The property at 7 Rideau Gate serves as a “home away from home” for visiting dignitaries.
This residence is closed to the public.
The residence at 7 Rideau Gate was built about 150 years ago by a prosperous Ottawa businessman. It has been home to some of the most prominent families in Ottawa’s history.
A mill owner’s home
In 1862, Henry Osgoode Burritt bought a parcel of land in the industrial village of New Edinburgh, and built a house there. Burritt owned a woollen mill at Rideau Falls, and had decided to settle nearby. The house was typical accommodation for Ottawa’s new business elite and a signal that Ottawa was beginning to flourish as an industrial centre. In 1873, Burritt sold the house for what was then the substantial sum of $10,000.
The new owner was Philemon Wetherall Wright, the grandson of pioneers and a post office clerk. Wright’s wife, Sarah Slater, was also descended from early settlers, and the family was part of an emerging, homegrown “aristocracy” in the Ottawa area. The Wrights called their new house “Edgewood,” which gives some sense of how close the wilderness came to the city in those days. They remained at Edgewood for only three years, and the house remained vacant for some years after their departure.
In 1884, the Honourable Octavius Henry Lambart, younger son of the British Earl of Cavan, moved into the house with his wife, a Canadian. The Lambarts remained in the house until 1934. The second Lambart owner, Frederick Howard John Lambart, was a civil engineer who helped to survey the Canada–Alaska boundary.
Modernization and expansion
For its first 70 years, the house remained Victorian in character. In 1947, the arrival of Commodore Percy W. Nelles (Chief of Staff of the Royal Canadian Navy) marked the first of real changes to the house. The new owner modernized the house by stripping away the verandas and entirely replacing the dark Victorian decor inside.
The last private owner was businessman Thomas Franklin Ahearn (son of the inventor Thomas Ahearn). The Ahearns removed the roof walk, added exterior shutters, and built a sunroom on the east side of the original building and a new wing on the west side.
The Government of Canada acquired the house in 1966. Because of its ideal location — on the doorstep of Rideau Hall — 7 Rideau Gate became an official residence to serve as a guest house for state visitors.
In 1988, the NCC assumed responsibility for all official residences in Canada’s Capital Region. It fully restored and refurnished the house, with the help of the Canadiana Fund, which receives donations of heritage art and furniture.
Today, 7 Rideau Gate is the guest house for visiting dignitaries. The NCC has managed this official residence since 1988.
The property includes 0.2 hectare (0.49 acre) of grounds and one main house covering approximately 797.6 square metres (8,566 square feet).
Much of the original character and spirit of this historic old house has been recaptured. As well, thanks to the generosity of the Lambarts, a number of family pieces came back to their old home at 7 Rideau Gate. The house is decorated and furnished to create a distinctively Canadian experience for visitors.
Our work at 7 Rideau Gate is part of a broader long-term program to preserve, maintain and restore all the official residences under NCC management.
In June 2021, we released the NCC’s Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report. The document details the investment needed to restore Canada’s official residences to good condition.
The report shows that 7 Rideau Gate is in fair condition. The report also deemed the main residence to be a high-priority building, requiring regular and ongoing maintenance. It is estimated that a capital investment of $1.41 million is needed to address the deferred maintenance of the main residence. This amount does not reflect work needed to meet new building codes and legislative requirements.
The proposed work includes the following:
- universal accessibility studies and upgrades
- replacement of heritage windows
- replacement of carpeted surfaces
- replacement of hot water boilers and pumps
- replacement of domestic hot water heater
- replacement of the fire alarm system
- repair of roof heat tracing systems
- upgrades to the lighting and fire alarm system.