The residence at Harrington Lake (Lac Mousseau) is the country residence of the prime minister of Canada.
Harrington Lake offers the head of the Canadian government a tranquil place to rest, reflect and confer in a secure, secluded and informal setting. It is located in Gatineau Park. The main house at Harrington Lake is designated as a “recognized” federal heritage building.
This residence is closed to the public.
One lake, two names
The history of Harrington Lake has its origins in the 19th century era of settlement. Several families came to settle in the area, including the Harringtons and the Mousseau family. The lake eventually became known as “Harrington Lake” in English and “Lac Mousseau” in French.
The lumber industry
The Mousseau family had built a farm on the shore of the lake, and the property remained in the family for several decades. The harsh terrain of the Gatineau Hills was not well suited to farming, and the lumber industry soon replaced farming as the main economic activity. In the early 20th century, two Americans, W. A. Drum and W. L. Donnelly, built a sawmill at Harrington Lake to take advantage of the wealth of the region’s forests.
The country house
In the 1920s, Cameron Macpherson Edwards, a member of an important lumbering family in Ottawa, inherited part of the property. He recognized the value of the land for recreation, as well as for lumber. He purchased more land around the lake, expanding his total holdings to some 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres). He also ordered the demolition of the mill buildings at Harrington Lake, and replaced them with the house that stands today. The 16-room house was designed in the Colonial Revival style, very common in the 1920s, but with the addition of large fieldstone chimneys.
In 1951, the federal government purchased the Edwards property, along with those of William Duncan Herridge and the Healey family. Stanley Healey became the first government caretaker at Harrington Lake. The government did not act immediately on the idea of using part of the property to create a secluded retreat for Canada’s prime minister. The arrival of John Diefenbaker as prime minister in 1958 was the deciding factor.
Diefenbaker was the first Canadian prime minister from Western Canada. Unlike previous political leaders, he had no home of his own or cottage in central Canada to which he could retreat. Caretaker Stanley Healey is said to have taken Diefenbaker fishing at Harrington Lake, and won his support for the creation of an official country residence.
In the late 1950s, a group of buildings at Harrington Lake were designated as a secure, secluded country residence for Canada’s prime ministers.
Today, Harrington Lake is the country residence of Canada’s prime minister. The NCC has managed it since 1988.
This 5.4-hectare (13-acre) property includes a few secondary structures and two principal buildings: the main cottage and the farmhouse. It is used for both official and private functions, and includes buildings that can accommodate official business, as well as state guests.
Since 2018, the NCC has invested $8.7 million in the rehabilitation of the property. This work, completed in June 2021, improved the overall condition of the property, improving the condition of the farmhouse from critical to good, and the main cottage, from critical to fair.
Built in 1850, the former caretaker’s cottage was dismantled, relocated and rebuilt on a larger footprint close to the main cottage to improve its practicality and use. This $2.5-million rehabilitation project was completed in June 2019. This renamed farmhouse features the following:
- universal accessibility on the main floor
- increased floor space to 450 square metres
- energy-efficient building components
- increased functionality appropriate for official 21st century government business
- heritage character elements from the original 1850 cottage.
Main cottage rehabilitation
This rehabilitation project estimated at $6.1 million, included important maintenance and life cycle renewal requirements, as well as the following work:
- address lead paint on existing exterior wood components of the building envelope
- repair exterior wall framing, and install insulation, air barrier, vapour barrier, sheathing, rain screen and new clapboard
- install modern hot water system and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system
- rehabilitate fire suppression system for code compliance
- replace exterior doors, frames and hardware, restore window sashes and glazing, and install new exterior windows
- insulate walls that were previously uninsulated, and insulate the attic
- dismantle and rebuild two heritage stone chimneys, and repair interior stone masonry
- repair and install membrane on foundations, as well as parging, insulation and drainage at foundations
- undertake functional improvements, including expanding and improving the service area
Our work at Harrington Lake 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 Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report. This document details the investment needed to restore Canada’s official residences to good condition.
The report shows that Harrington Lake is in fair condition, requiring an additional $1.16 million in work. The restoration and maintenance work would include the replacement of various interior finishes and other electrical upgrades. This amount does not reflect work needed to meet new building codes and legislative requirements.