The Parliament Buildings -- Ottawa, Canada

From Taylor Kennedy on March 19, 2001

Hi Al
Bought a great book for $8.35 on the story of Parliament Hill on fire, and 
it's not copywritten any where. Here's some pictures and a small story if 
you're interested, to put a page up for the stories. Take care
PS How's the packing going??


The authors of this material go to Jane Varkaris and Lucile Finsten. These 
authors would like to acknowledge Peter Robertson of the National Archives 
for his kind co-operation in retrieving this information and to Costas 
Varkaris, Cathie Milinkovitch and Lawrence Finsten for their help in the 
preparation of the manuscripts.


The choice of Ottawa as the location of Canada's capital was due in part of 
the willful destruction in 1849 of the House of Legislature situated in 
Montreal, which was the capital of the United Province of Canada from 
November 03, 1843. The Legislative building in Montreal was a large 
cut-stone structure and stood on ground that was later occupied by St. 
Anne's Market. On April 25, 1849, certainly not the proudest date in 
Canadian history, rioters, protesting against the passing of the Rebellion 
Bill, ( a bill to appropriate 90,000 pounds for the losses suffered in Lower 
Canada during the Rebellion of 1837 ), attacked Governor General Lord Elgin, 
broke windows and entered the building, overturning desks and smashing 
chandeliers. The House of Assembly was soon on fire. Because firemen were 
forcibly held back by the mob, the building was soon a mass of flames and 
very few items were saved.
    Following this destruction, the capital city alternated between Toronto 
and Québec City. It was soon obvious that a permanent centre had to be 
chosen, and Kingston ( former capital of Upper Canada ), Québec City, 
Montreal and Toronto all clamoured for the honour.
    So much dissension developed that Queen Victoria was asked to decide on 
the location of the capital city. Keeping in mind the past trouble in 
Montreal and the proximity of Kingston and Toronto to the United States, a 
one-time enemy, the selected Ottawa as the seat of the Legislature. She was 
guided by the advice of  Govenor General Sir Edmund Head, who considered not 
only the political advantages of the proximity of Ottawa to Canada East, but 
the fact that Ottawa had a magnificent location for the capital buildings. 
On December 31, 1857, the Colonial Secretary informed the Govenor General of 
the choice.
    There was violent opposition in Parliament. Toronto and Québec City were 
favoured by the representatives for Canada West and Canada East 
respectively. However neither would submit to a decision that would locate 
the capital in the other province. The issue revived bitterness between the 
two provinces, between Catholic and Protestant, and between English speaking 
and French speaking people. The implementation of the Queens decision was 
futher delayed when the Assembly passed a resolution on July 28, 1858 "that 
it is the opinion of this House that the City of Ottawa ought not to be the 
permanent seat of Government for the Province." However in February 1859, by 
a small majority, the Assembly affirmed the Queen's decision and Ottawa 
became the capital.
    In 1859 a competition was held for a design of the proposed Parliament 
Buildings and was won by Architect Thomas Fuller, jointly with Chilion 
Jones. A ceremony took place for breaking the sod at 11:00 a.m. on December 
21, 1859 and the first stone was laid on April 26, 1860. On September 01, 
1860, as an important part of great festivities, the corner stone of the 
building was laid by His Highness the Prince of Wales, later King Edward 
    The building, 472 feet long, was built of sandstone from a quarry in 
nearby Nepean Township. The arches over the windows and doors, were a warm 
coloured red sandstone from Potsdam, New York, and the dressings were of 
grey Ohio freestone. The roofing was dark slate from Vermont decorated with 
a band of light green slate from the same source.
    In spite of the fact that the country was in the midst of the first 
Fenian raid, the new building was sufficiently completed in time to welcome 
the session of the Parliament of the United Province of Canada on June 08, 
1866. When New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Canada East and Canada West 
to form the Confederation on July 01, 1867, Ottawa became the federal 
capital of the Dominion and the new Parliament Building became the home of 
the new Legislature.
    Nine years later, the Library of Parliament, also designed by Thomas 
Fuller, was officially opened with a grand ball given by the Govenor 
General, Lord Dufferin, on March 27, 1876. Canada now had seven provinces to 
which the decorations of the Library testified. Between 1876 and 1878, a 
great iron crown was added to the tower, increasing it's height to 252 feet. 
By day, when Parliament was sitting, the Union Jack flag floated from the 
flagpole aloft the tower. By night, a cluster of lights on the crown 
informed the people that their representatives were still at work.

E-mail Taylor Kennedy and Al Lewis

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