scale example of a high-rise structure in Ottawa and is a notable representative within the national context.

Environmental Value:
The Blackburn Building, on its unchanged site in the commercial core, reinforces Ottawa’s central business district and is familiar to people working in the vicinity, to local residents, and to pedestrians.

Dana Johnson, Blackburn Building, 85 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-020; Blackburn Building, 85 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 85-020.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Blackburn Building should be respected.

Its functional design, good quality materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the large massing and tripartite design of the ten-storey, symmetrical structure with both six and nine-bay elevations;
-the complex exterior design, which is indicative of the building technology of early high-rises;
-the two-storey base faced with Stanstead granite and the verticals of modernized columns running between large expanses of glass;
-the projecting lower sub-cornice that forms the base for a five-storey section of undecorated Bedford stone;
-the second sub-cornice that forms the base of the terminating third section;
-the seventh-storey arched windows, several of which are adorned with elaborate balconies.

The ongoing relationship of the Blackburn Building to its unchanged site on Sparks Street that reinforces the commercial centre of downtown Ottawa and is a familiar landmark, as evidenced by:
-the building’s ongoing relationship to its streetscape and surrounding buildings;
-its design and materials that maintain a visual and physical relationship to adjacent structures in the commercial core of downtown Ottawa;
-its corner location and large scale make it a well-known Sparks Street building.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Architect / Designer

W.E. Noffke, Architect, Ottawa



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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