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Key Number: HS 21120
Site Name: Government House
Other Names:
Site Type: 0101 - Residential: Single Dwelling
1306 - Governmental: Official Residence


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4

Address: 12845 - 102 Avenue
Number: 45
Street: 128
Avenue: 102
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:


Type Number Date View
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative


Style: Renaissance Revival
Plan Shape: Square
Storeys: Storeys: 2 1/2
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Poured Concrete
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: High Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Wall Design and Detail: Quoins
Wall Design and Detail: Gabled Parapet
Window - Special Types: Bay or Bow, 2 or More Storeys
Exterior: Sandstone trim. Second storey bow window, raised gable ends, high gable roof, quoins and the rectangular windows arranged in groups. Two portico entries; second floor balconies; complex gable roof with raised parapets; crenellated parapets over bays; bull's-eye windows; remnants of original interior fittings; room configurations altered on ground floor; second and third floors mostly gutted.
Interior: Conservatory; ballroom Full furnishings, cost $350,000.
Alterations: Roof cover replaced; staircase added to west side.


Construction: Construction Date:
Voted on the erection of Government Building
Construction Started
Formal opening
Usage: Usage Date:
Residence of the Lieutenant Governor
Governmental: Official Residence
North-West Airlines Co. & D.V.A.
Provincial Government
Governmental: Office or Adminsitration Building
Owner: Owner Date:
Province of Alberta
Architect: Richard Palin Blakey
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: Shortly after the inauguration of the Province of Alberta in 1905, the members of the Legislative Assembly voted to erect government buildings which would add to the prestige and dignity of the newly created province. To this end, it was decided to build not only an impressive Legislative Building, but also an official residence for the Lieutenant Governor, the present Government House situated on the grounds of the Provincial Museum and Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Working under the direction of A.M. Jeffers, the chief architect of the Legislative Buildings, R.P. Blakey prepared the design and plans for Government House, a three storey residence with a steel and concrete frame and a covering of sandstone to be hauled from a quarry near Calgary. The building was erected by the Alberta Department of Public Works, but the elaborate stonework was executed by skilled stonemasons brought especially to Alberta from Scotland. A large conservatory filled with flowering plants adjoined the mansion and later, it was planned to add a large ballroom wing. This project was abandoned, apparently because the first occupant, Lieutenant Governor Bulyea, disapproved of dancing. As was customary, a large stable was built for the horses and carriages used by the Lieutenant Governor and his family.

Government House was formally opened on October 7th, 1913 by the first Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Alberta, George Hedley Vickers Bulyea, who marked the occasion with a grand reception attended by thousands of guests. From 1913 until it was closed in 1938, Government House was in constant use for state receptions and provided hospitality for visiting royalty and other notables. In a tape recorded interview now preserved in the Provincial Archives, Mrs. Bowen, widow of Lieutenant Governor James Campbell Bowen and the last hostess of Government House, recalled that the Alberta Government House was a great favourite with visiting royalty on tours through Canada. They appreciated the comfort of the central steam heating and the superb views of the North Saskatchewan River. But especially, they delighted in the privacy afforded by the 28 acres of trees and gardens surrounding the residence. The interior of the building is well illustrated by photographs now preserved in the provincial Archives.

Many ordinary Alberta citizens also enjoyed the hospitality of Government House when attending the many garden parties, fetes and benefits hosted by Lieutenants Governor and their wives on behalf of the Red Cross or other worthy organizations.

In 1938, for reasons of economy, the Social Credit administration of the Province of Alberta voted to withdraw funds used to maintain Government House as the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.

The Social Credit government was not the first to consider closure of Government House: in 1925 the United Farmers government had also voted to close down the official residence, but reversed that vote four months later. However, the closure of Government House in 1938 coincided with a bitter political confrontation between the Social Credit administration led by William Aberhart, and the then resident Lieutenant Governor, John Campbell Bowen. It should be remembered that other provinces also took action to close down official government residences: New Brunswick as early as 1889, Ontario in 1937 and Saskatchewan in 1944. In all cases, the reasons given for the closure was the expense involved in maintaining the residence and grounds.

Government House remained vacant until 1942 when it was leased to North West Airlines Incorporated which held contracts for aircraft delivery with the U.S. government. All the furnishings of Government House were sold at public auction. No changes were made to the basic structure except that the conservatory was roofed over with wood and converted into a shower room for the personnel of North West Airlines, many of whom were U.S. army men.

From 1944 to 1950 Government House was used as a convalescent hospital for wounded veterans of World War II. And, in 1951, the residence was purchased by the Federal government's Department of Verterans' Affairs and made into home for disabled veterans.

In 1964, the Federal Government and the Government of the Province of Alberta chose the grounds of Government House as the site of the future Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta to be opened in the Centennial year of 1967, and Government House was returned to the control of the Provincial Government.

When the Provincial Museum and Provincial Archives was completed, Government House was renovated and refurnished but was not considered to be suitable as a residence because of the lack of privacy. Instead, its use was reserved for state entertainments, special conferences and other official events.

The Progressive-Conservative administration of Peter Lougheed continues the use of Government House for special events. Lieutenant Governor Grant MacEwan presided over the official swearing-in of Premier Lougheed and his cabinet in Government House in September, 1971. And, in October 1971, Government House was used to entertain Premier Aleksei Kosygin of the U.S.S.R. when he visited Edmonton on his official tour of Canada.

The focal point of the main floor is the elegant dining room, which accommodates approximately one hundred diners. The ceiling features decorative plaster work, with an Alberta Rose and wheat sheaf motif, lit by chandeliers imported from Italy.

Other features of the main floor include the small music room which adjoins the dining room. The original library now serves as a library-sitting room, and contains a collection of books by or about Albertans. The oak panelling of the foyer is original to the building, as are the decorative panes of leaded glass used in the entrance-way. The cloakroom next to the entrance was originally a washroom.

The Speaker's Chair on display in the foyer was used in the Assembly of the North West Territories. Alberta was originally a district of the North West Territories, and politicians from Alberta led the cause for western provincial status which was granted by the federal government in 1905. A bench from the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories is on display in the cloakroom.

Second Floor
Several partitions were removed to provide adequate space for the 1,300 square foot Reception Room, which extends the full length of the building from east to west. The room features a dropped ceiling specially designed to muffle sound and provide a quiet atmosphere even when crowded. A balcony at the east end overlooks the river valley.

The room is used for formal occasions, as well as buffet lunches, and for closed-circuit viewing of sessions held in the third floor conference room. An electrically-operated screen is built into the west wall.

The display cabinet on the west wall houses a varied collection of artifacts, many of them presented to former Premier Lougheed during his time in office. To the right of the cabinet hangs the only painting in Government House which was not painted by a Canadian: the small landscape is the work of Sir Winston Churchill.

Four conference rooms are located on this floor, each named for a Lieutenant-Governor who resided in Government House: the Egbert Room, Bulyea Room, Bowen Room and Brett Room. A second floor library serves as the Premier's study, and contains an original fireplace and cupboards inset with stained glass.

Third Floor
The third floor houses the main conference area, the Alberta Room, which covers about 2,500 square feet. The large circular tables made of pale oak dominate the room. The outer table is raised, resting on a six-inch dais. Together, the tables accommodate up to one hundred delegates.
The dome suspended from the ceiling improves the room's acoustics dramatically. As well, it contains special lighting and a cooling system for television lights. A sound booth for simultaneous translation is located at the back of the room behind tinted, one-way glass.

Smaller meetings can be held on this floor in the Primrose Room and the Walsh Room, both named for Lieutenant-Governors resident in the buildings."

GOVERNMENT HOUSE Edmonton, Alberta
"building was no longer considered suitable as an official residence. Its use was reserved for state receptions, special conferences, and government meetings. The building was completely refurbished in 1975-76, with particular concern for preserving its architectural and historical significance
On Heritage Day, August 2, 1976, Government House was officially opened as the Alberta conference centre. $1.7 million had been spent in restoring and furnishing the building. Heating, plumbing and electrical systems were replaced, ventilation and cooling equipment installed and the roof was retailed. The conservatory had been demolished earlier, and the west side was now extended to provide for a second stairway required by the building code. Sandstone for the exterior wall of the extension was obtained from the old Court House in Calgary. An exterior ramp was installed as well to make the building wheelchair-accessible.'

Government House was officially opened on October 7th, 1913, by Lieutenant Governor George Bulyea. Over the years, hundreds of guests have attended royal visits, receptions, dinners and garden parties at Government House, which was originally constructed to serve as the official residence of Alberta's Lieutenant Governor. Designed by R.P.

Blakey under the direction of A.M. Jeffers, the three storey mansion was built in 1913 and, with full furnishings, cost $350,000.
Constructed of a steel and concrete frame, the building was sheathed in sandstone quarried near Calgary. Stonemasons from Scotland were brought in to complete the elaborate stone work on the exterior.

In 1938, the building was closed due to reasons of economy. In 1942, North West Airlines Inc. leased the building. Purchased in 1951 by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs, the mansion became a home for disabled veterans. In 1975-76, the building was returned to the provincial government, was completely refurbished, and re-opened as the Alberta Conference Centre. The 1.7 million dollar refurbishment paid particular attention to preserving the building's exterior architectural integrity and historic significance, while the interior was adapted for modern uses.

* * *
It is a three storey sandstone mansion. The condition of this building is excellent. An extensive renovation program was undertaken between April 1, 1975 and August 1976.

This building was constructed between the years 1911 and 1913. From 1913 to 1938, this building was the official residence for Alberta's lieutenants-governor. The North-West Airlines Co. and the D.V.A. occupied the building from 1944 to 1964. In 1964, the provincial government regained ownership. On this site, the Provincial Museum was built as an Centennial project.

The heritage significance of this building derives from its first 25 years as official residence for the following lieutenants-governor of Alberta: Bulyea, Brett, Egbert, Walsh and Bowen. During this period of time, the building was also a great service to the Edmonton community. Many local social events and ceremonies took place at this building, during its earlier days. The heritage significance of this building is enhanced by the fact that it was designed by R.P. 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 lieutenants-governor. From its opening on October 7, 1913 to its closing day, May 9, 1938, the lieutenants-governor who resided there were: Bulvea, 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 centre for its local social events.

The architectural importance of this building derives from its purpose, style, architect, material and appearance. Its purpose was in being the original lieutenant-governor's residence. The style is Jacobethan Revival, (a popular Canadian style for substantial residences). The Jacobethan Revival characteristics are the 2nd 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 R.P. Blakey. He was the principal architect for Alberta Public Works from 1912 to 1923. The material of the building is sandstone. The appearance of the building is original with its verandah, coupled columns and porte cochere.

The structure of this building is good. It is in excellent condition due to an extensive renovation program started on April 1, 1975 and completed by August 2, 1976.
* * *

This impressive sandstone mansion was completed in 1913 and for 25 years served as the official residence of Alberta's Lieutenants Governor. It provided a suitable setting for many vice-regal receptions and social occasions. In 1938 it was closed and converted to other uses but in 1966 re-established as a centre for important state occasions.
* * *

GOVERNMENT HOUSE (1913) Former Vice-Regal Residence
The stately sandstone mansion overlooking the North Saskatchewan River has had many lives since it was first used as a vice-regal residence.
Erected in 1913, Government House was home to Alberta's first six lieutenant governors before being padlocked by the government of the day. It was then a home to employees of the North West Airlines and Second World War veterans. Today, the mansion is used as a centre for government conferences and for state receptions. Its gleaming hotel-like kitchen prepares more than 10,000 meals for 300 functions a year.

Government House was designed in Jacobethan Revival Style by Richard Palin Blakey, and Allan Merrick Jeffers, who was the chief architect of the Legislature Building. Two-storey bay windows, raised gable ends and grouped double-hung windows lend character to the building.
It cost $350,000 and originally had an adjoining conservatory, long since demolished. The 28-acre grounds also include a building once used as combined quarters for the servants and horses. It is now used for maintenance purposes.

The mansion's elegant original furnishings included silverware and china engraved with the Government House crest. Most of the furnishings have disappeared, having been auctioned in 1942 for a total of $19,642 - fraction of their original cost of $75,000. Only a few items have been recovered and are on display. After serving for 25 years as the lieutenant governor's residence, accommodation for visiting royalty and the scene of many grand social occasions, the gates to the grounds were padlocked in May 1938. The Social Credit administration of the time closed the building, ostensibly for reasons of economy. However, around that time Lieutenant Governor J.J. Bowlen had refused to sign several bills passed by the government believing them to be ultra vires. When Premier William Aberhart withdrew funding for Government House, Bowlen moved to a suite in the Hotel MacDonald before finding a new residence.
In 1964, the federal and provincial governments chose the site at 102nd Avenue and 128th Street as the site of the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta, which opened in 1967. The mansion was also returned to the province in 1967, for the sum of $350,000.

Several years later, more than $2 million in renovations were carried out. They may well have been expedited when the drawing room chandelier and sculptured plaster ceiling caved in shortly after then Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin visited the building in 1971.
The building was officially reopened in 1976 as a government conference centre.

Renovations were extensive. Sandstone taken from the demolition of Edmonton's Old Courthouse was used to match the original finish. Its current facilities include six meeting rooms, each named after one of the resident lieutenant governors. The third floor has a large conference room - known as the Alberta Room - with an overhead dome.

A reception area with a decorative ceiling made from 7,428 pieces of stainless steel is on the second floor. A dining room with seating for 100, a library and music room are on the main floor.

Various works by Alberta artists adorn the mansion walls. Some original areas remain with few alterations, including the library and music room, the central oak staircase and the second floor den.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

Register: A62
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/06/19


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0394
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