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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 former Royal Alberta Museum building.

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, and as excellent examples of period architecture and the work of interior designer Carolyn Tavender.

Built between 1912 and 1913, Government House was the official residence of the Province's first six Lieutenant Governors. The house and grounds were a centre of Alberta’s social and political life, used for official functions such as levees and receptions for officials, dignitaries and visitors, as is demonstrated by the ornate design of the house, its positioning in the grounds and the presence of rooms intended for hosting events. Additionally, the design and layout of the site and buildings also shows the cleavage between the public role of the site from the operational functions. The cottage-like chauffer’s residence, which included a stable and garage, a greenhouse and maintenance facilities, was necessary to support the site’s official functions. It is placed in an accessible position on the grounds, but removed from the more prominent Government House. Government House’s official functions ceased in 1938, following years of concerns about the costs of maintaining an official vice-regal residence and because of the Social Credit government’s resentment toward Lieutenant Governor John C. Bowen, who had refused to give Royal Assent to three government bills. Government House was later leased for other purposes, notably to Northwest Airlines and the US Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War and the construction of the Alaska Highway, and being sold to the Dominion Government for use as a convalescent home for wounded and disabled veterans. The site was reacquired by the Government of Alberta in the 1960s and restored in the 1970s.

Government House is also significant for its architectural craftsmanship and construction. Government House and the chauffer’s residence were designed by Provincial Architect Richard Blakey. The eclectic design of Government House incorporates at least three architectural trends popular at the time of its construction. The Beaux Arts exterior borrows from the Jacobean Revival style, demonstrated by its prominent projections, parapet gable walls and wall dormers, bay windows, battlements and oculus openings while the porches and most interior details speak to the Edwardian Classical Revival style. There is also an Arts and Crafts influence evident in the fireplace surrounds, wainscoting, built-in furnishings and mouldings. Like the Provincial Legislature, the size and grandeur of Government House was designed to reflect Alberta's new provincial status. The chauffer’s residence is of the Tudor Revival style, which compliments the architecture of the main house and is most prominently expressed in the building's decorative timber-framing with stucco infilling.

Government House is also significant as an excellent example of the work of interior designer Carolyn Tavender, who designed the third-floor caucus meeting room during the 1970s rehabilitation of the building. Tavender’s design features long, built-in, curved tables; recessed lighting; and stylized Alberta Wild Rose motifs on the carpeted floor and the domed ceiling. The ultra-modern design of the room is juxtaposed with the traditional style of the rest of the house and was intended as a statement about the government of the time, which saw itself as being progressive and forward-looking, but with firm roots in the province’s past. Tavender would have a long career, being involved in more than 700 design projects, notably the meeting room at McDougal Centre, Alberta Children’s Hospital and Alberta House in London, UK and as part of the design team for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The Government House caucus room is amongst the best and most significant examples of her work.

Source: Alberta Culture and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: DES 0290)

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 oculi at attic level, and restored double hung windows with wooden sashes;
- parapeted 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;
- features of the third-floor caucus room, notably the plastered, doomed ceiling with recessed lighting; built in, highly varnished, curved tables, carpeted floor; stylized wild rose motifs on the floor and ceiling; and translation booth;
- 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
Period of Significance: 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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