Description of Historic Place
Sir Hugh John Macdonald House, also known as Dalnavert, is a majestic 2½-storey Queen Anne Revival-style mansion constructed in 1895 in downtown Winnipeg. Now a carefully restored museum, the exceptional edifice, with its gingerbread detailing, sweeping verandah and pressed red brick elevations, sharply contrasts with the more commonplace architecture of neighbouring tenement and commercial buildings. The site's provincial designation applies to the house and the large lot upon which it sits.
Sir Hugh John Macdonald House is a rare intact example of one of the finest Queen Anne Revival-style buildings in Winnipeg. Its eclectic scheme, as designed by architect Charles H. Wheeler, is a striking composition characterized by steeply pitched roofs, a wraparound verandah encrusted with elaborate gingerbread detailing and exceptional restored interior features. The structure's qualities are in keeping with the status of its original occupants, the family of Sir Hugh John Macdonald, one of Manitoba's most influential citizens of the period. Lawyer, provincial premier in 1900 and police magistrate for Winnipeg, Sir Hugh John was the only surviving son of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Dalnavert is also distinguished by its pioneering role in incorporating innovations of its era, including electric lighting, indoor plumbing, central heating, a telephone and walk-in closets.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minute, January 25, 1986
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Sir Hugh John Macdonald House site include:
- the house's mid-block location on the east side of Carlton Street in downtown Winnipeg on a double lot featuring recreated Victorian-era gardens, wooden boardwalks, open expanses of grass and mature trees
Key elements that define Dalnavert's predominantly Queen Anne Revival style include:
- the picturesque 2½-storey wood-frame structure with an exposed limestone base, pressed red brick veneer, hipped roof, shed-roofed dormers and southwest corner pedimented square tower
- the front verandah wrapping around the west/north sides, painted to complement the red brick and with intricately decorated gingerbread detailing, including turned wood brackets, ball spindles and fretwork woodwork, round-cornered extensions over the entrances and a second-level front balcony
- the variety of openings throughout with protruding limestone/sandstone sills; the main-floor front including tall two-light rectangular windows, transoms and a cut-stone Tudor arch; the second level featuring round-arched windows with cut-stone arches; three small round-arched windows in each dormer, a south-facing box bay window and windows on the south and east sides predominantly rectangular with decorative brick surrounds
- the playful details, including a corbelled brick cornice, bracketed gables and decorative brickwork on the four chimneys, stone belt courses spanning the north and west elevations, dormers with fish-scale detailing, etc.
Key elements that define the house's lavish interior layout, finishes and details as restored to the ca. 1895 period include:
- the formal, asymmetrical plan
- the Victorian-decor parlour with French doors, a Corinthian fireplace, cove moulding, picture rail, a chandelier medallion, gilt-edged ornament niches, oiled fir floors and stained-glass windows
- the dining room with tapestry paper and entirely finished with oak, including the plank floors, ceiling, wainscotting and furniture
- Sir Hugh John's study with a cherry fireplace, leather wallpaper and oiled cedar woodwork
- the elegantly carved and commanding Art Nouveau oak staircase and balustrade, rising to the broad second-floor hallway, with an alcove featuring stained-glass panels, wooden window seat and access to the balcony, and a balustraded arch spanning the ceiling in the centre
- two bedrooms featuring ornate fireplaces with artistic mantels in oak and sycamore, and all with large clothes closets with cedar linings and dressing rooms
- bathrooms with porcelain-lined bathtubs, marble wash basins, tiled floors and walls, etc.
- innovative conveniences of the era, including a `speaking tube', an electric bell box system, etc.
- the details and original furnishings, including elaborate cedar woodwork, wainscotting, custom-made grille work, doors of Michigan red oak or cedar with bevelled plate-glass panels, the Macdonald family's china cabinet, sofa, etc.