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Old Government House

This photo was taken shortly after its construction in 1883. (Photo Credit: SAB R-B4620)

Government House was first constructed on a ten acre allotment of government reserve land approximately five kilometres west of the town of Regina. At first the residence was intended to be a temporary dwelling until more suitable accommodations could be constructed in the community.

Constructed in 1883, the structure was assembled from several prefabricated buildings that were built in eastern Canada and transported to the new site.

Designed by the staff of the Department of Public works in Ottawa, Government House as it looked at the time was a single story wooden structure comprised of two portable houses. Later that year Lieutenant Governor Dewdney would contract additional construction programs and the site was developed into a more imposing structure, reflecting the sort of atmosphere imperialists at the time, expected for the vice - regal representative.

Mrs. Dewdney and her sister-in-law, Mrs. Lethbridge, in front of old Government House c.1887. The pile of buffalo bones on the left is reminiscent of Regina's original name, Pile of Bones (Wascana).

Additions were made to the original structure in 1883. Following the completion of these additions Government House included four bedrooms, two dressing rooms, drawing room, dining room, a large and small kitchen with pantry and storeroom, a front veranda and porch, and a conservatory.

Several additions were added after its construction in 1883 to enhance the overall appearance of the building. The veranda, conservatory and bay window were added to the front of the building. The lattice fence added to the property's appearance and separated the servant's quarters from the vice-regal area.

New Government House

Government House Heritage property, 1991. The east façade of Government House, with the ceremonial entrance, August, 1991. (Government House Collection)

Government House has become a cherished part of the architectural heritage of the provincial capital. It is a fascinating example of the grand designs prevalent during the late Victorian era. The House attracts visitors from around the world interested in ornate architectural design, artifacts, and history.

The present Government House was constructed between 1889-91 immediately east of the old Government House built in 1883. Its architectural design was in fact a composite of several different styles popular during the late-Victorian period. It was built on a grand scale as a result of the federal government's desire to have an imposing symbol of its authority in the North - West Territories. Canadian imperialists felt that the North - West was to deliver the British Empire into the twentieth century. Residences like Government House which housed the representative of Her Majesty The Queen, should be built to represent the grandeur of the British Empire.

Dominion architect Thomas Fuller devised the architectural design of Government House. Born and educated in England, Fuller arrived in Canada at the age of 34.

Inspired and influenced by the very popular High Victorian Gothic architectural designs during the mid and late nineteenth century, he and his partners had been selected to design a number of prestigious projects, including the Parliament Buildings, and the Governor General's residence (Rideau Hall) in Ottawa, and the New York state legislative buildings in Albany.

Government House displaying these features - a square dome on its peak and Roman arch design windows. (Photo Credit: SAB B7339)

By the late 1880's the ornamental exuberance of the Gothic style had lost its popularity, and there emerged a general shift towards simpler and less ornate examples of architectural design.

Government House is a reflection of Fullers' appreciation of this transformation. Thus the house as it was constructed did not represent any one school of architectural style, but rather can be seen as a compilation of several different techniques. Perhaps more than any other the structure reflected an adaptation of the Italianate design.

Italianate architectural design emerged during revival of the Gothic Architectural style during the mid-nineteenth century. This phenomenon developed as a rebellion against the restrictive formality of earlier classical ideals. This new style used rambling, informal Italian farmhouses as models.

More than any other architectural style, Government House was designed in this Italianate style. Typical of the design, the House boasts a squared dome centred on its peak. Its windows are of a Roman arch design and of a segmented arch variation.

Construction on the new Vice-Regal residence began in the spring of 1889. Local contractor William Henderson was awarded the project and construction began on the new residence in the spring of 1889 on fifty-three acres.

The plan called for Government House to rest upon a foundation comprising brick and stone construction. Its main portion was 64 feet by 55 feet, and the servant's areas, offices, and bedrooms were 55 feet by 42 feet. In the basement, space was to be provided for a furnace, storage areas, and space for tanks for rain and well water.

(Photo Credits: SAB R-P9.3)

The ground floor consisted of a lobby or reception area, a vestibule and a main hall, a staircase, two drawing rooms, dining room, library, billiard room, kitchen, housekeeper's room, servant's hall, scullery, dairy storage, cooling room, storeroom, china pantry, wine vault, brick safe and a lavatory.

On the first floor there were to be 15 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms with bath, a bathroom and a water closet.  Discover more about Government House, its rooms and its treasures.

In January 1890, after construction was well underway, Lieutenant Governor Joseph Royal, inspected the future residence, and made several requests for changes. Fireplaces were added in the master bedroom and billiard room as well as four additional water closets to meet the needs of the fifteen bedrooms. Other additions included a basement well, wine cellar and vegetable cellar, mosquito blinds for all windows, and a dining room bell to ring in the kitchen.

At its completion in 1891, Government House was by far the most advanced dwelling in the Northwest Territories. It boasted running water, which was pumped from a well in the basement to a collection tank situated in the attic, and then fed by gravity throughout the house. Sewage was directed from indoor flush toilets to a brick cesspool in the garden area.

The House, although almost 4 km from the town, was connected to Regina's telephone system. The Regina Lighting Company provided electricity to the property, and the home was heated by a series of heated coils and warm air from the furnace.

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