Bytown Museum: Commissariat BuildingDigital Doors Open Ottawa

  • In-person
  • Digital Doors Open
  • Full wheelchair access
  • Guided tours available
  • Kid-friendly
  • Washrooms
  • Photography allowed
  • Videos
  • Virtual tours
  • Collections and resources
  • Kid-friendly
Bytown Museum: Commissariat Building

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Ottawa’s oldest stone building. The Bytown Museum offers tours of the Commissariat Building throughout the day. Come check out their new temporary exhibit and award-winning gallery renewal, a showcase of their historical costume collection and their vault. Enjoy a fresh lemonade next to the Ottawa lockstation, part of the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ottawa’s oldest stone building, the Commissariat, was built in 1827 as a storehouse during the construction of the Rideau Canal. It was commissioned by Colonel By and built by labourers under the direction of stonemason and founder of New Edinburgh Thomas Mackay. The limestone used to build the Commissariat’s 0.8-metre-thick (2.5-foot-thick) walls was quarried locally, and the symmetrical placement of its doors and windows provide a wonderful example of the Georgian architectural style. Its three floors and attic were used to house building materials, and to provide living quarters to officials onsite, revealed by the presence of a Rumford-style fireplace in the third-floor offices. On the first floor, the heavily fortified vault kept black powder, alcohol rations and the money used to pay the workers and soldiers. Over the years, the Commissariat has had many landlords but, in 1951, the keys were handed to the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa (WCHSO). Now the Historical Society of Ottawa, the WCHSO made the Commissariat the new home of the Bytown Museum, Ottawa’s oldest community museum, in 1917. The Commissariat underwent a major Parks Canada restoration and renovation in the 1980s to help repair damage and to reinforce the building’s structure, as seen by the inclusion of metal braces and additional wooden beams on the third floor. As part of your Digital Doors Open experience, you can explore highlights from their fascinating online collections, take a virtual tour of the facility (don’t forget your VR glasses), explore the site through the lens of UNESCO’s World Heritage List, learn more about the building by watching the video below, and check Instagram for some new videos (1 and 2).

Contact info

1 Canal Lane
Ottawa, Ontario


Year built: 1827
Building type:Historical landmarkMuseum
Architect: The Corps of the Royal Engineers, Thomas McKay
Architectural style:Georgian

Dates/hours open

Jun 01, 10:00am - Jun 01, 04:00pm

Saturday only: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.