By Annabel Berretti
Today Government House serves a variety of functions. Beautifully appointed reception rooms on the first and second floors are used for official government receptions and dinners. Government meetings and conferences are held in remaining second floor rooms and in the Alberta Caucus room.
Since 1975, Government House has hosted various members of royalty and many foreign dignitaries. Queen Elizabeth, the Prince and the Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret have all been honoured guests, as have the Vice-Premier of China, Premier Alexei Kosygin of Russia, and Roméo LeBlanc, [former] Governor General of Canada. The New Year's Day Levee, hosted at Government House by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, has been an annual event open to all Albertans. Government House is also the site of other important government functions involving the Lieutenant Governor, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the Royal Life Saving Awards, and the Alberta Order of Excellence Awards.
The Government House Foundation, established in 1976, advises on the preservation of the house as a historic site and building. Founding board members set out to build an art and library collection to enhance the historical significance and décor of the house. It features artworks created before 1960 that represent Alberta either by subject or by artist. A number of these pieces are on loan from museums and private collections or have been donated. The library collection includes noteworthy works by Alberta and Canadian writers and publishers.
The Foundation has also been active in raising public awareness of Government House. Free public tours of the house are now available on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. In the past, the foundation hosted an annual afternoon garden party to honour volunteers, veterans, and other community service groups. Last year, Government House participated in Christmas at Our House Tours, a highly successful charity fundraising event.
For many years, the Foundation has also attempted to locate Government House artifacts dispersed at public auction in 1942. Many have been provided through the Reserve Collection of the Provincial Museum of Alberta, and others have been obtained by purchase, loan, or donation. Among the most important items reclaimed to date are a large gilt mirror and period settee now in the music room, five original dining room chairs, and a four piece silver tea and coffee service used by Lieutenant Governor John Campbell Bowen and Edith Bowen during the visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in June 1939. Visitors can see the tea and coffee service on display in the second floor reception room. The search continues for the many other beautiful objects relevant to the house and to the history of Alberta.
Annabel Berretti is a member of the Government House Foundation Board.
For information about Government House, write to:
Government House Foundation Board
c/o 12845 102 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5N 0M8
Reprinted with permission of Legacy Magazine and the author.