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Bellevue House National Historic Site of Canada


A Visit to the Past

Bellevue House was built in the early 1840s for Charles Hales, a successful Kingston grocer. Asymmetrical in shape, with decorative balconies and a three-storey central tower, Bellevue contrasted with the traditional Georgian architecture of Kingston houses. Macdonald spoke of it as "the most fantastic concern imaginable." Other Kingstonians, inspired by Hales' occupation, nicknamed it "Tea Caddy Castle", "Molasses Hall", and "Pekoe Pagoda." Macdonald rented the house, motivated by the chronic ill-health of his wife, Isabella. He wrote of the "...complete quiet and seclusion of the house, which is completely surrounded by trees and has a fresh breeze ever blowing on it from Lake Ontario..." that, he hoped, would bring about an improvement in her condition. But their stay was brief. Isabella's health continued to be precarious. Macdonald himself was increasingly troubled by financial concerns. In September 1849, the couple moved again to smaller quarters in downtown Kingston.

Sir John A. Macdonald

Sir John A. Macdonld: The Man

When they married in 1843, Macdonald and Isabella shared their house with Macdonald's family. And that is where she returned in 1848. It was, however, located in downtown Kingston, not the best place for someone in Isabella's state of health. Macdonald decided to find somewhere else for Isabella to live, where it was quiet and away from the dirt and noise of downtown. The place he chose was Bellevue House. Learn more...

Sir John A. Macdonld: The Politician

When Macdonald became a member in 1844, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada was a chaotic mix of political groups. In Canada West, there were three identifiable groups: conservative members of the Family Compact, newer, moderate conservatives like Macdonald, and reformers. In Canada East, there were the radical Rouges and the conservative Bleus. Learn more...

Bellevue House

Bellevue House's Architecture

Early in the 1840s, a prosperous merchant built Bellevue House on a nine acre lot in the Township of Kingston. The lot was located about one mile to the west of the town of Kingston in an area known as the "Western Liberties". This suburb was a desirable residential area: between 1830 and 1860 more than thirty large houses, or villas as they were called, each on an extensive plot of land, were constructed in the area. Learn more...

Gardens at Bellevue House

The extensive grounds at Bellevue House were an important consideration in John A. Macdonald's decision to rent this property. He wrote of the "...complete and quiet seclusion of the house, which is completely surrounded with trees and has a fresh breeze ever blowing on it from Lake Ontario..." The grounds of Bellevue House today are much as they were when the Macdonald's lived here almost 150 years ago. Learn more...