Mayor eyes former U.S embassy for Canadian ‘Smithsonian’

A “treasure chest” of Canadian accomplishments nestled in the heart of the capital could be our answer to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

And the former U.S. embassy built in 1931, now sitting vacant across from Parliament Hill, is the perfect place to house it.

That’s the vision of Mayor Jim Watson, who came up with the idea with former National Capital Commission chair and local Member of Parliament Jean Pigott almost 20 years ago.

“It’s similar to what the Smithsonian Institute does in Washington. It boasts about American accomplishments and achievements,” said Watson, who made the pitch Tuesday to Parliament’s standing committee on Canadian heritage.

Dubbed Canada House, Watson calls the location a prime piece of real estate.

“It would be a shame if that building was turned into just another office building,” he said.

Plans to turn the building into a portrait gallery were nixed by the feds in 2006; however, the Public Works department is looking at new options.

Watson’s early list of items to showcase include a replica of the Canadarm, Bryan Adams’ first guitar, Sydney Crosby’s game-winning stick from the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Celine Dion’s first gold record, Terry Fox’s T-shirt, and Bombardier’s first snowmobile.

Watson is targeting private sector investments, “similar to what they do at the Smithsonian, where there’s private endowments and foundations and companies that want to be associated with a positive project like this,” said Watson.

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