Canada’s Prime Ministers have not always lived at 24 Sussex Street (the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada since 1950). Before that, they often had their own houses. Or relied on their political allies to buy them a house. This was the case of Wilfrid Laurier, for whom partisans and friends of the Liberal Party bought an official residence in Ottawa in 1896, when he had just been elected Prime Minister of the country. It is possible to visit this house, managed today by Parks Canada, and that’s what I just did!

What is interesting about Laurier House is that it did not only house Wilfrid Laurier and his wife, it was also owned by William Lyon Mackenzie King (the widow of Laurier bequeathed the house to him in her will). So it was two Canadian Prime Ministers who lived there. And not just any Primes Ministers! Wilfrid Laurier and Mackenzie King had a significant influence on Canada in the early 20th century. The house in the Sandy Hill neighborhood has been a central place in Canadian politics for a few decades, since it was where the two prime ministers received various dignitaries, political allies and colleagues. King preferred to work from his library at home rather than his office in parliament.

Interestingly, it was also in this house that King engaged in sessions of spiritualism and turntable. He firmly believed that he could communicate with the dead and often asked them for advice. The ghosts probably were wise counselors, since King was Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister (22 years!).

The influence of the two Prime Ministers on Canada is explained in a short film presented at the beginning of the visit. You can afterwards visit the house, whose rooms were arranged according to what they looked under Laurier or under King (it is forbidden to take pictures inside the house … so I cannot show you these richly decorated rooms!). I highly recommend taking a guided tour. There are few explanatory signs inside the house, so a tour might be more interesting to learn all the details of each room.

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