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Observatory House

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1993/09/02

Corner view of the Observatory House, 1992.; Department of Energy, Mines and Resources / Ministère de l'Énergie, des Mines et des Ressources, 1992.
Corner view
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Other Name(s)

Observatory House
Central Experimental Farm (Building No. 2)
Ferme expérimentale centrale (bâtiment no 2)

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/04/24

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Observatory House is located on landscaped grounds at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. The large and dignified two-and-one-half-storey structure is constructed in brick with a stone foundation and wood shingle roof. The house displays elements of both the Queen Anne and Classical Revival styles, including its generous verandah around two elevations, irregular eave line. Classical Revival influences are evident in the balanced arrangement of dormers, classical columns and the building’s central entrance hall. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Observatory House is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.

Historical Value
The Observatory House is associated with the theme of Canadian research in astronomy and geophysics. Built in 1909 shortly after the construction of the Dominion Observatory, the building served as the official residence for Dominion Chief Astronomers, including William King, R.M. Stewart, and C.S. Beale, each of whom made significant contributions to the field. In addition, magnetic survey work and other research works were carried out in the building.

Architectural Value
The Observatory House is valued for its very good aesthetic design. Combining Queen Anne Revival and Classical Revival styles, its picturesque aspects include its irregular eave lines, generous verandah, slightly projecting entrance and the shingled gables. The general restraint of the design reflects classical stylistic influences. In addition to being a residence, its good functional interior accommodated research work in the basement laboratories. The standard of craftsmanship and materials is high, particularly for the interior finishes and trim.

Environmental Value
The Observatory House reinforces the picturesque character of its landscaped setting at the Central Experimental Farm. The building is familiar to visitors and employees of the Farm.

Sources: Jacqueline Hucker, Observatory House, Building #2, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 92-036; Observatory House, Building #2, Central Experimental Farm. Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 92-036.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Observatory House should be respected.

Its very good aesthetic design, good functional design and very good materials and craftsmanship, for example:
-the large, two-and-a-half storey massing and shingled roof;
-the brick construction set on a stone foundation;
-the Queen Anne style elements of its design, including its irregular eave line, generous verandah around two elevations, slightly projecting entrance and the shingle finish in the gables;
-the Classical Revival style elements, including the general restraint of the design, the balanced arrangement of dormers, the classical columns, uniform windows, and centrally located ground floor entrance and hall;
-the interior detail and finish, including the main and rear stairs, wood- and leaded-glass windows, intact interior millwork and fireplaces.

The manner in which the Observatory House reinforces the picturesque character of its landscaped setting at the Central Experimental Farm and is a familiar building, as evidenced by:
-the aspects of its design and materials which contribute to its picturesque surroundings;
-its large scale and picturesque design, which makes it a distinctive feature in this area of the Farm, and familiar to visitors and employees.




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



Health and Research
Research Facility

Architect / Designer

Department of Public Works, Chief architect’s branch



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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