Exhibition on view in Department of History, 4th floor, Paterson Hall, October 2014-April 2015
In the late 1850s the prospect of a design competition for Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings drew English architects to the new city. Like Parliament and Ottawa’s Gothic churches, which this exhibit also explores, their Gothic residential commissions helped transform a frontier lumber town into a colonial capital, identifying Canada and Ottawa as progressive partners in the British Empire. These mostly stone villas shared both fashionable Tudor ornament and a revolutionary ‘pinwheel’ floor plan, in which four wings revolve outward from a central stair hall. Architectural historian Timothy Brittain-Catlin has recently traced this plan to A.W.N. Pugin, the father of the English Gothic revival. Though Earnscliffe, the best known, was later home to prime minister John A. Macdonald, the houses were built for leading Ottawa merchants, industrialists and professionals. Among them were three members of the Pinhey connection, who had built a Gothic-influenced church on their rural estate in the 1820s.