The Kennedy House Gardens in St. Andrews, Manitoba, maintained within the River Road Provincial Park system, make for a nice stop en route to other visitor attractions in St. Andrews north of Winnipeg. River Road runs along the west side of the Red River towards Lockport, and takes travellers along the old settlement road towards several historic and culturally interesting sites, the most significant of which is the National Historic Site, Lower Fort Garry, a few kilometres to the north. While the gardens are not currently in prime condition, they are certainly still worth seeing on a short stop while travelling through the region.
The historic Captain William Kennedy House, built in 1866, is situated in one of several properties that comprise Manitoba’s River Road Provincial Park. The lovely old house is constructed using local stones quarried nearby at what was, before the locks were built, the St. Andrews Rapids. It is one of only seven such stone houses still surviving in the area from this period.
Many houses in the early Manitoba settlements are built along Georgian architectural style, but Kennedy House is described as being in Gothic Revival style (1). Though unadorned and thought to be “simple” in design compared to period homes in that style in eastern Canada, it was, by early Red River Settlement standards, considered a handsome and fashionable abode. Today, the home’s “rock solid” appearance masks the need for care and attention to this 150+ year-old building.
In 2015, Kennedy House was found to be in need of structural repairs and it was closed to the public, forcing closure as well of the popular visitor destination within Kennedy House, the Maple Grove Tea Room. A trip to the Maple Grove Tea Room and a walk about the park’s gardens was a lovely stop for visitors along the historic River Road route. In 2017, with two years gone by, reopening of the house and restaurant remain much hoped for and eagerly awaited. I am among those hoping private and public funds can be committed to upgrade this historic property.
Though the House and Tea Room are closed, the Park’s gardeners or designated helpers have maintained the Kennedy House Gardens to an admirable degree, given what is likely a lower budget than in years when the entire property was open. The annual plantings seemed skimpy on my visit in August 2017 and some of the shade beds needed attention. While the northern and mid-section of the gardens were not in top shape, the lower perennial beds remain lovely and the mid-summer flowers were showing wonderfully well. With thanks to those who tend to the gardens, this destination is still worth stopping to view while en route to Lower Fort Garry or to Lockport for a light lunch and stroll along the banks of the Red River.
During our visit to the Kennedy House Gardens, my husband and I enjoyed walking along the pathways, and pausing for a time in the shade of the elm and spruce trees, as we strolled through the grounds. The perennial collections are impressive and attractive. You will see many familiar, cold climate garden plants in the gardens. After plenty of early summer rain this season, and a hot, clear July, the collecions were looking well established and beautiful.
Kennedy House is a designated provincial historic site, accessed north of the City of Winnipeg perimeter travelling on North Main Street (Highway 9). Google Maps will help the visitor easily locate the scenic property at 417 River Road, Rural Municipality of St. Andrews.
Photographs and Text: Nadine Kampen / cookiebuxton
Photograph location: Captain William Kennedy House Gardens, Manitoba River Road Provincial Park (August 2017)
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