Bellevue House National Historic Site
Want to visit Bellevue House National Historic site, but can’t come to us?
We have just the thing for you! We have just released our Virtual Tour of Bellevue House. This tour will let you move around the Bellevue House in your browser with the click of a button, at any speed you want. Take your time to go through the rooms, and stop to read the points of interest all over the house!
- Entrance Hall The front hall forms the base of the building’s central tower with doors leading to the rest of the house. High ceilings, wall niches and the grand doorway are meant to impress visitors.
- 1) Drawing Room A public room for entertaining guests. Lavishly furnished, it displayed the wealth of the occupants.
- 2) Parlour For entertaining smaller parties, the parlour could be separated from the drawing room by sliding pocket doors. The French doors offer direct access to the pleasure grounds behind the house.
- 3) Dining Room In a typical Victorian house of this size the dining room would be a vibrant and exciting place for hosting dinner parties. Isabella’s ill health often confined her to her bedroom, making it unlikely that the Macdonalds entertained very often at Bellevue House.
- 4) Isabella’s Room This first-floor room would originally have served as a sitting room, or small library. Isabella’s illness prompted its conversion into a bedroom. The wallpaper in this room is a reproduction based on original wallpaper found during restorations in 1966.
Second Floor (Maid’s Landing) and Third Floor:
- 5) Maid’s Room The Macdonalds had up to three live-in female domestic servants at Bellevue House - a general purpose “maid of all work,” a kitchen maid for cooking, and a nursery maid to care for the Macdonalds’ infant son and the ailing Isabella.
- 6) Nursery The nursery was home to the Macdonalds’ young son John Alexander Jr. and a nurse maid. Also present in this room is a cradle belonging to the Macdonald family.
- 7) Guest Room One of the largest rooms in the house. Bright and spacious with a private balcony, the room is designed to impress. Challenging travel conditions often led guests to stay for extended periods. Isabella’s brother John Clark once stayed for almost 3 weeks.
- 8) Study A quiet refuge. Some of the items in this room belonged to Sir John A. Macdonald from various periods in his life including a chair, wooden chest, and some of the books, including the French to Latin dictionaries, several volumes of the Waverley Novels, and a Kingston Directory from 1857.
- 9) Dressing Room A room for selecting and donning attire, the dressing room also served as the family’s bathing room. Submersion baths were usually a weekly event, and could take place in the “slipper bath” in the centre of the room.
- 10) Master Bedroom Large south-facing windows that overlook the kitchen garden, and Lake Ontario make for a very bright, pleasant vista. Every bedroom in Bellevue house has a chamber pot, due to the absence of internal plumbing. The chamber pot in this room is highly ornate, and difficult to spot.
Sub-First Floor & Cellar
- 11) Larder The Larder was used for the storage of dry goods like flour. Less ornate than other areas of the house, the larder was purely functional like the other basement spaces.
- 12) Kitchen The domain of the domestic servants, the kitchen is another functional space. The modest table setting here is for the servants only while the family would dine in the more elaborate dining room. Cooking at Bellevue House was performed over an open hearth and all water would be brought from the pump near the garden.
- 13) Cellar Primarily for food storage and household chores, preserved fruits and vegetables are arrayed on shelves for winter, and there is a meat locker for hanging salted meat wrapped in plaster. On the table are the tools for making candles and repairing boots.
- 14) Laundry Room Victorian fashion often featured multiple layers of underclothes. Maids would wear multiple petticoats under their dresses and ladies even more. Clothing was typically washed in a tub with a washboard and then hung up to dry on Monday each week.
Items of National Cultural Significance (formerly referred to as Level 1 Artifacts):
Located in the nursery:
Cradle: The swinging gothic style cradle made of mahogany and red felt was John Alexander Jr’s. The cradle is thought to have been brought from Glasgow, Scotland when the Macdonald family emigrated in 1820. John A. Macdonald himself may have slept in it as an infant.
Located in the study:
Waverley Novels: Several volumes of the Abbotsford edition of the Waverley Novels, marked on the inside cover as belonging to the library of John A. Macdonald. Waverley was a highly popular novel in the early 19th century, and became part of a very successful series. The author, initially shrouded in mystery, was eventually revealed to be Sir Walter Scott.
Kingston Directory: A listing by address of the landed inhabitants and businesses of Kingston circa 1857, similar to a modern phone book. The directory estimates the population of Kingston and the suburbs to be 15,000 – 16,000 but lists households, rather than individuals.
Chair: This Windsor style revolving desk chair was sold by Macdonald in 1880, having previously been used by him while practicing law in his early years in Kingston.
Chest of papers: During Macdonald’s 19 years as Prime Minister of Canada he would have reviewed and signed countless documents. This trunk was the 1800’s version of a banker’s box and stored documents specific to a time period and category.
French-Latin Dictionaries: French-English dictionaries existed while Macdonald was Prime Minister, but were focused on conversation not legal language. As a lawyer, Macdonald would have spoken Latin, these dictionaries allowed for specific word translation from French to English, or vice versa, through a 3rd language – Latin.
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