INTERESTING OTTAWA HOMES #1 - 55 MACKAY ST By Heather Perrault (Article)

Heather Perrault

 Heather Perrault







The Edwards House, 55 MacKay, though not the oldest house in the neighbourhood, is one of the more impressive residences in the historic neighbourhood of New Edinburgh. This property, well over a hundred years old, is a beautifully crafted home that is truly awe-inspiring.

This house is very closely tied to the history of the New Edinburgh neighbourhood and Ottawa in general.  This house was once the home of Gordon C. Edwards. Edwards was general manager of the Edwards Sawmill which was owned by his uncle, William Cameron Edwards.

In 1894, W.C. Edwards Lumber Company purchased the properties from the estate of his colleague, John MacLaren of the MacLaren Mill. The MacLarens were a prosperous lumbering family who had owned Thomas MacKay's mills in the area.  By 1899, the Edwards Sawmill was very successful and amongst the largest in Canada. Gordon Edwards, the originally from Thurso, Quebec, was politically active, serving as a Liberal M.P. between 1926 and 1930.  He  was also the director of many companies, including the Canadian Bank of Commerce, the Canada Cement Company, the Canadian International Paper Company, and the Ottawa Valley Trust Company. Mr. Edwards collected a fine art collection much of which was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada after his death.

In 1898, Gordon C. Edwards built this breathtaking Queen Anne-inspired residence keeping alive the tradition of mill management living within the community. The Queen Anne Style is an architectural trend that came into fashion, particularly amongst the affluent classes, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The Victorians are well known for their ornate and distinctive architectural flair and this house certainly lives up to it.

The property is beautiful as it is situated on a large fenced-in corner lot directly across from the Governors General's grounds, Rideau Hall. The beautiful and lush yard contributes to the picturesque qualities of the Edwards House through its magnificent fountain, perennial garden, and shade-cover trees. The property bears a coach house, once used for the horses, with recently restored cedar shingles, is impressive enough to be a house in itself.


Certainly, there is no disguising that this was the home of a lumber magnate. The Edwards House itself is a three storey, eight bedroom masterpiece. Each room bears its own unique, and highly elaborate, moulding. There is solid oak and cherry paneling throughout the residence. The main floor features massive room dividing doors made of ornately carved solid wood. The high level of craftsmanship achieved by the workmen involved in the lumber and other skilled industries is evident in every feature of this house. This residence, a solidly built double brick house, served as an advertisement of the Edwards name. The high quality of their home, right down to the artistic masonry on the chimney, attested to the quality of work the Edwards Sawmill.

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Edwards lived in this home until his uncle's death when he inherited 24 Sussex Drive. The Edwards House was passed down to his son, Gordon Maxwell Meighen Edwards; he lived in the house until his death in 1957. Following his death, his wife lived in the home for a brief time before selling it to his sister, Edna Bogue, who lived there until her death in the winter of 1975-76.  

Fortunately, unlike many older homes, the Edwards House was never subdivided and so has maintained many of its most charming and magnificent architectural features. Few elements of the house were changed over the years, including updates to modern technology. Because of this, the new owners spent considerable time and effort updating the electricity to a smart wiring system to bring the house into the twenty-first century.

Joseph Cull, the present owner of the house, was drawn to the property after having spent some time in the neighbourhood. He had previously lived in the Golden Triangle, an Ottawa neighbourhood between Laurier Avenue, the Queensway, the Canal and Elgin Street. The Golden Triangle is a busy neighbourhood with many amenities from some of Ottawa's best restaurants to a Provincial Courthouse. Despite really enjoying the Golden Triangle, Joseph was attracted to the eclectic qualities of the New Edinburgh neighbourhood.    

One of Joseph's favourite things about New Edinburgh is that there is a thriving arts community and two very active community organizations—impressive for a neighbourhood so small. The Crichton Cultural Community Centre who hosts events such as the Skating party, the Halloween party, the Plant Sale, the Winter Carnival, and Summer Family Day. Additionally, they present the Lumière Festival every year in August.

In the truest sense of the word community, New Edinburgh is host to a bevy of barbecues, organized on a street by street basis, so neighbours can connect with one another. Even more, instead of big box stores such as those that are blighting so many of Ottawa's neighbourhoods, the majority of businesses are small and locally owned; you are likely to discover that the proprietor is one of your neighbours.

Another factor that adds to the desirability of the neighbourhood is that it feels like "a magical community tucked away." When you are there, it is hard to believe that you are just a stones throw from the the urban centre of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. There is such a lushness to the landscape that provides a sense of separation from the hustle and bustle of downtown. New Edinburgh is home to many species of birds in large part due to this richness of greenery. Stanley Park, bordered by the Rideau River, and the greenspace surrounding the Fraser Schoolhouse on John Street are just two of the pet friendly areas where New Edinburgh's many dog owners can take their furry friend for some fresh air.

Joseph, as well as his neighbours, love that this is a very livable neighbourhood that is safe, quiet, and promotes active living. Biking is extremely popular; there are bike lanes throughout the neighborhood as well as the bike paths that are connected to the paths of the Ottawa region. Even without a bike, it is very walkable and there is easy access without a car.  

This profile of the Edwards House, 55 MacKay Street, was written by Heather Perrault of Heritage Ottawa. .The mandate of Heritage Ottawa is dedicated to to advocate on behalf of the preservation of heritage buildings and historic landscapes and to educate and inform residents and visitors to Ottawa on the benefits of preserving the city's heritage from the perspectives of history, architecture, quality of life and tourism. Heritage Ottawa began as a committee of "A Capital for Canadians", an organization founded in 1967, concerned with the conservation of buildings and sites in the National Capital which are part of our living heritage. Heritage Ottawa was incorporated in 1975 and the first office was located at 62 John Street in New Edinburgh, the site of the former Fraser Schoolhouse. During the 1990s, we moved to our present location at 2 Daly Avenue at Arts Court in the restored former municipal courthouse. .


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