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Willson Carbide Mill

1 Victoria Island, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1984/03/19

General view of the Carbide.; Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, PA 9048.
General view
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1899/01/01 to 1900/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/04/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Willson Carbide Mill stands on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River. It is a tall, four-storey, gable-roofed building whose industrial design reflects an underlying classicism. The steel-frame structure is clad in limestone and decorated with cut stone at the corners and around the regular, evenly-spaced window openings. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Willson Carbide Mill is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Willson Carbide Mill is directly associated with the Ottawa Carbide Company, which built its plant on the island between 1899 and 1900. The building is also significant for its direct association with Thomas Leopold Willson , who was the inventor of the process to produce calcium carbide and acetylene gas. He was also the founder of the Ottawa Carbide Company and is considered a person of national historic significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Architectural Value
The utilitarian Willson Carbide Mill is valued for its aesthetic and functional qualities. Designed by engineers, this building possesses an innovative interior layout, which provided specific and protected space for each process of production. The building’s industrial character is softened by its classical scale, proportions and details. Its well-crafted, two-feet thick, stone walls, decorated with cut-stone, are evidence of its good craftsmanship.

Environmental Value
The Willson Carbide Mill reinforces the picturesque character of its setting on Victoria Island. Highly visible, on both sides of the river, it is a well-known local landmark.

Sources: Marc de Caraffe, Usine de carbure, Ile Victoria, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 83-063; Willson Carbide Mill, Victoria Island, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 83-063.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Willson Carbide Mill should be respected.

Its aesthetic qualities, functional design and quality craftsmanship, for example:
-its massing, which consists of a four-storey structure with an elongated two-storey section along its side and rear;
-its gable roof with chimney;
-its steel-frame construction;.
-its two-feet (60 centimetres) thick limestone walls, which are decorated with cut stone at the corners and in the window openings;
-its interior layout, which provided each phase of production with its own specific and protected space.

The manner in which the Willson Carbide Mill reinforces the picturesque character of its setting on Victoria Island, and is a well-known landmark within the area, as evidenced by:
-its scale, design and materials, which contribute to the architectural integrity of a former, formal industrial area;
-its recognition within the area as the last remaining building on the site.




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



Chemical Products Manufacturing Facility

Architect / Designer

Ottawa Carbide Company



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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