Government House (Saskatchewan): Wikis

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Government House

Government House main entrance
Building
Architectural style Modified Italianate
Town Dewdney Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan
Country Canada
Client The Queen of the United Kingdom
(Victoria)
Owner The Queen in Right of Saskatchewan
(Elizabeth II)
Construction
Started 1889
Cost $50,000
Design team
Architect Thomas Fuller

Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan, was constructed as a residence for the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, whose territorial headquarters were in Regina until the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created out of the Territories in 1905 and Regina became the capital of Saskatchewan.

At that point Government House became the vice-regal residence of Saskatchewan, which it remained until 1944 when it entered into a period of being somewhat of a white elephant until the latter part of the 20th century when it returned to official ceremonial use.

Contents

Design and construction

Government House, c.1915, from Dewdney Avenue entrance

Government House was designed by the Dominion architect, Thomas Fuller, together with the Territorial government buildings east on Dewdney Avenue. It was completed in 1891 at a cost of $50,000.

A substantial brick and masonry building, the new Government House replaced the cold, draughty wooden clapboard 1883 Government House which stood on the current site of Luther College on Royal Avenue until its demolition in 1908.

The new building was the first residence in the Territories to be electrified (the Regina YMCA had been electrified in 1890). A conservatory was built in 1901 and a ballroom in 1929.

Years out of service

Vice-regal palaces were something of an anomaly in the political climate of 1940s Saskatchewan, and in March 1945 the Lieutenant-Governor's office and residence were moved out of Government House and into the Hotel Saskatchewan, then operated by the CPR in downtown Regina.

The furnishings and household goods were sold at auction. Government House was leased to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs for use as a veterans rehabilitation facility.[1] In 1958, re-named Saskatchewan House, the building entered into 10 years' use as an adult education centre[2] until it was proposed that it be demolished and the site redeveloped. A large part of the extensive grounds had already been sold for the construction of the Pioneer Village nursing home and other uses.

From 1967 John Coulter's play "The Trial of Louis Riel" was performed throughout the summers in the Government House (then "Saskatchewan House") ballroom, arrayed as in photos of the original Supreme Court of the North-West Territories courthouse at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Hamilton Street, Regina, with members of the audience recruited as jurymen. Local lawyer Stephen Arsenych customarily performed the role of Riel.

Restoration

Lieutenant-Governor Forget in his office, Government House, 1898

However, historically-minded local groups including the Regina Chamber of Commerce, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, Regina Council of Women and the City of Regina were brought together to fight for the preservation of and restoration of the building.

Servants at Government House, 1898

In 1971 the Society for the Preservation and Restoration of Saskatchewan House (now the Government House Historical Society) was formed and by 1980 its efforts were rewarded. Government House, its original name and historical fittings and many historical contents restored, re-opened as a historic site for public education and edification.

In 1984 the offices of the Lieutenant-Governor returned to Government House, though the Lieutenant-Governor is housed in accommodation provided by the federal government, reflecting the constitutionally somewhat anomalous role of Ottawa in providing vice-regal appointments for the provinces.[3]

Lieutenant-Governor's New Year's Day Levee and other public receptions

Government House exterior, foyer, foyer skylight and ballroom, New Years Day 2010

The tradition of the Lieutenant-Governor holding a New Years Day levée in the Government House foyer and ballroom for the public was resumed immediately after the Lieutenant-Governor's offices returned there: there is a receiving line where the Vice-regal party greets the public and fruitcake and sherry are served in the ballroom. Government House is extensively decorated in holiday mode throughout, especially in the ballroom and foyer.

Guides in "period" costume (albeit, curiously, frequently in the costume of the 1780s rather than the 1890s, in mobcaps, tricorne hats and knee breeches: no doubt the historical and civics information provided in the educational sections of the facility is somewhat more correct) give free tours of Government House.

There is some confusion as to whether photography in the "museum" is permitted, with some New Years Day greeters amply welcoming photography -- "Oh of course! Be our guest: we're all taxpayers here!" -- and other, "period"-clad, ones vitriolically hissing, "Try that again and you'll be asked to leave!"

The Government House Historical Society holds a Victorian tea in the ballroom on some weekends during the spring, summer and fall season.

2005 Visitor and administration centre

Government House with adjacent visitor and administration centre

In 2005 a visitor and administration centre and coach house were added and the grounds that remained after alienation of a substantial proportion of them for the Pioneer Village old peoples' home restored to their Edwardian configuration as a provincial centennial project.[4]

Government House is now "a museum of the 1900 period under Lieutenant-Governor Amédée Forget, and a hospitality facility for government and non-profit organizations."[5]

Alleged haunting

Government House during the Royal Visit, 1901

Over the years, several staff and former students have observed strange occurrences at Government House. Doors have been said to open and close repeatedly with no one near, the sound of crying babies and laughing children have been heard late at night with no one around, and others have claimed to see eerie faces next to theirs when looking into mirrors.[6]

One particular ghost of note is "Howie," believed to be the former cook of Lieutenant-Governor Archibald McNab. Many believe that his spirit roams the house; his footsteps often heard shuffling through the halls. He even has a say in the interior decorating—witnesses have inexplicably found objects shifted or moved from one room to another.[7]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Michael (2006). "Government House". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Great Plains Research Center. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  2. ^ Jackson
  3. ^ Constitution Act, 1867, ss. 58; 92(1)
  4. ^ Jackson, Michael (2006). "Government House". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Great Plains Research Center. http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/government_house.html. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  5. ^ Jackson
  6. ^ English, Steve. "Great Fright North: Canada's Most Haunted Places". CAA Magazine. Canadian Automobile Association. http://caamagazine.com/caadvice_articledetail.aspx?ContentId=366. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  7. ^ "Old Government House is a little haunt on the Prairies". Toronto Star. Torstar. January 24, 2008. http://www.thestar.com/Travel/article/296315. Retrieved September 24, 2008. 

Further reading

  • Drake, Earl G. Regina, the Queen City. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 1955.
  • Hryniuk, Margaret and Pugh, Garth. "A Tower of Attraction" An Illustrated History of Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1991.

External links

Coordinates: 50°27′14″N 104°38′52″W / 50.454°N 104.647753°W / 50.454; -104.647753

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