Saturday, 22 June 2013

Parliament Hill, Ottawa

This week I was driving down Wellington Street passing in front of Parliament and noticed some progress on the renovation of the various buildings. A comprehensive program of renovation of all buildings in the Parliamentary precinct started about 5 years ago and will continue until 2017. This means that plumbing, electricity, roofs and windows and cleaning of the stones on the buildings is painstakingly done to ensure historical accuracy. Asbestos also has to be removed and so far tons of it have been taken out of the West block. The roofs are also a complicated task, it is all copper and much of it has intricate ornamental facets. You need special craftsmen to work on the copper and reproduce all the detailing.

What I did notice was that the wall along the street has been renovated as well as the gates. In the late 1950's when the car was king of the road, the wall along Wellington street was opened to allow car traffic to enter directly, one entrance was at Metcalfe street and another one near O'Connor street, the Gates at the East block was considerably widened. Now some 55 years later these modern entrances have been closed off again and the wall re-built as it would have looked around 1860.  This means using the same stone and carving the various motifs into it, there is also some wrought iron work involved since the gates have to be recreated as they were then. The original work was done by Scottish and French-Canadian tradesmen. The same people who had worked previously on the building of the Rideau Canal which starts in Ottawa. The only restricted car entrance to the Hill is now located at Bank street and Wellington street, basically only members of Parliament and Senators can drive unto the Hill with a special permit pass after they have gone through a car screening process.

 Parliament Hill, original fence of stone and wrought iron along Wellington street, the stone work is black with 150 year old soot.
 Re-built wall at O'Connor street, the stone is new but carved in the original setting of 1860.
 Here you see the blackened original pillar standing next to the new re-built one. Closing once again what was a car entrance installed in late 1950's.
 Leaf detail carved like original pillar.
 Re-built wall at Metcalfe street work still in progress
 East Block Gate re-built and now waiting for the Wrought Iron Gates to be installed.
 Another view of the East Block Gate from Wellington street.
Sovereign's Gate, Main Gate of Parliament Hill only opened for the Sovereign or the Governor General.

Other work is also going on with the various buildings. The old Bank of Montreal Building at O'Connor street and Wellington street is being completely transformed to be used by Parliamentarians and the Government for Official functions and State occasions. The building is in the Art Deco style and has beautiful black marble and other coloured marbles inside.
The Bank of Montreal Building on Wellington Street being transformed into the Official function room of Parliament, next to it will be other rooms and kitchens.

The Old Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is also being totally re-furbished to be used by the Senate as a library, research centre and Offices for junior Senators. The more senior Senators will have their offices in the main Central block of Parliament.

 The West Block (1857) all the stone work has to be re-done, copper roof replaced
 This portion is partially completed with new copper roof on one tower.
 The blue paper structure here is in fact the roof of one of the towers, which was detached and brought down waiting for its new copper cladding, before being re-installed.
This picture show the back or North side of the West Block renovated only the new windows are missing.

The West Block is probably the one building which is being completely re-built from the ground up. It had been badly modernized in 1959 and currently only the outside walls have been preserved everything else has been demolished. This building originally built in 1859 will be used once again for Parliament Committee meetings and Offices for Members of Parliament. The famous Room 200 which was the party room for Parliament has been demolished and the old Bank of Montreal Building across the street will replace it.

The East Block is also undergoing major renovation to its roof and it is partially completed.
 New copper roof on the East block with wrought iron detailing
Governor General's entrance to the East block on Parliament Hill.
Prior to 1939 most Government departments, the Cabinet room, the Governor General's Office were all located in this building. Difficult to imagine by today's standard. All have moved out except for the Cabinet room.

The Langevin Building, across the street from Parliament Hill houses the Privy Council of Her Majesty in Canada and the Prime Minister's Office which is a government department by itself. The building is not big enough for all the staff and many are working in buildings on Sparks Street behind.

 The Library of Parliament directly behind the Central Block, original building of 1876, survived intact the great fire of 1916 which destroyed the central block because the Librarian had closed the Bronze doors connecting it to the central block of Parliament.
Architectural detail of the Library of Parliament in Canadian Revival Gothic Style. The interior in Canadian woods and the marble statue of a young Queen Victoria appearing in her late 20's is quite beautiful.

Here below are some pictures of the view from Parliament Hill

 The Museum of Civilizations designed by Douglas Cardinal located across the Ottawa River in Quebec.
 The Great hall of the National Gallery of Canada during renovation to the glass panels of the structure it has been recovered by an art installation to make it look like a gigantic iceberg.

 Major Hill Park and the spires of the RC Cathedral of Ottawa c.1848
 The Supreme Court Building in Art Deco style high above the Ottawa River
The Ottawa River looking West towards the Chaudiere Waterfall which are bigger than Niagara and called the Great Thunder by the Algonquin people.

 On Parliament Hill you will find many statues of former Prime Ministers of Canada and of important figures in Canadian History. Here the statue of Lester B. Pearson, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1956, he gave Canada our National Flag 1965 and he is the one who propose the creation of the United Nations Peace Keepers.

The Peace Tower of Parliament and its clock and famous carillon 


  1. The last time I was in Ottawa a few years ago, they had not started on the Parliament Hill wall yet. The new stonework is beautiful!

    I remember the first time I ever saw Parliament Hill in the late 70s. I was so shocked by how dirty and grimy the stonework was! We don't have such grime on our stone edifices in western Canada because they aren't old enough yet!

  2. what's all that grayness in every photo?

    1. Summer rains and clouds, had a beautiful sunny day on Friday. Weather has been rainy and cold in May and June.