George Goodwin

1846 – 1915


Born in Ireland, George Goodwin arrived in Canada at the age of four, was educated at the College of Ottawa (now the University), worked in his uncle’s business and became a wealthy contractor building large public works (e.g., bridges, railways, canals, institutional buildings) and a director of the CPR. In 1904, Goodwin won the public tender to build the Victoria Memorial Museum (now the Canadian Nature Museum).


In 1900, Goodwin built one of the grandest homes in Sandy Hill at 312 Laurier Ave. E., kiddy-corner from Laurier House at a cost of $15,000 (about $350,000 in 2017 dollars). Designed by Ottawa architect Edgar Lewis Horwood in the Edwardian classical style, this house originally featured 33 rooms, 12 fireplaces and, in the basement, Ottawa’s first indoor swimming pool. As the description below[1] from Saturday Night’s Ottawa social columnist (writing under the nom de plume “The Chaperone”) shows, it was an ideal place to hold a party:


Wednesday night was the occasion of a large and most admirably arranged dance at the handsome and luxuriously appointed home of Mr. and Mrs. George Goodwin in Laurier avenue which was given for introducing to the gay world Miss Florence Goodwin, the youngest daughter of the household.  Everything possible had been done to contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of the guests, of whom about one hundred and fifty availed themselves of the invitation . … Beautiful roses, carnations and hosts of ‘mums were in every room, and to all the numerous attractions already mentioned was added a most recherché supper, which was served at midnight. Dancing was kept up with vigor until after two o’clock, all agreeing that it was without doubt one of the most enjoyable events that has transpired so far this season.


According to the 1901 census, Goodwin shared the house at the time with two older sisters, his five children and two domestics[2]. The Goodwin family lived here for less than a decade. Starting in the 1920s, the building saw various non-domestic uses, housing in turn a  service club (les Chevaliers de Colomb), a girls’ school, barracks for the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during the Second World War and the Canadian Army Provost Corps (who added six cells in the basement) immediately after the war. More recently, the building served as the headquarters of St John’s Ambulance and is currently the Canadian headquarters of Amnesty International. The building is now designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.


When he died, the Ottawa Journal noted in the purple prose typical of a former era that “the late Mr. Goodwin had many experiences and vicissitudes during his lengthy and active life; and throughout all he preserved that natural goodness of heart, buoyancy of disposition and gentleness of character which cemented to him so many friendships, which will linger behind him, even as the parting rays of the setting sun continue to illuminate its path long after the orb itself has sunk to rest.” (30 November 1915, p 2)

[1] Published 18 November 1905

[2] Goodwin was maried and his wife must have been absent at the time.