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, home-grown “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 1986, 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, 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 has been decorated and furnished to create a distinctively Canadian experience for visitors.
The residence is not open to the public.
Since 1988, the NCC has managed this property, which comprises 0.2 hectares (0.49 acres) of grounds and one main house covering approximately 797.6 square metres (8,566 square feet).
Three years later, a program to restore and refurnish the property was undertaken. The objective was to create a place that not only functioned as a guest house but also would be in harmony with its past.
The historical atmosphere of the house was enhanced by the return of many pieces of furniture and artwork from the late 19th century, thanks to the generosity of Evelyn Lambart of Sutton, Quebec, and the late Hyacinthe Lambart of Hudson, Quebec.
Because of its ideal location on the doorstep of Rideau Hall, 7 Rideau Gate became an official residence in 1966 to serve as a guest house for state visitors. Like most official residences, 7 Rideau Gate is not open to the public.
The main residence is not currently serving as a guest house as it is occupied by the Governor General and family.
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.
The NCC’s Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report, released in 2018, provides a detailed, residence-by-residence analysis of the investment required to restore Canada’s official residences to good condition.
The report deemed the main residence to be a high priority building, requiring regular and ongoing maintenance in addition to significant investment to resolve issues related to universal accessibility, building envelope (windows), fire alarm and heating systems. It is estimated that a capital investment of $1 million is required for the rehabilitation of the main residence.
The 2018 asset portfolio condition report also details a comprehensive list of the rehabilitation initiatives undertaken over the past 10 years, as well as the proposed list of investments between 2018 and 2027.