Doors Open Ottawa – a Cruise thru the Inside of the US Embassy

When I saw on twitter there was the chance to visit the inside of the new US Embassy, I jumped at the invite. My family snagged 4 out of the 1000 invites extended to see the inside.  The tour was part of the Doors Open Ottawa weekend.  (For more info on the 100+ buildings around Ottawa that are participating in Doors Open – many again tomorrow –  see

After pre-registering online, we were emailed an invite to bring along. We showed up at the designated time, with photo id’s in hand. (DD11 and DD5 only have passports, so that worked very well to visit the embassy.)

David Childs served as architect on this building that was opened in November 1999. This same architect designed the US Embassy in Bejing, and is working on the new building at the site of the former twin towers in New York City.

What I hadn’t realized before taking the tour was that each exterior side  of the embassy matches (and harmonizes with the existing architecture of) the city area it faces. The side facing the Byward Market is different from the side facing Major’s Hill Park and the Parliament, as are the sides facing the Peacekeeping Monument and the York steps.

No electronics, cameras, phones, etc. were allowed inside, so I couldn’t take any photos to show just how beautiful the interior of the building is.  The images I have inserted here were found on Google. But you can see just how the hallways truly resemble a cruise ship, with the wood railings and open air center. (Talk about making the most out of a former parking lot!) This “ship of state” certainly won the heart of this travel agent – particularly with the Canadian maple and steel everywhere. The space is flooded with natural light, and must just be a wonderful environment to work in. (DD11 asked what she’d have to study in university to get a job there. Most employees had studied international trade or politics.)

Inside the building, the atrium is just gorgeous.  The ceiling tiles reflect the blue diamond shapes that are overlaid on  silver. The compass flooring shown here is also lovely. Apparently, their annual Christmas tree is nearly 3 floors tall, and one could imagine how majestic it would be in that space. 

We were also extremely fortunate to meet Ambassador David Jacobson, and visit his office. He has an exquisite view of Parliament Hill. But we got a chuckle out of his White House model (not sure if it really was stocked with the cigars he said were in there…) A military baseball hat that had “Tim Horton’s” emblazoned on it caught my eye. And one lady on the tour asked about the hockey puck on the ambassador’s desk, and was pleasantly surprised when he gave it to her as a souvenir.

DD5 was thrilled to get an extra pack of commemorative US Embassy M&M’s as we were leaving (not too many 5 year olds traipse through, I guess), but DD11 was a little miffed she was deemed too old for special kiddie treatment. (She really likes M&M’s, and wanted to eat one pack, but save another. Mom obliged by quickly handing over hers!) 

We were all quite excited about getting to tour the inside of the US Embassy. Besides the 9/11 memorial inside, the sight that pulled on the heartstrings most was the John F. Kennedy quote in the atrium. I’m sure you’ll agree it is quite fitting.

“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.”