Artist Joe Fafard's 'Running Horses' in front of La Salle Academy (1899)
Notre Dame Cathedral and artist Louise Bourgeois's “Maman”
Pedestrian connections to Parliament Hill
Gordon Harrison's art gallery
Map of Bytown (1842)
Trees lining the Drive
Designated historic buildings with active sidewalks and popular storefronts
The former Ottawa City Hall, photographed by John Morse
Peacekeeping Memorial entitled “Reconciliation.” One of the premier viewing spots for Canada Day fireworks.
Running Horses 2 in front of La Salle Academy
Sussex Drive is located in the oldest part of downtown Ottawa. It is approximately 3 kilometres long. It was built in the late 1820s during the time when Colonel By was building the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa. Starting at Rideau Street, it runs straight in a northwest direction through two grid-like City districts – the ByWard Market and Lowertown. About halfway, it bends in a northeast direction to follow the shores of the Ottawa River, defined by the steep slopes of the Bonnechère Escarpment, the same ragged slopes that form a backdrop to Parliament Hill. At this point, Sussex Drive becomes an institutional sector featuring large and medium-sized buildings in a campus-like setting of trees and open spaces. This is also where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River in dramatic fashion at the Rideau Falls. Further along, Sussex Drive becomes the western edge of another historic residential district, New Edinburgh, eventually ending at a newly-landscaped roundabout. This roundabout serves as the eastern gateway to Sussex Drive, in front of Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General and 24 Sussex, the Prime Minister’s residence.
Sussex Drive is an iconic place in Canada. It is a scenic route that is steeped in history and surrounded by eye-catching buildings, nationally-significant open spaces, and landmark features, and it functions as a traditional main street, where people walk, shop, eat, and play. It is the entry to the historic ByWard Market and a gathering place and melting pot for local residents, tourists, business people, government workers, and foreign diplomats. It is an iconic symbol of sophistication and quality.
The four qualities that make Sussex Drive a great street are:
A Beautiful and Scenic Streetscape - While the Sussex Drive right-of-way is an important part of Ottawa's civic space, it also forms part of Confederation Boulevard, a national ceremonial route that links numerous federal buildings on both sides of the Ottawa River. It is a compact street that widens to the east. The City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission have worked together to build a quality streetscape with granite curbs, wide sidewalks, unique pedestrian lighting and street furniture that works well with the wide range of building shapes and the various building setbacks along the street. It is a designated scenic route and has a number of parliamentary viewsheds over top of the existing buildings that serve to cap new building height at a modest scale.
A Street Lined with Popular Places for People to Visit – It is a street where various Prime Ministers, such as Sir John A. Macdonald, have lived. It is a street where Sir Wilfred Laurier and former Governor General George Vanier were mourned at funerals held at Notre Dame Cathedral. It is a street where ambassadors meet prime ministers and presidents.
It is a street with a rich cultural and musical history – “...I grew up in Ottawa...and there was a place (a little Club at 521) Sussex Drive called Le Hibou. (Between 1965 and 1975) the owner brought every, and I mean every blues star that you or I would ever have wanted to have through Ottawa...” – Dan Akroyd.
Some of these artists included: James Cotton, Otis Span, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Valdy, Robert Charlevoix, Gordon Lightfoot, B.B. King and Neil Young. Today, Sussex Drive is a street where Gordon Harrison, a well-known landscape artist, and former City Planner has a gallery. Sussex Drive is also the street where Jimi Hendrix first met Joni Mitchell and where world-renown artists exhibit their work. It is the street where Peter Jennings, the former anchor of ABC News, had a residence and where Alanis Morrisette, the Grammy-winning musician, has a residence nearby.
A Blend of Award-winning Contemporary Buildings and designated Heritage Buildings – Sussex Drive is lined with, an eclectic blend of award-winning modern buildings, at least 24 designated historic properties and three distinct heritage districts. Well-known architects who have worked on buildings or memorials along Sussex Drive include Moishe Safdie, Fumihiko Maki, David Childs, Arthur Erickson, Dan Hanganu, Eugene Beaudoin, Gregory Henriquez and Landscape Architect, Cornelia Oberlander.
Champions of this street include:
- Public Works and Government Services and the National Capital Commission as owners and custodians of all federal government properties including government buildings, foreign services, Crown Corporations, embassies, national memorials and museums
- The City of Ottawa as owner and custodian of the right-of-way and various parks and as the agency responsible for ensuring that proper planning policies and procedures are in place including land use and design review
- Various heritage groups including Heritage Ottawa and Parks Canada as guardians of the existing heritage fabric
- Various non-governmental institutions and clubs such as the Roman Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bruyère Hospital, the Ottawa Rowing Club and the Aga Khan Foundation as owners and custodians of major properties along Sussex Drive
Due to the significance of this street, which is lined with important buildings and open spaces in the nation’s capital, planners have worked collaboratively with various other professional groups – architects, engineers, and landscape architects – to ensure that Sussex Drive remains a preeminent street for all Canadians. Planners have assisted in establishing a sound policy framework, including federal and civic land use and heritage policy, zoning designations, view-shed protection and design review for all properties and public works along Sussex Drive. All professionals understand the importance of Sussex Drive to Canada's identity as a rich and successful nation and as a place to be proud of on the world stage.
Sussex Drive is important to the City of Ottawa simply because it is the best we have. It is a street that blends the best from the past with the best today and is not only a civic destination, but also a national and international destination. Sussex Drive is Ottawa’s premier street.