Originally named The Maples, Kennedy House was constructed in 1866 by Captain William Kennedy using stone quarried from the banks of the Red River near what was then the St. Andrews Rapids. It is a provincially designated historic site, recognized by the Historic Sites Advisory Board of Manitoba and among the most significant historic structures in Canada. Built at the height of the Red River Settlement, the Gothic Revival structure is architecturally distinctive from the Georgian influenced stone houses of the time.
Captain Kennedy was highly esteemed in St. Andrews and Manitoba and recognized throughout the British Empire for his bravery and his accomplishments. His efforts to recover the Franklin Expedition are legendary. He was matched in courage by his wife Eleanor Eliza who supported her husband through his years as a missionary, an author and an honest and moral businessman. The couple played instrumental roles in Manitoba’s becoming the fifth province of Canada and in the intellectual and economic development of the province post-Confederation.
The property was purchased by the Province in 1980 and restored. For many years, it was operated independently as a popular and profitable tea house with several rooms furnished with period items. Many thousands of tourists visited the Red River North Region drawn here by the Maple Grove Tea Room and gardens. The loss of this attraction is still acutely felt and illuminates the potential of the site as an economic resource and a feature destination.
Since its sudden closure by the Province in 2015, the building has remained unoccupied, awaiting maintenance. A committee of local citizens is working on ways to preserve and re-open the Kennedy House and to lay the groundwork for a workable management agreement or, possibly in future, a transfer of ownership.
They are hoping that Manitoba’s 150th Anniversary will offer an opportunity to negotiate an operating agreement which profits the RM, the community of St. Andrews, and the public of Manitoba.
The model and plan
The KHRC recommends that St. Andrews assume management of Kennedy House as a heritage site. A local management model was introduced at the St. Andrews Rectory and is extremely successful. Through the leadership of the Municipality and diligent work by volunteers of the St. Andrews Heritage Centre, the partnership established with Parks Canada has resulted in almost a decade of original local programming, numerous public events and concerts, and youth employment at this wonderful heritage site. It is intended that a similar management model be established for the renewed operation of Kennedy House.
The self-selected committee of ardent citizens was formed to guide the revival process. This committee currently includes members of the Métis community, supporters of heritage and regional tourism, financial and construction expertise, and even the perspectives of someone living in a heritage home of the same period.
The agreement between the Municipality and Parks Canada regarding the St. Andrews Rectory provides that the Federal owner maintains the historical integrity of the building and effects repairs, while the local volunteer committee operates and programs the site on behalf of the RM of St. Andrews. This Committee could pursue a similar agreement with the Province for the Kennedy House property.
The Committee further envisions a comprehensive plan encompassing the parks along River Road, establishing it as a heritage corridor and a destination for heritage tourists for years to come. Once an agreement with the Province and the Municipality has been struck, a volunteer management board would be established. This Board would then be charged with operational responsibility for the site, including all decisions regarding use of the property, staffing, programming, revenue and expense.
Kennedy House was the dwelling of one of the foremost and famous Métis families in Manitoba, and indeed, Canadian history. In this year of Manitoba’s 150th anniversary as a province, it is fitting that the future of this historic treasure be secured. The stories that the Kennedy House can tell are not limited to this one family, but include those of the neighbours, friends, and visitors who paid their respects during the first years of Manitoba as a province.
Kennedy House deserves sound stewardship and good management. The KHR Committee believes that local control will provide not only access to the house but to our precious history.
3 thoughts on “Local committee has plans to save the historic Kennedy House”
I wish to find out more about support for Kennedy House. Please provide me with information to connect with the Committee.
We happened upon this treasure the other day. Please provide me with more information about how I can be involved in or help in some way in its restoration.
I’d love to become involved! Captain Kennedy was my great uncle 🙂
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