In the early 1900s, Rockcliffe Park Village was a rural area that attracted the elite in nearby Ottawa. Many large “country” houses were built in Rockcliffe after the area was connected to Ottawa by streetcar in 1891. Stornoway, named after a town on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, was one of these houses.
Stornoway was built in 1913 by Ascanio Joseph Major, who controlled one of the largest wholesaling grocery enterprises in eastern Canada. He hired Allan Keefer, a noted architect of the day, to prepare the design. In 1923, the Perley-Robertsons, another distinguished local family, bought the house and enlarged it over the next few years.
Following the invasion of the Netherlands by German armies on May 10, 1940, the Dutch royal family went into exile. Princess Juliana, the heir to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, was sent with her husband and children to the safety of Canada.
The royal exiles lived first at Rideau Hall and then in a small, overcrowded house in Rockcliffe. In 1941, Mrs. Perley-Robertson came to the rescue, and offered Princess Juliana the loan of Stornoway. The princess and her family and friends moved in during the summer of 1941. It was to Stornoway that Princess Juliana brought home her third child in 1943.
Since 1950, Stornoway has housed a series of leaders of the Opposition (the leader of the party that holds the second-largest number of seats in Parliament). The house belongs to the Government of Canada today but, for many years, was owned and managed by a private trust.
In 1946, Senator Gratan O’Leary launched a campaign to find a home for the leader of the Opposition. He raised funds among friends and associates in Ottawa, set up a trust fund, and began to shop for a suitable property. The Perley-Robertsons offered Stornoway to the trust at a discount price of $55,000.
Conservative leader George Drew (former premier of Ontario) and his wife were the first residents (1950–1956), followed in 1958 by Lester and Marion Pearson. Since then, Stornoway has been home to a succession of political families — the Diefenbakers, the Stanfields, the Clarks and many others — continuing to this day.
Since 1970, Stornoway has been owned by the Government of Canada. Few major alterations have been made to the residence since that time. The house has been managed by the NCC since 1986.
The residence is not open to the public.