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May Building

489 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1986/05/28

Front view of the May Building, 1985.; Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, M. Trépanier, 1985.
Front elevation
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1846/01/01 to 1876/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/03/16

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Located on Ottawa’s prominent Sussex Drive, the Institut Jeanne d’Arc is composed of five, attached, 19th century commercial buildings. A gabled portico defines the main entrance and serves the block-long grouping, which includes the mansard-roofed Johnston, Sparrow, Mansfield, Revere Hotel and the flat-roofed May buildings. The three structures at the south end of the block are constructed in limestone and share classically inspired proportions and rhythms. Their facades consist of a dressed stone ground storey, with large windows. Horizontal rows of regularly spaced multi-paned windows with stone details on the two upper storeys unify the three facades. The two buildings at the North end of the block are constructed of a light brown brick and have a ground floor with large windows separated from the upper storeys by a wooden cornice. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Institut Jeanne d’Arc, is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Institut Jeanne d’Arc, is associated with the Sisters of the Institut, who operated a boarding house for young working women from 1917 to 1980. The Order was founded by Mère Thomas d’Aquin, a French Dominican sister who arrived in Ottawa from France in the second decade of the 20th century. The building, originally a commercial structure, is also directly associated with the commercial activity which appeared on Sussex Drive in Ottawa during its mid 19th century boom and with the local development and social life of Lowertown Ottawa.

Architectural Value
The Institut Jeanne d’Arc, is valued for its very good aesthetic qualities and is an excellent example of commercial architecture dating from Ottawa’s Confederation period that has been adapted for residential use. Built in two phases, from 1846 to 1851 and from 1870 to 1876, the five buildings reflect changing architectural tastes. The influence of the Neoclassical style is seen in the tripartite division of the elevations and classically inspired rhythms and proportions, while influences of non-classical origin are seen in the tall, narrow proportions of the building, the exaggerated keystones above the doors and the segmental arches above some of the windows. Nevertheless, a uniformity of size and scale combined with a conservative approach to style resulted in a harmonious row of 19th century commercial buildings.

Environmental Value
The Institut Jeanne d’Arc, reinforces the historic character of its streetscape setting in downtown Ottawa and is a well-known landmark in the National Capital’s downtown region.

Jacqueline Hucker, Institut Jeanne d’Arc, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 85-039.

Institut Jeanne d’Arc, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 85-039.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements the Institut Jeanne d’Arc, should be respected, for example:

Its very good classically inspired design, good functional design and good materials and craftsmanship, for example:

-The four-storey massing with a mansard roof and flat-roofed section.
-The rough-faced limestone construction with corner quoins, exaggerated keystones above the doors and the segmental arches above some of the windows.
-The light brown brick construction and details.
-The tripartite elevation consisting of a dressed stone ground storey with shop window, separated by a wide string course from the two upper storeys.
-The unifying, horizontal rhythm of the upper storeys, composed of rows of regularly spaced, rectangular, multi-paned windows with dressed stone surrounds and sills and rows of regularly spaced windows with segmental arches and roof dormers.
-The gabled front entrance with sign.
-The doors with fanlights and the brackets beneath the window sills.
-The thick dividing walls and back walls of the interior.

The manner in which the Institut Jeanne d’Arc, reinforces the historic character of its streetscape setting and is well-known, as evidenced by:
-Its overall scale, design and materials, which harmonize with the surrounding buildings between Rideau and St. Patrick streets and contribute to the 19th century character of the east side of Sussex Drive.
-Its visibility and familiarity within its immediate area given its location on the well-known Sussex Drive in downtown Ottawa.




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




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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