Cur­rents

Tra­di­tional home to prime min­is­ters is steeped in his­tory. by Alanna Wil­son

Canada's History - - CONTENTS - Pro­vided by the So­ci­ety for the Study of Ar­chi­tec­ture in Canada in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Car­leton Univer­sity’s His­tory and The­ory of Ar­chi­tec­ture pro­gram.

Cheer­ing Con­fed­er­a­tion. Indige­nous artist’s bold strokes. Tom Thom­son’s last­ing legacy. Doc­u­ment­ing Expo 67.

The house at 24 Sus­sex Drive in Ot­tawa is of­ten per­ceived as merely the res­i­dence of the prime min­is­ter of Canada. But its his­tory and her­itage value ex­tend far be­yond its role of housing Canada’s head of gov­ern­ment. The evo­lu­tion of 24 Sus­sex Drive fol­lows the devel­op­ment of Canada as a na­tion, re­flect­ing our ever-pro­gress­ing cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal, and so­cial cli­mate.

Joseph Mer­rill Cur­rier built 24 Sus­sex Drive as his pri­vate res­i­dence in 1868. A lum­ber baron as well as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, Cur­rier was an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in the na­tion’s grow­ing cap­i­tal. Sus­sex Drive was the hub of Ot­tawa so­cial life, host­ing the rich and fa­mous of this lum­ber town-cum­na­tional cap­i­tal.

Cur­rier built 24 Sus­sex Drive in the English Gothic re­vival style, which was pop­u­lar in the new na­tion for its re­flec­tion of English roots and au­thor­ity, as ev­i­denced by its use at the Par­lia­ment Build­ings. He also named the new home Gorf­fwysfa, which means “place of peace” in Welsh.

The next phase of 24 Sus­sex Drive was ush­ered in by an­other lum­ber baron and MP, Wil­liam Cameron Ed­wards, who pur­chased the house in 1902. Ed­wards ren­o­vated 24 Sus­sex Drive to re­flect the château style, whose pic­turesque forms were seen to em­body Canada’s rugged landscape and to re­flect the na­tion’s French her­itage. That style, also used in a se­ries of mon­u­men­tal ho­tels owned by Cana­dian Pa­cific, sym­bol­ized to many a dis­tinct, united Cana­dian iden­tity.

Fear­ful that some­one might com­mer­cial­ize the his­toric struc­ture, the gov­ern­ment of Canada bought 24 Sus­sex Drive in 1946, mak­ing it the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the prime min­is­ter in 1950. Fol­low­ing the pur­chase, the house was ren­o­vated in a stripped-down style re­flect­ing the clean, mod­ern, stream­lined aes­thet­ics of a pro­gres­sive post­war Canada.

The home at 24 Sus­sex Drive — cur­rently va­cant while it awaits ex­ten­sive renovations — is steeped in Cana­dian his­tory, hav­ing housed key fig­ures from our past and hav­ing evolved with Cana­dian so­ci­ety.

Above: The house at 24 Sus­sex Drive sits atop a promon­tory, over­look­ing the Ot­tawa River.

Right: The liv­ing room at 24 Sus­sex Drive is tra­di­tion­ally used by the prime min­is­ter’s fam­ily and in­vited guests..

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