Bellevue House renewal

Bellevue House National Historic Site

Old look, new feel

The historic Bellevue House was closed from 2018-2024 for an extensive restoration and renewal. All the exhibits and programming within the house have been completely updated.

Bellevue House is a symbol of the Victorian period. Built at the beginning of the 1840s it is set among other grand homes in what was an emerging suburb that was a popular area for Kingston’s wealthy and political elite who wished to escape the crowded city centre.

Two visitors look at a display with a brightly coloured skirt.

For decades, historians, political experts, and the public have discussed Sir John A. Macdonald’s life and career. Visitors today will hear from many voices that speak about Macdonald’s influence on Canada. No single perspective tells the whole truth, but together, the conversations illuminate a complicated history.

The main floor immerses visitors into life in Kingston in the 1840s with a focus on Macdonald, his family, and the connections of home, status, and privilege in Victorian society. As visitors transition to the upper levels, they leave those comforts behind. The focus shifts to Sir John A. Macdonald’s place in Canada’s colonial history.

At different points during Macdonald’s time in politics, there were distinct norms and rules for who could take part in political decision-making. Some communities, including Indigenous Peoples, women, and racialized Canadians, struggled for an equal voice. Colonial values embedded in many laws and political practices have negatively impacted generations. As the leader of his party and the country, Macdonald wrote and endorsed many regulations, acts, and policies that continue to impact communities across Canada to this day.  As part of the experience, visitors are invited to engage with objects, recordings, oral histories, written documents, and photographs from Macdonald’s life.

A women and girl write on a piece of paper at on an exhibit.

The stories being presented at Bellevue House are as much about personal identity as they are about national identity. Canada is difficult to define—it cannot be summarized by a single moment, culture, or person. A constantly evolving place, even before it became a country in 1867, Canada is as Macdonald has been remembered, constantly changing over time. 

Through experiences at Bellevue House, visitors engage with different viewpoints on history. They are also invited to participate and share thoughts, becoming part of a larger discussion about Canadian history.

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