To unify a large country such as Canada, the railway was a paramount endeavor that enabled communication from coast to coast. The Canadian Northern Railway, incorporated in 1899, grew into a 16,093 km transcontinental railway system that eventually became known as the Canadian National Railway. The other railway company was the Canadian Pacific Railway, incorporated in 1881. Under the stewardship of William C. Van Horne, construction through the Rockies and across the Canadian Shield was completed and the line became operational in 1885. The Canadian Pacific Railway greatly spurred the tourist industry, and the international development of hotels, steamships and airlines. An impressive series of mountain hotels were built linking various Canadian cities and showcasing new architecture.
Historically, Canadian architecture developed from European traditions, first through the French settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries, the British in the 19th century, and more recently through the conveying of American and international examples. The images represented in the Building Canada site showcase some of the influences beginning with examples of religious architecture dating from the French regime, and military architecture from the British period, to recent works by Canadian-trained architects. Throughout the collection, images of houses, churches, and commercial buildings highlight the use of traditional and innovative building techniques in what is today known as Canadian architecture.
With a strong emphasis on vernacular or people's architecture, the images of Building Canada include structures from coast to coast and outline the various regional trends in the nation's architecture. In addition, Building Canada also highlights the work of some of Canada's more notable architects including John Ostell, François Baillargé, Percy Nobbs, Ernest Cormier, Bruce Price, Edward and William S. Maxwell, Ron Thom, Arthur Erickson, Moshe Safdie, and Douglas Cardinal, to name only a few.