Parks Canada is reviewing the Management Plan for Bellevue House National Historic Site

Management plans are important documents that guide the future of national heritage places operated by Parks Canada. The Bellevue House National Historic Site management plan will establish a vision and strategic direction for the site, along with specific objectives for the next ten years.

Parks Canada is inviting Canadians to share their views on the draft management plan. The purpose of these consultation activities is to engage Indigenous peoples, partners, community stakeholders, visitors, neighbours and all Canadians in decision-making for the direction of this national historic site. Please take the time to review this newsletter which includes information on:

  • Bellevue House National Historic Site;
  • Management planning: vision and key strategies;
  • How you can help shape the management plan.

Bellevue House National Historic Site 

Bellevue House is a place to connect with Sir John A. Macdonald’s story and discover his role and achievements, while recognizing the painful legacies of many of his government’s policies and decisions in creating Canada. The site offers a place of learning, debate and reflection in a quiet Kingston neighbourhood, surrounded by trees and close enough to Lake Ontario to feel its fresh breeze. Bellevue House, with its Picturesque architecture, reflects a colonial period and is where Canada’s first Prime Minister once lived. Wandering the historic grounds and garden, the site encourages visitors to contemplate our past and our future by reflecting on challenging themes in a garden oasis.

A little bit of history…
  • The land on which the house is built is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe people.
  • Sir John A. Macdonald lived here for 13 months in 1848-49, 18 years before he would become Canada’s first Prime Minister.  Bellevue House is the only National Historic Site operated by Parks Canada that shares the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald.
In the present day…
  • The site is open to visitors from mid-May to mid-October. It attracts 20 000 visitors annually.
  • Parks Canada is renewing Bellevue House as a place of discovery, learning and reflection related to the foundation of Canada. Current investments in the historic house provide an opportunity to develop new interactive and engaging ways for visitors to learn about Macdonald’s legacy and the consequences of Confederation, including the painful, troubling and controversial aspects of our shared history.
A woman wears a long red dress in the forest.
An older man sits at a desk using a quill.


A New Vision for Bellevue House

In the future, a comprehensive management approach for Bellevue House will be reflected in:

The VISION captures the sense of place and paints an inspiring picture of the desired state of the national historic site in 15 to 20 years.

  • Updated themes and messages about Macdonald’s story, both personal and professional, making Bellevue House a renowned leader in presenting Macdonald’s legacy in an open-minded and inclusive way.
  • Respectful relationships with Indigenous, multicultural and local communities who help expand the story of Confederation.
  • Redesigned visitor infrastructure that supports growing visitation, offers barrier-free access, and is inclusive and welcoming.
  • A variety of meaningful visitor experiences that showcase Macdonald and Canada’s history through new, strong and diverse partnerships.
  • Increased promotion efforts and collaborations which enable Bellevue House to become a key part of the John A. Macdonald experience in Kingston and an active and recognised participant in the local tourism market.
  • A well protected historic place that is preserved to ensure the site remains open for future generations.

What is a Management Plan?
A management plan is a forward-looking document that provides a vision for a national historic site or national park at its future best and the strategies for getting there. The new management plan for Bellevue House National Historic Site will guide decisions and actions in protecting, presenting and operating the site.

Parks Canada’s Mandate
On behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of natural and cultural heritage in Canada, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.

Parks Canada’s Vision
Treasured natural and historic places in Canada will be a living legacy, connecting hearts and minds to a stronger, deeper understanding of the very essence of Canada.

The Key Strategies

The following three key strategies explain how Parks Canada intends to achieve its vision for Bellevue House over the next ten years.

Key Strategy 1
An evolving understanding of Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy
A girl looks at a display with her parents.

Sir John A. Macdonald and his lasting legacy is remembered and evaluated in a range of ways. Some of these impacts benefitted certain groups and others caused lasting harm. Acknowledging and presenting these can be challenging. Through this strategy, Parks Canada commits to leading an open and ongoing dialogue and bringing forward the many perspectives around Canada’s creation and of Macdonald. Parks Canada will also continue to build partnerships to help expand the narrative and to contribute to Bellevue House’s recognition as an inclusive place of reflection, discourse and reconciliation.

What does success look like?

  • Indigenous and multicultural groups are provided opportunities to be engaged in the visitor experience planning and delivery.
  • Bellevue House joins the network of International Sites of Conscience, a network that helps places come to a deeper understanding of the past and inspire action to shape a better future.
  • Broader viewpoints related to Macdonald, Confederation, and the development of Canada are presented, including the rights and roles of women in Macdonald’s time.
Key Strategy 2
An active community partner
A drum circle.

Bellevue House has the potential to become a more active, effective and recognized participant in the Kingston area tourism market. This strategy aims to increase awareness and enhance the site’s presence and leadership in the city’s network of historic places. Increasing the site’s involvement in community events and local initiatives will also open up opportunities for new partnerships and stronger collaboration.

What does success look like?

  • The number of followers doubles on Bellevue House social media channels.
  • A large proportion of visitors consider Bellevue House “meaningful” to them.
  • Multi-year partnering agreements are in place and contribute to the presentation of Bellevue House’s story.
  • Bellevue House is recognised as a leading Kingston heritage attraction.
Key Strategy 3
A renewed heritage experience
The historic house is covered in scaffolding.

This strategy seeks to raise the profile of the experiences offered at Bellevue House by renewing the finishes of the house, modernising the experiences to be more inclusive of all ages and target audiences, and developing new programming content including experiential activities. By renewing and refurbishing the house and pursuing new programming and presentation styles, the site will not only attract more people and repeat visitors, but will show increased visitor satisfaction and appreciation.

What does success look like?

  • Visitors appreciate exciting, new and diverse hands-on experiences.
  • Visitor satisfaction and enjoyment remain stable or increase.
  • Bellevue House overall visitation increases, especially among school groups and families.
  • More than ninety percent of visitors report having “learned something” during their visit.
  • An accessible pathway is created between the Visitor Centre and the house.
  • The house and facilities are in good condition and a long-term maintenance plan is in place.

Join the Conversation!

You have an opportunity to contribute to the future of the national historic site by helping to develop the new management plan for Bellevue House National Historic Site.

Share your views with us about the proposed management approach, vision and key strategies.

staff pose in front of a historic house.


You can share your ideas

By participating in one of four ways:

Share your opinion, comments, or ideas by March 24, 2022.