This historic Kingston home was once
home to Canada's first Prime Minister
Bellevue House is a historic home in Kingston Ontario located in a nice older residential area of the city next to the grounds of Queen's University.
While originally constructed by wealthy merchant Charles Hales in 1840 it is usually associated with Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, who resided in the house with his family for 13 months in 1848 and 1849. It is primarily for this reason that Bellevue House was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995.
The unusual looking house sits on 3.6 hectares (9 acres) of well-manicured grounds and has been restored to the period of MacDonald's occupation. It represents the lifestyle of a moderately wealthy middle class family from the period and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kingston.
Location of Bellevue House
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Getting to Bellevue House:
By Kingston Public Transit:
- Navigate Highway #401 either East or West depending upon your starting point
- Exit at Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard and head south
- Turn left on Union Street West
- Turn right on Centre Street
- Arrive at 35 Centre Street
Bellevue House is located right in downtown Kingston near the waterfront. Its exact address is 35 Centre Street. If you are staying in downtown Kingston it is a short and relatively inexpensive taxi ride.
If you with to take public transport while in Kingston there are three bus routes that pass by this National Historic Site of Canada:
- Line #2 - the Divison/Calvin Park route
- Line #6 - the Cataraqui Town Centre route
- Line #3 - the Kingscourt/Polson Park route
When Hales decided to build his grand house he chose a location 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) from the then town of Kingston known as the "Western Liberties". It was an up and coming neighborhood that saw many large homes built on sizeable plots of land over a period of 30 years with many still surviving today.
Hales however choose to deviate from the traditional Georgian style homes being built elsewhere and decided to build a unique house of "Italianate" architecture.
The resulting 3-storey home was something the conservative community had never seen before and it was chastised and criticized and given nicknames reflective of Hales merchant background including:
- Tea Caddy Castle
- Pekoe Pagoda
- Molasses Hall
- Muscovado Cottage
When constructed it was unique not only in the town, but also in the province and for that matter the whole country. What deviated it from the norm was its unusually asymmetrical construction. It had:
- An "L" shaped form
- Decorative verandahs
- A 3-storey central tower
- A variety of window sizes and shapes
- A variety of roof types
- Massed chimneys
- Thick limestone walls covered in stucco
- Decorative eave fringes
It was the centerpiece of meticulously maintained landscaped grounds with large beautiful gardens and wonderful views of Lake Ontario.
In 1848 Macdonald was a lawyer and up and coming politician in the Province of Canada. While not wealthy by any means he decided to move his family, which included his wife Isabella and infant son John Alexander Jr., to Bellevue House from downtown Kingston due to concerns about his frail wife's health. He thought the quietness of the beautiful location would help in her recovery.
After a short 13 months Isabella's health remained fragile, their infant son had died, and Macdonald realized he was living way above his means so he decided to move back into a smaller abode in downtown Kingston.
His brief stay did have a profound affect on Bellevue House however for it has forever remained associated with him and both the house and grounds are maintained in the same state as to when the Macdonald's lived there.
Inside Bellevue House you will find:
- Drawing Room with an 1820 parlour piano
- Formal Dining Room
- Morning Room (now displayed as Isabella's bedroom)
- Large Kitchen
- Storage Room
- Laundry Room
- Guest Room
- Maid's Room
- Dressing Room
- Master Bedroom
- Located in the central tower one gets commanding views over Lake Ontario
Outside of the house the original coach house has been transformed into a Visitor's Centre with displays of Sir John A Macdonald artifacts and a gift shop.
The grounds are maintained as they were in the 1840's with the lawns even being scythed by hand instead of mowed. The gardens are planted in blocks instead of rows as was customary of the times.
With original furnishings and guides dressed in period pieces visitors will feel they have stepped back in time and can actually get a glimpse as to what life was like in the 1840's. Well worth a visit when in the Kingston Ontario area it shouldn't take more than an hour or two of your time to get a thorough tour that will be enjoyed by all members of the family no matter what their age.
For more information visit as to operating hours and entrance fees visit:
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