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Historic Bellevue House reopens

Historic Bellevue House reopens

Canada NewsWire

New exhibits and extensive restoration completed at former Sir John A. Macdonald residence.

KINGSTON, ON, May 18, 2024 /CNW/ - Following an extensive renewal of the building and its exhibits and programming, Bellevue House National Historic Site welcomes visitors to explore this historic site that tells broader, more inclusive stories about Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

Today, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, along with Rodrick Daniel Maracle, Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, announced the reopening of Bellevue House at a ceremonial event held in Kingston, Ontario.

The new experience invites visitors to explore Sir John A. Macdonald's role in forming the Dominion of Canada, and his actions as prime minister, and to understand the lasting legacies of the Victorian system that existed in Kingston and in Canada from the 1840s through Confederation.

Parks Canada formed working groups with Indigenous partners, culturally diverse members of Kingston and area communities, historical and conservatory experts, and other collaborators to share stories and develop new exhibit content. As a result, the new presentation of the historic house provides a more inclusive interpretation of the past. Through self-guided or guided tours and special events and programming, visitors are encouraged to engage with stories that reflect the diverse lives lived in the 1800s, including those of Indigenous, racialized, working-class, and upper-class individuals. Themes of wealth and power, incredible achievements and feats of engineering, and personal loss and tragedy, are interwoven with issues such as colonial expansion, racism, misogyny, and exploitation.

Understanding Canada's shared history is an ongoing process, and Bellevue House National Historic Site offers new opportunities for those interested in engaging with the past. Visit Bellevue House National Historic Site this summer to experience history, engage with many voices, reflect on the complex legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald, and join the conversation about Canada's first prime minister.


"Sir John A. Macdonald's legacy is complex, and the new exhibits at Bellevue House National Historic Site explore historical conflicts and controversies from many viewpoints, leading to a greater understanding of Canadian society today. Bellevue House provides a space where people living can learn from a variety of perspectives on Canada's history and share their own stories."

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, 

Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

"The City of Kingston has a long and prominent place in Canada's history. As the first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald is intimately connected to Canada's past, which, like all history, is filled with conflict and struggle, as well as moments of inspiration and achievement. I invite all Canadians to visit Bellevue House and to participate in one of the thought-provoking programs being offered. Exploring many viewpoints of Macdonald can lead to a greater understanding of issues that continue to influence Canadian society today."

Mark Gerretsen, 

Deputy House leader of the government and Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands

"Macdonald did not start residential schools, but under his leadership they expanded. Confederation did not create a country through friendship, peace or mutual respect with the Indigenous Peoples that lived here long before Europeans knew of this continent. Macdonald expanded Canada while his government failed to meet treaty obligations with Indigenous Nations. Macdonald supported oppression of Indigenous Peoples' identity; their language, spirituality, the places they came from were stripped from them. Canadian history books were written to glorify colonialism and European development, devalued how Indigenous Peoples lived in harmony with the land, and did not address the injustices they experienced. The new exhibits at Bellevue House provide a place where truths of Macdonald are able to be fully discussed, and I hope many will choose to visit and learn more."

Rodrick Donald Maracle

Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

Quick Facts
  • In 2024, Bellevue House is open to the public Thursday through Monday from May 18 to June 30; open 7 days a week from July 1 to Sept 2; and open Thursday through Monday from September 3 to October 14.
  • The structural restoration of Bellevue House included the installation of a completely new roof, updating all electrical systems and wiring, repairs to the original plaster ceilings, restoration of the floors, and a refresh of all the walls, panelling, and mouldings.
  • This is the first time since 1967 that exhibits and programming in the house have undergone a complete review and revitalization.
  • Sir John A. Macdonald lived at Bellevue House in 1848-49, when he was at the beginning of his political career as the member for Kingston in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.
  • The historic Bellevue House is an outstanding Canadian example of Italianate architecture in the Picturesque style, situated in an early suburb of Kingston.
  • As part of the Framework for History and Commemoration: National Historic Sites System Plan 2019, Parks Canada is reviewing existing designations and their plaque texts. The HSMBC recognizes that historical interpretations of the past are constantly evolving and that it needs to be attentive and responsive to these shifts.
Associated document

Backgrounder: Bellevue House National Historic Site: Built Heritage Restoration and Visitor Experience Renewal 

Related Links

SOURCE Parks Canada (HQ)

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