Rideau Hall has been the official residence and workplace of every governor general of Canada since 1867.
The governor general lives here, confers with the leader of Canada’s government, hosts foreign dignitaries and performs the functions of Canada’s head of state, as the representative of the Crown in Canada. This heritage site is also a national gathering place, where the governor general presents honours and awards to recognize excellence. The residence is designated a “classified” heritage building by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO).
Rideau Hall is the largest official residence in Canada’s Capital Region, and the only one open to the public.
Tours of the residence, art collection and grounds are offered all year long. The grounds are open to the public in all seasons of the year for a range of concerts, ceremonies, celebrations and sporting events.
Please visit the Rideau Hall website for more information about tours and access to the grounds of Rideau Hall.
A Regency villa
In 1838, Thomas McKay, a wealthy entrepreneur, built his elegant family home on the outskirts of Ottawa. This impressive 11-room structure earned the nickname “McKay’s Castle” among the neighbours.
Ottawa was named capital of the Province of Canada in 1857. In 1864, the Government of Canada was looking for a country estate in the Capital for the governor general. Rideau Hall was inadequate in many ways, being small and distant from central Ottawa. It was leased anyway, as “temporary” quarters for Lord Monck (the last governor general of British North America, 1861–1867, and first governor general of the Dominion of Canada, 1867–1869).
Lord Monck disliked the house, especially because Parliament Hill was a full 4.8 kilometres away along muddy, rutted tracks. Despite his complaints and those of his successors, Rideau Hall was gradually improved, and eventually accepted as the permanent seat of the governor general.
Over the years, the house has evolved in size and complexity to serve its various official purposes. Rideau Hall may have been small when the Government of Canada rented it in 1864, but the concept of a viceregal estate was already in place to guide architects as they plunged into the work of transformation. As early as 1868, Rideau Hall began to acquire a changed image.
Rideau Hall has played a prominent historical and constitutional role in Canada since Confederation. For more than 150 years, this heritage site has been the official residence of Canada’s governors general.
The main building contains about 175 rooms, covering about 8,825 square metres (95,000 square feet). The grounds encompass some 32 hectares (79 acres) and 27 historic buildings, as well as rose gardens, rockeries, cricket lawns and stands of trees.
The NCC has managed the buildings and grounds of Rideau Hall since 1988. In the years that followed, the NCC developed plans for the buildings and grounds, and completed essential upgrades and regular maintenance projects.
The grounds of Rideau Hall represent one of the finest historic landscapes in Canada. In 1998, they were designated as a cultural landscape of national historic significance by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Under British landscape tradition, the grounds are divided between treed lawns, flowerbeds and service areas, with some areas remaining in a semi-wild state.
Discover the remarkable trees in this area.
Despite the British inspiration, these grounds have an unmistakable Canadian quality. In the 19th century, they became the centre of a culture of winter, as governors general and their families enjoyed snowshoeing, tobogganing, skating and skiing on these grounds.
In 2017, the NCC completed the forecourt rehabilitation project with a total investment of $9.95 million. The reconfiguration of the front entrance arrival area now meets today’s functional and ceremonial requirements.
The NCC’s portion of this investment was $8.45 million, while the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) and the Rideau Hall Foundation contributed $1.5 million.
In 2021, the NCC completed the ballroom rehabilitation project, with an estimated investment of $1.75 million. The work included addressing urgent structural issues, restoring the heritage plaster features and completing upgrades to the fire suppression systems.
Other significant rehabilitation projects (recently completed or under way):
- Ambassador Court foundation repairs: $910,000
- sanitary sewer realignment: $955,000
- fire pump replacement and sprinkler upgrades: $965,000
- design and construction of new NCC service, maintenance and storage building in the operations zone, replacing buildings demolished in 2016: $7 million
Our work at Rideau Hall is part of a broader ongoing program seeking 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. This document details the investment needed to restore Canada’s official residences to good condition.
The report shows that Rideau Hall is in fair condition, and needs over $100 million in work. Specifically, the main residence needs $31 million in maintenance. 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
- exterior envelope improvements, including wood window replacement and brick/block/stucco repairs
- foundation and footing work
- copper roof replacement
- membrane roof replacement
- replacement of interior floor finishes
- replacement of one freight elevator and one passenger elevator
- replacement of servery air-handling equipment
- replacement of Tent Room air-handling unit
- upgrades to the building automation system
- replacement of electrical wiring/panels and lighting fixtures
- replacement of the fire alarm system
- replacement of hardwood flooring.
Master plan for Rideau Hall
Along with key stakeholders such as the RCMP and the OSGG, the NCC is developing a master plan for this uniquely complex property. This plan will draw from the Long-Range Vision for Rideau Hall (2017–2067), and will include a universal accessibility strategy.
More information about the master plan will be shared, once available.