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For the first half of the twentieth century, Laurier House (335 Laurier Ave. East, Ottawa, Ontario) was home to two Canadian Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. The Second Empire style house was built in the late 1870s for the Ottawa Jeweller, John Leslie. This style was popular at that time and complimented the other Victorian homes located in the comfortable neighbourhood of Sandy Hill. The characteristic design features of the Second Empire style are evident in the mansard roof and dormer windows.
Sir Wilfrid and Lady Zoé Laurier moved into Laurier House in 1897. The house had been purchased for them by Liberal friends and supporters, who felt that the Prime Minister of Canada should have an appropriate domestic setting. A year later, a fund was organized for the Lauriers which would help maintenance, pay servants and clear away some of Lauriers’ debts.
In their new home, the Lauriers soon settled into a life filled with visiting friends, young relatives and pets. Lady Laurier’s mornings were often spent in the morning room, enjoying her birds and entertaining close friends. Like many middle and upper- class women of her day, she was actively involved in a wide variety of Ottawa’s charitable institutions. She also found time to organize and host many formal and informal evening dinners and parties.
After Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s death in 1919, William Lyon Mackenzie King became Laurier’s successor as leader of the Liberal Party. In 1921 he became Canada’s tenth Prime Minister and in the same year was bequeathed Laurier House by Lady Laurier.
Before taking up residence in 1923, King embarked on a two-year project to repair and renovate the house. The project included repainting, repanelling, new floors, and the installation of an elevator.
Although the residence is known as Laurier House, the King period prevails throughout, with many of the rooms remaining as they were during King’s time. The house is filled with marvellous gifts collected from all over the world: from archaeological artefacts dating from 2000 B.C, to classical paintings and furniture associated with famous people and historic events.
In 1950, King died, and left Laurier House and his other property, Kingsmere, to the people of Canada. Until 1988, the House was the responsibility of the National Archives of Canada. It is now part of the Canadian system of National Parks, National Historic Sites and Historic Canals operated by Parks Canada