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Running roughly parallel to the Ottawa River, Sussex Drive begins at Rideau Street at the north end of Colonel By Drive, running north and then bending northeast until MacKay Street, where it becomes the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway.
Sussex is a particularly famous street in the capital, as it is home to the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive and home to the Governor General's residence at Rideau Hall at 1 Sussex Drive. Also located on Sussex are Ottawa's former city hall on Green Island, which includes Earnscliffe, and a number of prominent embassies such as those of France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Other landmarks along Sussex are Major's Hill Park, the National Gallery of Canada, the Former Geological Survey of Canada Building, the Royal Canadian Mint, Rideau Falls Park, the Peacekeeping Monument, the National Laboratories, the Connaught Building, the John G. Diefenbaker Building, the Lester B. Pearson Building which is home to Foreign Affairs Canada, and the Archives of the Dominion Building, which is home to the Global Centre for Pluralism, and 700 Sussex Drive, a residential condo and retail complex. The most significant recent addition to Sussex Drive, having been opened on December 6, 2008, is the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, a representative building for His Highness the Aga Khan.
Sussex was originally three different streets. The section in the Byward Market was originally named Metcalfe Street, and the portion east of the Rideau River was known as Ottawa Street. The centre portion, named for Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, was then known as Sussex Street. Sussex Street was renamed Sussex Drive in 1967.
In the 1960s the National Capital Commission launched a beautification campaign through the market section of the street. Beginning in 1961, the privately held buildings were purchased by the government and restored to their original appearances. The governments of Canada and the United Kingdom and the CANLOAN Army Officers Association erected a memorial on 3 June 1961 on the east side of Sussex Drive in Ottawa, Ontario dedicated to the memory of the 128 CANLOAN fatalities within the 673 that served in the British Army during the Second World War.
Through the Byward Market area, Sussex is a northbound one-way arterial road (paired with Mackenzie Avenue), before joining up at the Alexandra Bridge approach where it becomes a four-lane principal arterial road, with a speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph) south of the bend and 60 km/h (37 mph) north and east of the bend. Just before becoming the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway, Sussex narrows to a two-lane rural-standard parkway.