Investigation Program

Although much is known about the condition of the Centre Block, investigation work is needed to gain a true picture of the scope, schedule and budget needed to restore and modernize this century-old building.

The Investigation Program involves

  • archaeological studies
  • geotechnical studies
  • seismic studies
  • an assessment of the building’s structure, including work such as:
    • making holes in the walls to see what is behind them
    • boring holes in the ground to collect soil and rock samples
    • flying drones over the building to take infrared readings
    • examining the exterior masonry

Archeological digs

It is standard practice to do archeological studies before construction work that involves excavation. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) recently did a dig to ensure that upcoming construction work does not damage any potential artifacts in the area.

Some interesting findings have been unearthed.

Watch this video to learn about an archaeological dig done in August 2018.

Transcript: Archeology digs

Start of video.

(Light instrumental music is played in the background throughout the video.)

(Title screen shows title in the middle of screen, a yellow box runs around the text. At the bottom of the screen, a line drawing of the Parliament skyline runs from left to right.)

Text on screen: Centre Block investigations – Archeology / Enquêtes de l’édifice du Centre - Archéologie

(2 workers talk inside the fenced archeology site while another archeologist take notes. In the background, the north east of the Centre Block in Ottawa can be seen.)

(A man in a hard hat, reflective vest and safety glasses speaks while standing in the fenced archeology site. The site is cut into pavement with earth exposed below. The man says:)

My name is Stephen Jarrett and I’m the Archeological Project Manager for Centrus working on the Centre Block rehabilitation project.

Text on screen: Stephen Jarrett, MA
Archaeology project manager

Today were here excavating the barracks structure on Parliament Hill, associated with the military occupation here before Parliament.

(A worker stands in a hole that is cut into pavement with the earth exposed below. The excavation is about waist deep. She writes on a clip board.)

This work is standard practice in advance of any kind of excavation work up on the Hill,

(A male worker digs in the earth with a trowel.)

to ensure that archeological resources aren’t damaged or destroyed through that work.

(Two workers are looking at the earth in the pit and taking notes on clipboards)

We found many interesting things in our work here, we’ve uncovered the walls for the barracks and guard house.

(Blueprint drawings of buildings)

These structures were used for 30 years at that time from the 1820s to the 1850s.

(A historical painting of men in military uniforms. Some in the background are digging with shovels)

We have found military buttons, shako badges, lots of personal items like pins and buttons that people would have lived and used here.

(Photo of a hand holding a fragment of an artifact unearthed in the archeology dig. Photo of a hand holding two old coins.)

(A worker digging with a trowel)

When an archeological resource is uncovered it is catalogued,

(A worker taking a photograph in the pit)

photographed and recorded in position.

(Two workers in the pit looking at papers)

Our goal through all this work is to better understand

(Historical drawings of: the Rideau canal, Barrack Hill, Men red military uniforms holding papers while men dig in the background)

how people lived and worked up here on the Hill and understand the military occupation through time.

(Exterior footage of the Centre Block building)

It’s a unique opportunity to work on one of the most important national historic sites in Canada as part of the UNESCO world heritage site designation

(Return to male archeologist in the pit)

with the Rideau Canal as these barrack structures served as the headquarters for the construction of the canal.

(Public Services and Procurement Canada signature is displayed.)

(Music stops.)

(Canada wordmark is displayed.)

End of clip.

In the period between 1827 and 1858, Parliament Hill was known as “Barrack Hill” and was the site where the British Royal Engineers had their military quarters. They built several buildings, including three barracks and a hospital.

Workers discovered artifacts from that time such as:

  • regimental buttons
  • monetary tokens
  • King George IV shako plates (1820 to 1830); a shako is a cylindrical military hat, and the shako badge is the decorative piece on the front

Workers also found foundation walls from the Barrack Hill Guard House (1826 to 1850s).

View enlarged image of an old metal button held in a person’s hand.
View enlarged image of monetary tokens from the 1800s.
View enlarged image of a fragment unearthed in an archaeological dig. The fragment is held in a person’s hand.

Exterior façade investigations

PSPC is examining the exterior of the Centre Block and opening up sections of the masonry walls to inspect the condition of the structural steel inside them. After the research is done, we will close the temporary openings we made. While we are doing this work, you may see scaffolding on the outside of the building or cranes nearby.

Additionally, we are investigating the exterior foundations of the building. To do that, we are digging temporary test pits close to the exterior walls of the building.

The findings of these investigations will inform the structural design for the rehabilitation of the Centre Block.

View enlarged image of a construction crane outside the Centre Block building
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