Rideau Hall

Ottawa, Ontario | C.1838

Photo Credit: Anne McIsaac

Regal architecture and well-groomed grounds distinguish Rideau Hall as a place of importance in Ottawa, Canada. The estate has acted as the official residence of the Canadian monarch and also of their representative, the Governor General of Canada since 1867.

The estate is located in Canada’s capital outside the center of Ottawa. The grounds consist of 88 acres and the principal building is 9,500 square meters and consisting of approximately 175 rooms. Additionally, the grounds also have 27 different outbuildings, of which some are open to the public.

The site and original structure were selected and built by stonemason Thomas McKay, who immigrated from from Perth, Scotland to Montreal in 1817. Later McKay became the main contractor for the construction of the Rideau Canal. Upon the Canal’s completion, McKay built mills at Rideau Falls, making him the founder of New Edinburgh, the original settlement of Ottawa.

Before the building gained prestige as a royal residence, the hall received distinguished visitors. It is even rumored that the watercolors of Barrack Hill – presently named Parliament Hill – were painted by the governor’s wife, Lady Head, while she was visiting Rideau Hall and influenced Queen Victoria to choose Ottawa as the national capital.

As popularity for the Rideau Hall grew, the building began expansions to accommodate. Frederick Preston Rubidge was responsible for enlarging the hall to be three times its size by adding an additional 49 room wing. It was Rubidge who oversaw the refinishing of the original villa and designed the additions to accommodate new functions in the Hall.

During World War II, the palace became a shelter for a number of exiled royals displaced by the invasions of their respective countries in Europe. At the war’s end, the first peacetime ball was held in celebration at Rideau Hall and honored distinguished guests such as the President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The spectacular grounds of Rideau Hall were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1977. Today the house is open to the public for guided tours throughout the year and hosts approximately 200,000 visitors annually.

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