Ottawa

'Canada House,' Indigenous centre among ideas for former U.S. Embassy

An art gallery, an Indigenous cultural centre, and a showcase for "the best of the provinces and territories" are among six ideas unveiled Thursday evening for the former U.S. Embassy across from Parliament Hill.

Built in 1931-32, heritage building has sat empty for nearly 2 decades

Public Works and Government Services Canada held an open house on Aug. 18, 2016, about the future of 100 Wellington Street, the former home of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

An art gallery, an Indigenous cultural centre, and a showcase for "the best of the provinces and territories" are among six ideas unveiled Thursday evening for the former U.S. Embassy across from Parliament Hill.

The six proposals for the future of the 84-year-old heritage building at 100 Wellington Street were revealed by Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote during a public information session.

They include:

  • A "Canada House" venue that would give visitors a "taste of the country's diversity achievements" while also showcasing "the best of the provinces and territories."
  • A gallery that would host "artwork of national significance."
  • An Indigenous cultural facility that would highlight the "culture, achievements and the prominent role" of Canada's aboriginal peoples.
  • An information centre for the capital that would group together local, federal and tourism organizations to offer help to tourists.
  • An interpretive centre for Canada's Parliament.
  • A museum that would exhibit "national artifacts of historical and cultural interest."

People are still able to offer their own ideas for the space, beyond those six, through a survey that will remain online until Sept. 9.

The results of the survey will be made public and will "inform the broader strategy of restoring and modernizing the Parliamentary Precinct," Public Services and Procurement Canada said in a statement.

Parliament Hill is seen from a window on the second floor of 100 Wellington Street, the former U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, on Aug. 18, 2016. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Empty for nearly 2 decades

Built from 1931 to 1932, the Beaux-Arts style building has sat empty for 18 years, ever since American diplomats moved to their current, heavily-fortified home on Sussex Drive.

A strong example of U.S. government architecture of the 1930s, and the home of the first foreign mission in Canada, 100 Wellington was designated a federal heritage building in 1985.

The old embassy had at one point been slated, at the end of former prime minister Jean Chrétien's time in office, to house a national portrait gallery. 

The project was cancelled, however, after the Conservatives took power in 2006. 

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the MP for Ottawa-Centre, promised during last fall's election campaign — which returned the Liberals to office — that she would ask Canadians for input into 100 Wellington's future.

She toured the building ahead of Thursday night's consultation with Foote, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman.

Members of the public were also able to wander through 100 Wellington for two hours before the information session began.

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