Government House, the beautiful historic residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, is located at 10 Kennedy Street, on the grounds of the Legislative Building, in downtown Winnipeg.
Built by the Dominion Government in 1883, at a cost of $24,000, the stately three-storey mansion has 23 rooms and 11 bathrooms. The official residence was described by the Provincial Architects as “Victorian architecture with French influence from the Second Napoleonic Empire with the flat steep-sided Mansard roof”. It is approximately 20,000 square feet in size, including the flag tower, greenhouse and attached garage.
In 1885, ownership was officially transferred for $1 from the Government of Canada to the Government of Manitoba, stipulating that it was to be used as a “residence for the Lieutenant Governor”. The words “and for no other purpose” were written in Sir John A. Macdonald’s own hand on the Order-in-Council, which is stored in the Provincial Archives.
Over the years, Government House has undergone a number of changes. Rooms designated for one purpose came to serve others. There were several additions to the residence, and some were later torn down and replaced by other additions.
Inside the front entrance, on the left, is the Aides Room where visitors sign the guest book. It is also known as the Manitoba Room.
To the right of the entrance hallway are three Salons which were originally divided by folding doors with the central room opening into the front hall.
A Ballroom was added in 1901 for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). This was pulled down and the present Ballroom (or Assembly Room) erected in 1960.
The State Dining Room originally known as the Palm Room – was added in 1908 and boasts 8 1/2 inch marble baseboards and an abundance of natural light. The Chippendale table and chairs from England are circa 1770, and were painstakingly restored to their original condition in the early 1970’s.
The present Kitchen and Serving Wing were added in 1946, replacing the original basement kitchen and dumbwaiter system of bringing up food.
The Stables were demolished and a Garage built in 1926, replaced by the current three-car garage in the early 1960s.
The Sunroom was added in 1963.
In the beginning, the House was heated only by fireplaces, with the addition of stoves placed in front of some. The steam heating system was installed in the house’s early years, well before 1900, and has since been upgraded. Lighting was the latest thing — gas. The house even had a telephone in 1883, at the yearly rate of $26.70.
Of the original six plaster ceiling rosettes, only two remain — in the entrance hall and in the Manitoba Room; also the ornamental moulding in the archways. Both main and service staircases were built in opposite directions from that shown on the original plans.
Furnishings, for the most part, are Victorian — dating from Early Victorian from approximately 1840-60, to late Victorian from 1880 to the turn of the century. Many of the accessories are more contemporary, but mingle happily with the old.
One of the few remaining examples of Second Empire architecture in Manitoba, Government House has housed 22 of the province’s 25 Lieutenant Governors and has served as a constant reminder of this province’s political evolution to responsible government and as a symbol of the nation’s constitutional heritage. It is the fourth oldest Lieutenant Governor’s residence in Canada and remains an important landmark in Winnipeg.