Constructed: 1876 - 1877
Location: 189 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa
Completed in 1877, Panet House was built for Colonel Charles-Eugène Panet, Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence from 1875 until his death in 1898. The house is prominently sited on the northeast corner of Laurier Avenue East and King Edward Avenue in Sandy Hill, Ottawa’s most affluent neighbourhood at the time.
The substantial house was befitting of the Panet family’s position as one of Canada’s foremost legal and military families since the 1760s. Solidly built, the 3-storey limestone house had a distinctive mansard roof with dentillated cornice and eaves and a central Paladian-style dormer window.
By 1915, the Panet House was under new ownership. As part of the building’s conversion into 12 elegant apartments, the mansard roof was removed and new third-floor windows were added.
The first threat to the Panet House came in 1965 with the proposal to turn King Edward Avenue into a freeway linking the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and the Queensway. In anticipation of the required road widening, the City expropriated the Panet House in 1968. The costs of further expropriations along with community opposition soon put an end to the freeway project, leaving the City in possesion of the building.
The house came under threat again in 1982, when City Council approved a massive 5-year plan to relocate seven fire stations. In keeping with its systematic plan to improve response times in the area, the fire deparment identified the Panet House property as the ideal site for a new station. The building’s days appeared to be numbered.
Public outcry was swift.
A 2,000 name petition objecting to the demolition of the Panet House was presented to City Council at a public meeting in March, 1983. Impassioned presentations by Heritage Ottawa and Action Sandy Hill included relocating the proposed fire station west to Nicholas Street, where it would not disrupt the residential nature of the area.
Their efforts were partially rewarded. Responding to valid heritage concerns and fire department logistics, the City built the new the fire station across the street, which kept it at the Laurier and King Edward intersection. Panet House was saved and the fire department appeased.
In 1986 the City added the Panet House to the King Edward Avenue Heritage Conservation District (created in 1982), and shortly afterward declared its intention to sell the building, which was then badly in need of repair.
Heritage Ottawa and Action Sandy Hill succeeded in persuading City Council to negotiate a sale agreement with the second lowest bidder, Sandy Smallwood of Andrex Holdings Ltd., who was committed to restoring the house and reinstating the original mansard roof.
Heritage Ottawa wrote:
“The Panet House is at one of the most important intersections in the city, and we totally agree with the wisdom of ensuring that the site – as the gateway to Sandy Hill – sets the tone for the district. Such an objective [restoration of the mansard roof] is also consistent with the building’s location on the boundary of the first heritage district which the City had the foresight to create.”
After purchasing Panet House in 1987 Andrex Holdings adapted the first two floors to office space while undertaking a major heritage restoration.
The sensitive restoration of the building, including its elegant mansard roof and gable dormers, respected its historical character and that of the surrounding heritage district. The project was honoured in 1989 with the City of Ottawa’s Award of Excellence for Adaptive Reuse.
Panet House was purchased in the late 1990s by the Republic of Angola, which continues to use the building as its Canadian embassy.