Rideau Hall is one of the most notable of the original houses of New Edinburgh, Ontario. The area was initially settled by Thomas MacKay, a stone mason. It is one of the oldest planned communities in Canada. Click here to read about a modern home we featured in the same area.
Layout map of Rideau Hall showing the placement of the original building Courtesy of Wikipedia Media Commons
Rideau Hall was built in 1838 for Thomas MacKay. The original stone building had 11 rooms, and was impressive enough to be called “MacKay’s Castle.” This is in comparison to the simple wooden structures of the time that existed in the muddy frontier of Canada. Referenced in a modest Regency style, the villa was of MacKay’s own design, connecting to the simple classically inspired lines common to the style( for more information click here). Since then, multiple additions have been added to the original building in order for it to serve for the Governor Generals of Canada. As the Queen’s representative in Canada they had significant influence in early Canadian politics.
The original building was a two story stone structure with a bow fronted entrance, very similar to designs created by the well known English architect Sir John Soane in the late 18th Century,who built a variety of villas and cottages in the Regency Style, but is best known for his work on the Bank of England. The stone masonry work of the building connects it to Thomas MacKay’s original trade. It was one of the finest homes in the area when it was first built, which made it a key spot for visiting dignitaries. There is a story that Lady Head, wife of Governor General Sir Edmund Head, was visiting Rideau Hall when she painted the watercolours of Barrack Hill which influenced Queen Victoria to make Bytown (now Ottawa) the capital of Canada.
View of Rideau Hall from the Gardens 1910 Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library
Over the years renovations and additions would occur. Many would leave their mark on the building, the most unique possibly being a room that serves as an indoor tennis court AND a reception room.
The exterior of Mappin Block Courtesy of Wikipedia Media Commons
The most significant change occurred in 1913, with the addition of the Mappin Block. This large neoclassical addition added the necessary space for the residence to continue in its official function. The tympanum at the entrance is an intricately carved bas relief. It is now one of the most photographed exteriors of the building.
Interior of Rideau Hall, Governor General Michaelle Jean accepting US Ambassador David Jacobson’s credentials Courtesy of Wikipedia Media Commons
The interior decorating of the building reflects its historical roots. It is richly designed and decorated with furniture to match the heritage of the building. The overt opulence was reflective of the high status of the Governor General. (To see more of the interior take a virtual tour of the building)
Rideau Hall still functions as an official residence of the Governor General of Canada. It is still being updating and renovated to keep up with the changing world. This Canadian landmark shows how architecture can evolve overtime. Rideau Hall changed with the times to continue to be functional and reflect the world it was developing in.
Researched and Written by Sarah Coates, Master Student of History University of Toronto