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Government House


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Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Government House site comprises several early twentieth-century buildings, structures, and landscape elements, including a three-storey sandstone mansion and surrounding formal gardens and landscaping, a chauffeur's residence, and greenhouse. The site is located on one city block overlooking the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton's Glenora district. It is situated directly south of the Royal Alberta Museum.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Government House site lies in its role as the official residence for the Lieutenant Governors of Alberta between 1913 and 1938. Heritage value also lies in the excellent period architecture of Government House and its associated auxiliary buildings.

Built between 1912 and 1913, Government House was the official residence of the Province's first six Lieutenant Governors: George H.V. Bulyea, Robert G. Brett, William Egbert, William L. Walsh, Philip C.H. Primrose, and John C. Bowen. Here they hosted state receptions, visiting royalty and other dignitaries; the mansion was a centre of social and political life in the province. Integral to maintaining the prestigious air of Government House and facilitating functions were a number of auxiliary buildings constructed in the early to mid-1910s and offering carriage and automobile storage and maintenance, horse and cow stables, a chauffeur's residence, greenhouse, outdoor bedding plant facilities, and winter food storage. In 1938, however, after more than a decade of complaints in the Legislative Assembly about the "economy" of maintaining a Lieutenant Governor's residence (and resentment toward the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, John C. Bowen, who had refused to give Royal Assent to three government bills), it was closed and converted to other uses. In 1942, it was leased to North West Airlines and the US Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War and the construction of the Alaska Highway. Two years later, the Dominion Government began using the building as a convalescent home for wounded and disabled veterans, and pruchased the building in 1951. In 1964, in anticipation of Canada's Centennial (which also saw the opening of the new Provincial Museum that was constructed on the property) the province reacquired Government House and began refurbishing the building as a site for state and community events.

Government House is also significant for its architectural craftsmanship and construction. It was the most costly, most luxurious residence built in Edmonton to that point, and its eclectic design incorporated at least three architectural trends that were popular at the time of its construction. The exterior follows the Beaux Arts movement in borrowing from historic precedents, in this case features of the Jacobean Revival style such as prominent projections, parapet gable walls and wall dormers, bay windows, battlements and oculus openings. The exterior porches and more delicate interior details speak to the Edwardian Classical Revival style, and an Arts and Crafts influence is evident in the simplified fireplace surrounds, wainscoting, and built-in furnishings and mouldings. Like the Provincial Legislature, the imposing size and ornamental detail of Government House was designed to reflect Alberta's new provincial status. The architect was R.P. Blakey, who as the principal architect for Alberta Public Works from 1912- 1923 was responsible for many prominent public buildings. Blakey also designed the chauffeur's residence, which complements Government House's English revival design in its Tudor Revival architecture, most prominently expressed in the building's decorative timber-framing with stucco infilling.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Services, Historic Resources Management Branch (File Des. 290)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of Government House include:

Government House:
- form, scale and massing;
- sandstone construction: random coursed rock faced bond, smooth ashlar trim and quoins;
- two-storey bow windows, four occuli at attic level, and restored double hung windows with wooden sashes;
- parapetted gable ends, steep gable roof, and the rectangular windows in groups;
- verandah, coupled columns, (Roman Doric Order) balustrade and porte cochere;
- original layout of main floor;
- concrete vault;
- fireplace in basement;
- authentic interior architectural features in first floor vestibule, lobby, music room, library and stair hall, and second floor office, including wainscoting, doors, trim, fireplace features and built-in cabinets;
- adjacent gardens and landscaping, and viewscape of river valley.

Chauffeur's Residence:
- mass, form, scale, and style;
- beige brick base with half-timber decorative features and rustic stucco infill;
- asymmetrical facades composition;
- two storey, "walkout" south elevation;
- steeply sloped roofs, prominent gables, wide soffit overhangs, and bell-cast eaves;
- wood double-hung windows in combination with large garage door openings and arched clerestory openings for the stable windows in the south elevation;
- decorative brick features in association with the windows in the south elevation;
- largely intact main floor interior;
- largely intact basement service area, including tack/harness room, garage/coach house areas and remnants of horse stables;
- exposed concrete floor structure supporting the main level;
- original doors and transoms, window components, trims, mouldings, hardware, and radiators;
- valley-edge location southwest of Government House.

- mass, form, and scale;
- parged basement walls and chimney;
- beige brick enclosing walls surrounding the greenhouse, with parged foundation walls and chimney;
- concrete retaining walls for the bedding plant area, the east entrance sidewalk and the road;
- largely intact interior;
- original boiler in lower level;
- original steel structure for the greenhouse enclosure;
- original steel-framed tables and cast iron heating elements;
- original plant stands and heating pipes;
- sweeping east driveway to lower south entrance;
- location east of the Chauffeur's Residence.


Street Address: 12845 - 102 Avenue NW
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Portions of Plan 2804 AF, Block H, and R/W Plan 0723690, Area 'B'
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
1 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
2804 AF

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.541605 -113.543968 GOS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5935529.98 331457.80 GPS NAD 83


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1985/06/07

Historical Information

Built: 1911 to 1913
Significant Date(s) 1964 to 1964
Theme(s) Governing Canada : Government and Institutions
Historic Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling
Current Function(s): Government : Office or Office Building
Leisure : Museum
Architect: R.P. Blakely
Builder: Alberta Public Works

The heritage significance of this building derives from its first 25 years as official residence for the following lieutenant governors of Alberta: Bulyea, Brett, Egbert, Walsh and Bowen. During this period of time, social events and ceremonies took place at this building. The heritage significance of this building is enhanced by the fact that it was designed by Richard Blakey, who was the principal architect for Alberta Public Works from 1912 to 1923.


The historical importance of this building derives from its role as the official residence of Alberta's lieutenant governors. From its' opening on October 7, 1913 to its closing day, May 9, 1938, the lieutenant governors who resided there were: Bulyea, Brett, Egbert, Walsh and Bowen. In its official capacity, this building held many state receptions, and provided hospitality for such visiting royalty as the Prince of Wales, Duke of Connaught, Princess Patricia and Lord Grey. The building also served the Edmonton community as a center for its local social events.


The architectural importance of this building derives from its purpose, style, architect, materials, and appearance. It was built as the original lieutenant governor's residence. The style is Jacobethan Revival, a popular Canadian style for substantial residences. The Jacobethan Revival characteristics are the second storey bow window, raised gable ends, high gable roof, stone trim, quoins and the rectangular windows in groups. Another well-known example of this style in the province is the Rutherford House. The architect is Richard Blakey. He was the principal architect for Alberta Public Works from 1912 - 1923. The material of the building is sandstone. The appearance of the building is original with its verandah, coupled columns and porte cochere.

(Site Information Summary)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0394
Designation File: DES 0290
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 21120
Website Link: N/A
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 290)
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