Posted by: OSHP
700 Echo Drive
This 2 1/2 storey stone house represents a transition from stolid Georgian symmetry to a more Romantic sensibility in the Ottawa area. It was built for Colonel George Hay, a prominent hardware merchant and president of the Bank of Ottawa. Tradition has it that, while serving as one of the city’s first aldermen, Hay suggested that Bytown be renamed Ottawa. Further, it was in this very house that Hay is said to have designed the city’s first coat of arms.
If one were to draw a line down the center of the front façade, this house would appear to be no less symmetrical than any of the classically inspired buildings put up during the previous 40 years. We also see the continuing influence of quoins from the Georgian style. But new ideas are at work here. Windows on the ground floor and in the second storey are no longer rigidly aligned in the same bays. Instead of arranging stone in even courses, the builder of this house seems to have positively taken delight in the haphazard placement of stone in the front walls. The roof is pitched very steeply, and a pointed window in the attic storey is framed by a larger Gothic revival design of verge board in the gable of the middle projecting bay. There are no cornices and no eave returns in the gables but rather extensions of the rafters, as if the builder purposely wanted to indicate some of the structural members rather than hide them, as was done in Georgian buildings. Hay called his house “Echo Bank,” a name preserved in Echo Drive.
From 1966 to 1977, the Cuban embassy was located here. In April 1972, the RCMP and military bomb disposal units were called in to remove a bomb from the property.
The information provided above is reproduced from: Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), Ottawa: A guide to Heritage Structures (Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2000), p. 188.
According to journalist Gladys Blair, Echo Bank House contained two receptions halls, double living rooms, a large dining room and kitchen, nine bedrooms, four bathrooms, a wine cellar, two garages, and a laundry. The wrought iron railing along the front yard is a later addition. No date is provided for the railing, but it had been in place by the 1950s.
Blair also mentions that Echo Drive originally was known as Gloucester Road. In addition, it may be concluded from her remarks that the house served as the residence of the Cuban Ambassador before it housed the Cuban Embassy. She also states that George Hay’s grandson, Alan K. Hay, served as General Manager of the National Capital Commission during the 1950s.
A wooden extension was built onto the back of the building in the 1940s.
The structure has been in the past the Echo Bank House Bed and Breakfast.
Notes pertaining to Echo Bank House’s exterior building stone:
The walls, window lintels and arches of the original house are rough-cut rectangular blocks of light grey fine calcareous sandstone and sandy limestone. They may have been quarried from the local Middle Ordovician Rockcliffe Formation. The corner blocks have been roughly bush hammered. Most of the blocks display parallel to wavy lamination, burrowing (by ancient marine organisms), and frequently intact bivalve valves and less abundant pieces of rugose coral. Some blocks contain fossil-rich layers in which the fossil valves are remarkably intact (not broken up following the death of the bivalve during the Ordovician). Some blocks have a red patina which, I believe, is an iron oxide mineral formed on the exposed faces and in microfractures within the blocks of sedimentary rock.
Contributed by Geologist Quentin Gall, Ph.D.
Blair, Gladys. “Historic Home: ‘Echo Bank.’” Ottawa Journal. June 28, 1959.