Updated programming at Bellevue House offers new voices, stories on Sir John A

Tour guides and interpreters welcome you in at Bellevue House National Historic Site, ready to offer a new, more well-rounded account of the home and those who lived in it, as Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald, did from 1848 to 1849. Photo by Rylie Snider/Kingstonist.

Bellevue House has reopened its doors for the 2024 season, and is now offering new tour opportunities for visitors to make their own interpretations of Canada’s first prime minister.

The house and its tours now offer more interactive demonstrations and activities. The tour allows guests to unpack the history of the house, with many original artifacts inside, as well as the people who lived in it. The tour itself also makes sure to differentiate between glorification and information, allowing visitors to state their own opinions and thoughts of Sir John A. Macdonald, as well as hear the thoughts of other people. The historical narratives have shifted slightly in the new tours, bringing together many voices to tell the story of the past – it is a conversation of not just one voice, but a collection of voices.

The house itself tells many stories, too; the beautiful architecture was inspired by Italian villas with the interior meant to portray the luxury of the times. Each room in the house provides information about it and the people who may have used it, also including activities for people to participate in as they move from room to room. The rooms also now display new exhibits offering a visual representation of how different lives would have been for different classes in the 1800s.

Visitors are asked to be interactive and ask questions as often as they can. With the new tours, it is easy to allow people to make their own opinions, as opposed to pushing older ways of thinking onto new generations. The tours are available and recommended to school groups, as they allow students to learn in an interactive and creative setting with their peers. The tour guides help provide different types of information and will try to answer any questions visitors may have throughout the tour – all while exploring the circa 1840 house.

The visitor’s centre now also showcases a beautiful piece of artwork displayed on the walls of the entrance. The piece was done by Chris Mitchell, and depicts the Mi’kmaq creator and leader, Glooscap, leading the community in song beneath a rainbow. The artwork represents people living in harmony and is designed to show peace, coming together, and new beginnings.

There are two tour types offered at the site. The brief 20- to 30-minute tour is offered daily at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 2:30, and 3:30 p.m. The new “Unpacking Macdonald” tours take place at 1 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons. More information can be found on Parks Canada’s Bellevue House National Historic Site webpage.

Bellevue House, built circa 1840, as it stands in 2024. Photo by Rylie Snider/Kingstonist.

Rylie Snider is the inaugural member of the Kingstonist NextGen team, dedicated to fostering the passion and knowledge of local youth writers and reporters while highlighting the vibrant sports, arts, and social scenes of the younger generations in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.
A Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School student, Snider is dedicated to keeping people updated on everything going on in our schools, and her coverage focuses on everything, from local sports and theatre, to fundraising events and opportunities for students in the area.
For more information on the Kingstonist NextGen team, email Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

2 thoughts on “Updated programming at Bellevue House offers new voices, stories on Sir John A

  • A must do for everyone in Kingston- and across the country really. Come to Kingston! We are not afraid to learn new information about ourselves and the people who came before us.

  • This is the way all history should to told, from more than one side. Not try to hide it away or remove the statue. Giving different points of view to make you think about it. I hope they have great success.

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