Birkett House was built in 1896 as the stately home of Thomas Birkett, a wealthy Ottawa businessman and politician. It was a grandiose expression of social position for a self made man of high accomplishment. Designed in Baronial Gothic style, the building featured prominent towers, soaring chimneys and crenelated parapets. An example of Victorian eclecticism and exuberant excess, the mansion became known somewhat irreverently as Birkett’s Castle.
The Birkett family sold the house in 1925 and since that time it has served as, the Japanese Embassy, Offices of the Boy Scouts of Canada, the national office of the Canadian Heritage Foundation and most recently as the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary.
Birkett House was designated under Part IV Ontario Heritage Act in 1980.
The sunroom featuring monumental single hung windows with leaded glass transoms was a later addition. Unfortunately the house and the sunroom bear on a thick layer of Leda clay. Although the main house has remained stable but the sunroom gradually settled and a crack developed at the junction with the main house.
Over the years various attempts were made to seal the crack with little success. Then an earthquake on June 23 2010, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, resulted in an alarming crack in the foundation and brick wall above. Action had to be taken to save the sunroom addition from further damage.
Various strategies were considered but the consultant team settled on a plan to temporarily support the sunroom while the foundation was reconstructed. Each limestone facing block was numbered prior to removal, and carefully stored for re-use.
The remainder of the foundation and basement slab was then demolished.
Here is the sunroom suspended on temporary steel beams supported by heavy timber cribs.
Here we see the sunroom resting on the new concrete foundation. The brick masonry above is temporarily supported by jack posts awaiting the reinstatement of the original facing stone.
The reconstruction of the foundation is now complete. Each stone has been returned to its original location as masonry cladding on a modern reinforced concrete foundation. Final pointing of the stone and restoration of the brickwork will be completed in the Spring of 2017.
This project signifies the Embassy of Hungary's commitment to preserving Ottawa's built heritage.