The renewal of West Block is a major step in Parliament Hill’s makeover. The historic restoration project began in 2011 when West Block closed for PCL to begin the much-needed revitalization of the 106-year-old building.
This meant working with two heritage consultants to respect the building’s roots in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“West Block presented some unique challenges,” says general superintendent Dave Stroz, who worked on the project for its entire seven-year duration. “To find out exactly what needed to be done, we had to take the stones out of the walls to see what was behind them and the type of condition they were in. Then we could determine how to proceed.”
At the peak of the masonry work, more than 200 stone specialists were applying their expertise at the walls of West Block. More than 140,000 stones were removed and inspected, cleaned and repaired, and returned to their exact spots.
PCL’s scope of work at West Block included removing, repairing, and reinstalling heritage stairways and railings, as well as filling in all flues and fireplaces with brick—as part of a seismic upgrade. Additionally, a brand-new visitor center was constructed underground, to connect to the West Block for future tours. Specific planning went into the upgrades, as PCL was asked to preserve the building’s historic façade and ensure that Parliament Hill looks exactly as it did before the revitalization.
“It took more than six million hours to complete this project, but we did it,” adds Dave. “We worked with the heritage consultants the entire time and made sure we were doing all we could to preserve this piece of Canadian history.”