Alberta's Government House
Photograph by the Alberta Public Affairs Bureau
Once the residence of Alberta's Lieutenant Governors, Government House is now used for high-level government conferences, receptions, and dinners.
Alberta's Government House is located in Edmonton and was the official residence of the Province's first six Lieutenant Governors. It is now used for high-level government conferences, receptions, and dinners. For information on upcoming events go to the Government House Foundation website.
In 1910, the Province of Alberta purchased the property where Government House now stands, as well as the immediate surrounding area, from Montreal businessman James Carruthers for $33,571. Construction on the building began in 1912, and it was officially opened on October 7, 1913. The three storey sandstone edifice was designed in the Jacobean Revival style which is characterized by bay windows, high gabled roofs with raised ends, and groups of rectangular windows. The architect was R.P. Blakey and the building cost $345,882.
In early 1925, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta passed a motion to sell Government House following the completion of the term of Lieutenant Governor Dr. Robert G. Brett. The mover of this motion stated that although there was no intention to abolish the Office of Lieutenant Governor, he felt that the maintenance of a "Royal Court" in a democratic province such as Alberta was neither appropriate nor economical. Another Member noted that New Brunswick had closed its Government House a few years earlier. This motion was rescinded later the same year.
In 1938, the Committee of Supply of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta passed a motion that had the final effect of closing Government House. Once again, economy was given as the reason. Some Members felt that since the Canadian federal government appointed Alberta's Lieutenant Governors, they should pay the related expenses. It was also noted that Ontario had closed its Government House in 1937. However, other Members felt that this action was taken by the Alberta government to "get even" with Lieutenant Governor John C. Bowen. In 1937, he had refused to give Royal Assent to three government bills. At any rate, Government House was closed in 1938, and Alberta's Lieutenant Governors had to seek accommodation elsewhere. In 1966, the provincial government acquired a new official residence for the Lieutenant Governor in the Glenora district of Edmonton.
From 1938 to 1942, Government House remained vacant. In 1942, during World War II, it was leased to North West Airlines which had contracts for the delivery of aircraft to the United States government to support the construction of the Alaska Highway. From 1944 to 1950, it was used as a convalescent home for wounded veterans. Government House was purchased by the federal government's Department of Veterans' Affairs in 1951 and was operated as a home for disabled veterans. It was during the 1950's that the conservatory, which was once a part of Government House, was demolished.
In 1964, Government House was returned to the Province of Alberta and in the late 1960's, the main floor was restored. However, there were still many problems related to the maintenance of the building, and in 1971, shortly after the visit of Russian Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin, the main floor ceiling collapsed.
During the middle 1970's, more extensive restorations costing $1,700,000 were completed in order to make Government House serviceable as a centre for high level government conferences, dinners, and receptions. The general public were first able to visit the restored building on Heritage Day, August 1, 1976.
Alberta's Government House presently consists of a large combination reception and dining area on the main floor, as well as a music room and a library. The main floor was restored to resemble that of the original building as closely as possible. The second floor consists of a central reception area surrounded by six small conference rooms, each named after one of the six Lieutenant Governors who lived in Government House, and a small study. The third floor consists of a large conference facility named the Alberta Room.
On June 12, 1985, The Honourable Mary J. LeMessurier, Minister of Culture announced that Alberta's Government House had been designated a Provincial Historic Resource. As such, it cannot be altered without the permission of the Minister of in charge of cultural institutions.