Stornoway is the official residence of Canada’s leader of the Opposition, and a recognized federal heritage building.
Stornoway has been home to a number of historical figures, including the exiled Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, and many future prime ministers. It is located at 541 Acacia Avenue in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park.
This residence is closed to the public.
A “country” house
In the early 1900s, Rockcliffe Park Village was a rural area that attracted the elite in nearby Ottawa. Many large “country” houses were built in Rockcliffe after the area was connected to Ottawa by streetcar in 1891. Stornoway, named after a town on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, was one of these houses.
Stornoway was built in 1913 by Ascanio Joseph Major, who controlled one of the largest wholesaling grocery enterprises in eastern Canada. He hired Allan Keefer, a noted architect of the day, to prepare the design. In 1923, the Perley-Robertsons, another distinguished local family, bought the house and enlarged it over the next few years.
A royal exile
Following the invasion of the Netherlands by the German army on May 10, 1940, the Dutch royal family went into exile. Princess Juliana, the heir to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, was sent with her husband and children to the safety of Canada.
The royal exiles lived first at Rideau Hall and then in a small, overcrowded house in Rockcliffe. In 1941, Mrs. Perley-Robertson came to the rescue, and offered Princess Juliana the loan of Stornoway. The princess and her family and friends moved in during the summer of 1941. It was to Stornoway that Princess Juliana brought home her third child in 1943.
Official residence of Canada’s leader of the Opposition
In 1946, Senator Gratan O’Leary launched a campaign to find a home for the leader of the Opposition. He raised funds among friends and associates in Ottawa, set up a trust fund, and began to shop for a suitable property. The Perley-Robertsons offered Stornoway to the trust at a discount price of $55,000.
Conservative leader George Drew (former premier of Ontario) and his wife were the first residents (1950–1956), followed in 1958 by Lester and Marion Pearson. Since then, Stornoway has been home to a succession of political families — the Diefenbakers, the Stanfields, the Clarks and many others — continuing to this day.
Today, Stornoway is home to Canada’s leader of the Opposition, who occasionally hosts official events. The Government of Canada has owned this residence since 1970, and the NCC has managed it since 1988.
Stornoway is designated as a “recognized” federal heritage building by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO). The property includes more than 0.42 hectare (one acre) of grounds, one main building and one outbuilding. The main building has 19 main rooms, hallways and washrooms covering approximately 883 square metres (9,500 square feet).
Our work at Stornoway 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 Stornoway is in fair condition. It also shows that it needs an investment of $1.25 million over the next 10 years to address deferred 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
- replacement of electrical wiring/panels
- upgrades to the fire alarm system
- replacement of hardwood flooring.