19. Fleck-Paterson House | Embassy of Algeria

Construction:  1901-1902 

Architect:  John W. H. Watts

Location:  500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa

 

The magnificent Fleck-Paterson House overlooking the Rideau River was designed by prominent Ottawa architect John W.H. Watts (1850-1917) for Andrew W. Fleck, secretary-treasurer of the Canada Atlantic Railway, and his wife Gertrude, eldest daughter of lumber baron J.R. Booth.

The Queen Anne Revival-style mansion was rich in architectural detail. Built of rock-faced variegated Nepean sandstone in a broken-range ashlar pattern, the grey rock-faced limestone basement was capped by a beveled cut stone water table course, also of limestone. The windows (semi-circular voussoir or flat arches and lug sills) were trimmed in a distinctive red sandstone. The main roof, intersecting gables, dormers, verandahs and porches were all roofed with a “Spanish” style red clay tile. The main entrance was flanked by a square copper-roofed tower and a circular tower whose original dome-shaped copper roof was later modified to a conical shape clad in red clay tile. A porte-cochère on the west side served as a servants’ porch and led to the rear coach house and greenhouse, also built in the same stone.

The stunning interior showcased elaborate stained-glass and leaded glass windows and doors, beamed and hand-painted ceilings, carved wood wainscoting, marble fireplaces, scrolled stairway balustrade, and ornate plasterwork. The dining room, with its vaulted beamed ceiling, features a round-arched marble fireplace with walls and ceiling decorated in vine-like patterns suggestive of the Art Nouveau style.

Fleck and his wife were major local philanthropists. After Andrew Fleck died on May 6, 1924, in 1931 his widow Gertrude donated a new building on George Street to the Ottawa Day Nursery, one of their favourite charitable causes. The building was later renamed the Andrew Fleck Child Care Centre.

Gertrude Fleck lived in the house until her death in 1941. Senator Norman Paterson (1883-1983), a prominent businessman with an interest in education and international affairs, purchased the property in 1941.

The Fleck-Paterson House was designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1978. In addition to the building exterior, the designation included such interior features as the entrance vestibule, two-storey staircase hall, and living room, dining room and library.

After Senator Paterson’s death in August 1983, the property was sold and its large grounds subdivided. An adjacent three-storey condominium at 275 Charlotte Street was constructed in 1985, followed by a retirement residence at 550 Wilbrod Street in 1987.

Plans by subsequent owners to turn the house into a retirement home failed to materialize. At one point, local advocacy group Action Sandy Hill appeared at Committee of Adjustment in a successful bid to protect the building from inappropriate alterations.

Left vacant since 1986, the Fleck-Patterson House and coach house fell victim to vandalism and neglect.

In September 1988, when alerted by a nearby resident to a possible threat of demolition, Heritage Ottawa joined in support with Action Sandy Hill to help save the building.

One month later, a change of ownership saw the removal of the upper level of the conservatory located on the south (rear) side of the house in contravention of the Ontario Heritage Act. The realtor, Canada Trust, allowed Heritage Ottawa access to inspect the building. The interior had been stripped of lighting and plumbing fixtures, walls were torn down and only one stained glass window remained. There was no heat, hydro or plumbing. Water infiltration was damaging the conservatory ceiling and threatening the adjacent dining room—the space most worthy of preservation.

In December 1988, City Council undertook emergency repairs necessary to halt further damage and added the costs to the owner's property taxes, which were $23,541 in arrears.

The property changed hands again before being purchased in December 1991 by Maharishi Heaven on Earth Development Corporation, for use as a meditation centre and headquarters of the Natural Law Party of Canada. Extensive work to salvage and restore the building, costing almost $2 million, was undertaken by Andrex Holdings Ltd. in association with Wilberfoss Inc. and Crédit Industriel Desjardins.

In 2002, the Maharishi Corp. sold the property for $2.95 million to the Government of Algeria. The building continues to serve as the Algerian Embassy to Canada.