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Spring 2014
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A new
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Dalnavert


Manitoba
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No. 74


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Dalnavert Museum & Visitors’ Centre

Dalnavert MuseumAfter six months of public input, presentations, and debate, the Manitoba Historical Society has voted to partner with Candace House Incorporated, a registered charity, to provide a new, active life for the heritage property at 61 Carlton Street, Winnipeg, otherwise known as Dalnavert.

Originally the home of Hugh John Macdonald, son of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, Dalnavert has served as a year-round Victorian museum for the last 40 years. Candace House will leave the exterior intact but will convert the interior into a daytime respite and healing centre for victims of major crimes who have business at the courthouse nearby. The MHS will continue to own the contents of Dalnavert and may choose to continue operating the museum in part of the home. The property, including the Visitors’ Centre, will continue to be available to the public for special events.

Negotiations to transfer the site to Candace House begin shortly. Along with the major points listed above, the following details will form part of the agreement:

1. The MHS will have a permanent seat on the board of Candace House.
2. The grounds will be maintained to the standards expected for a national historic site.
3. The property will revert to the MHS should Candace House cease operations.

Dalnavert’s conversion will benefit both heritage and social justice advocates. Candace House needs a home within easy walking distance of the Law Courts building, while the MHS needs a long-term, stable plan for preserving its 119-year-old building. Finding a new, sustainable use for Dalnavert is also a meaningful way to honour the memory of Hugh John Macdonald, who built Dalnavert in 1895. Although Macdonald is best known as a prominent Winnipeg citizen and premier, his longest contribution to the province was as a magistrate, a role one historian says was his “true calling.” Macdonald was known for his “courtesy and compassion,” using his home to provide “shelter and guidance to those in need.” Candace House is an extension of Macdonald’s guiding spirit.

Given that our Society and many supporters have invested time and energy in Dalnavert Museum, the decision to adapt it to another use was emotionally difficult. However, we believe it is the best option for conserving the home’s historic character, and is in keeping with best practices of heritage property management. Despite our best efforts over many years to maintain the museum, declining attendance and revenue have placed a huge financial burden on the MHS, threatening other highly successful projects and the Society as a whole.

Stephanie Meeks, CEO and President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC, said running a house museum is economically unrealistic. “We all know about rising maintenance needs, shrinking municipal budgets, and smaller donor bases.” In partnering with Candace House, the MHS has taken the most prudent, sustainable step to preserving Macdonald’s home.

Page revised: 17 April 2014

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