By François Leblanc
Chief Architect
National Capital Commission

Did you know that the government of Canada owns and operates seven official residences, six of which are in the National Capital region? Did you know that all the official residences, including some of their outbuildings, are included in the Federal Heritage Buildings Register, a status that requires their protection and preservation for future generations? Did you know that the National Capital Commission is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the six official residences located in the National Capital region.?

Some of the official residences are well known, others less. Essentially, their role is to provide a worthy setting for state functions and official hospitality offered by those who hold the highest public offices in the land. Often the public perception of these residences is quite different. Often they have been regarded by the public as mere perquisites of high office fringe benefits, as it were, that go with the job. They are not. Every Governor General and Prime Minister pretty well has to live where they do for protocol and security reasons. Permit me to introduce you to these quite unique properties, significant elements of our Canadian heritage.

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall in Ottawa was built in 1838 for a local industrialist, Thomas MacKay. In 1864, it was leased as a temporary residence for the Governor General, and then purchased as such in 1868. The official residence known as Rideau Hall comprises 88 acres of grounds, the main building with about 175 rooms covering approximately 95,000 square feet plus 24 outbuildings. About 5,000 square feet in the main building are used for the private areas; the remaining 90,000 square feet are state, service and administrative areas.

24 Sussex Drive

The official residence known as 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa was build between 1866 and 1868 by Joseph Merrill Currier, a lumber manufacturer and member of the first Dominion Parliament. In 1902, it was sold to another lumber manufacturer, William Cameron Edwards. It was subsequently acquired by the Government in 1943; between 1949 and 1951, the house was remodeled to make it more suitable for its role as the official residence of the Prime Minister.

The official residence comprises four acres of grounds, one main building with 34 rooms covering approximately 12,000 square feet, and four outbuildings.

Harrington Lake Residence

Well known these days because of the constitutional talks, the Harrington Lake residence on Lac Mousseau in Gatineau Park was built in 1925 for Colonel Cameron Macpherson Edwards, an Ottawa lumber baron. The Government acquired the property in 1951 as part of the federal program to develop Gatineau Park. In 1959, it became the official summer residence of the Prime Minister of Canada.

It comprises 13 acres of grounds, one main building with 16 rooms covering approximately 8,300 square feet, and eight outbuildings.


The official residence known as Stornoway in Rockcliffe Park was built for Asconio Joseph Major, an Ottawa grocer, in 1913?1914. In 1923, it was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Irvine Perley?Robertson, who in turn rented it to Princess Juliana of the Netherlands during the Second World War. The house was purchased in 1950 by a private group to serve as the official residence for the Leader of the Opposition. In 1970, the property was transferred to the Government. This official residence comprises a little over one acre of grounds, one main building with 34 rooms covering approximately 9,500 square feet plus one outbuilding.

The Farm at Kingsmere

The Farm at Kingsmere on the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park was once part of the summer residence of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, which was bequeathed to the people of Canada upon his death in 1950. It is now the Speaker of the House of Commons' residence.

It comprises more than four acres of grounds, one main building with 11 rooms covering approximately 5,000 square feet, and five outbuildings.

7 Rideau Gate

The official residence known as 7 Rideau Gate in Ottawa was built in 18611862 for Henry Osgoode Burritt, who owned the Rideau Falls Milling Company. In 1966, the Government purchased it to serve as the guest house for the steady stream of distinguished visitors to Canada during the Centennial and continues to serve this function to this day.

This official residence comprises half an acre of grounds, and one main building with 30 rooms covering approximately 8,500 square feet. It is located a short walking distance from 24 Sussex and Rideau Hall.

The Citadel

Located in Quebec City, the Citadel is also an official residence of the Governor General

Construction of the Citadel, located in Quebec City and originally intended to be a great fortress, began in the 17th Century under Louis de Baude, Count of Frontenac, Governor of New France (1672-1682). The work was finally completed during the War of 1812.

After a disastrous fire in 1976 which destroyed the east wing of the Governor General's residence within the historic fortress, the wing was rebuilt in the Regency style to better harmonize with the Ciatdel's traditional building style. Today, the entire residence is comprised of 153 rooms covering approximately 4,459 square metres (48,000 square feet). The private areas comprise ten rooms.

As the Governor General's official residence in Quebec, the Citadel hosts a number of special events each year. While the Governor General was in residence during June and September, 1991, 2,151 guests attended 14 functions. These functions included receptions, awards ceremonies and an open house which drew 851 visitors.