Earnscliffe National Historic Site of Canada

Earnscliffe, the home of British High Commissioners in Ottawa since 1930, is a Victorian Gothic house, built in 1855 of local grey limestone. lt was the home of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada. He gave it the name 'Earnscliffe', meaning ‘eagle's cliff’.

The house was built for John MacKinnon, a local businessman and the son-in-law of Thomas McKay, one of the main founders of Ottawa who built the original Rideau Hall. By 1870, the house was owned by Thomas Reynolds, an Englishman involved with Ottawa's railway. He rented the house briefly to Sir John A. Macdonald who, after his return to Ottawa as Prime Minister, bought the house in 1883 for $10,040. He made numerous changes, including adding the splendid dining room. He died at Earnscliffe in 1891. Queen Victoria honoured Sir John's memory by appointing the peerage of ‘Baroness’ to his widow to become 'Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe'.

In 1900, Lady Macdonald sold the house to Dr. and Mrs. Charles Harriss, who lavished care and money upon it for many years. ln 1930, Dr. Harriss died and Earnscliffe came on the market. The Canadian government considered buying it as the Prime Minister's official residence, but the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. R. B. Bennett, decided against this. Sir William Clark, who had arrived in 1928 as first British High Commissioner in Canada, bought Earnscliffe on behalf of the British government.

Pre-registration required at Eventbrite - Earnscliffe Residence Tour

In-person visiting hours

*Follow building health protocols.

  • Saturday, June 3 2023
    10am to 4pm

Virtual and 3D Tours

This building does not offer virtual or 3D tours.

19th-century villa with white trim, a grey roof, and large full tree in front. The residence of the British High Commissioner in Canada.
General View Earnscliffe credit © Parks Canada / Parcs Canada 1993


Architectural style
Gothic revival
Construction date or date range

Amenities and features

  • Public washrooms
  • Free parking