A Guide to the Former Home of Sir Hugh John Macdonald

Diving Deep into Dalnavert Museum: A Guide to the Former Home of Sir Hugh John Macdonald

I’m always intrigued by how big-name politicians and historical figures live their personal lives. One such personality is Sir Hugh John Macdonald.

He briefly served as the premier of Manitoba and his house on Carlton Street still stands to this day. In fact, it’s been preserved and is now commonly known as Dalnavert Museum.

Let’s go through this little piece of history and get to know the humble home of a former premier!

Things to Know about Dalnavert Museum and Its History

Website  https://www.friendsofdalnavert.ca/
Location61 Carlton Street, Winnipeg, MB R3C 1N9, Canada
Contact DetailsTelephone: +1 204-943-2835

E-mail address: [email protected]

Opening HoursMonday and Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday to Sunday: 12 PM to 4 PM

Admission Rates

Adults: $10

Seniors and Students: $9

Children: $6

Groups of 10+: $8 per person

Members: Free of charge

Indigenous Peoples: Free of charge

Note on accessibility: The second and third floors of the museum are not wheelchair-accessible due to the nature of its construction.

Quick Facts about Sir Hugh John Macdonald

Quick Facts about Sir Hugh John Macdonald

Sir Hugh John Macdonald is the son of the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was born in Kingston, Ontario, and eventually followed his father’s political footsteps.

He was a Member of Parliament for Winnipeg from March 5, 1891 up to May 4, 1893. Later in 1900, he briefly served as Premier of Manitoba, staying in office from January 10, 1900, until October 29th of only the same year.

Outside public service, Sir Hugh had a law practice and was known to be an introvert. He’d keep to himself in his study and would read and smoke in solitude.

Despite his reputation as a solitary man, he was a member of a few organizations, serving as president of the Manitoba Club of the Armature Hockey Association of Canada.

In 1927, when he was 77 years old, Sir Hugh was diagnosed with erysipelas and had to have his leg amputated.

A couple of years after, his other leg got infected, and refused to have another surgery. He passed away in his sleep on March 29, 1929.

Construction and History of the Macdonald House

In 1983, Sir Hugh tapped renowned architect Charles H. Wheeler, who made the house a quintessential example of Queen Anne Revival architecture.

The construction of this house on a Treaty I land was completed in 1895, just a few years after Sir Hugh’s term as Member of the Parliament for the city.

He lived in Dalnavert with his second wife, Agnes Gertrude VanKoughnet, and children Daisy (from his first marriage to Jean Murray King) and Jack. The family occupied the house until Sir Hugh’s death in 1929.

During the Macdonalds’ time at Dalnavert, they had a cook and a maid, along with a nurse who took care of Lady Agnes after she had strokes leading to long-term complications.

It was believed that Lady Agnes was unable to maintain the house after her husband’s death, so she sold it sometime after. The house was later transformed into a boarding house.

At one point in the late 1960s, Dalnavert was under the ownership of a development company that planned to turn it into a parking lot. This was met with much resistance from the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS) and historical activists.

Ultimately, MHS succeeded and worked with the City of Winnipeg to obtain rights for the restoration of the home. It was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990.

After the museum’s closure in 2013, a cultural movement started and resulted in the creation of a non-profit organization named Friends of Dalnavert Museum Inc.

Friends of Dalnavert soon assumed ownership and reopened Dalnavert as we know it in 2015.

I was actually curious as to why the museum is called Dalnavert and not simply the Macdonald Museum. After some research, the house was apparently named after the birthplace of Sir Hugh’s grandmothers, the hamlet of Dalnavert in Scotland.

Best Time to Go to Dalnavert Museum

The Dalnavert Museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. The best time to visit is during non-peak hours on weekdays. 

These days usually offer a quieter and more leisurely experience, while weekends and holidays might be busier.

Weekdays at Dalnavert usually mean kids on a school trip, but the weekends see a whole lot more tourists visiting the museum.

When I bring my out-of-town friends for a visit, I personally prefer the weekdays just so we can have more space and freedom to explore the museum.

The only downside is that some specialty tours are only conducted on weekends, particularly the Dalnavert on Drugs, which is my personal favorite!

Things to Do/Guided Tours at Dalnavert Museum

Guided Tours

1. General Admission Tour

Rates$6 to $10
Duration45 minutes to 1 hour

This museum is considerably small, so it wouldn’t take longer than an hour to tour its entirety. If you do wish to change the duration, the guides will be happy to accommodate your request.

The general admission tour is exactly what it is: you’ll see every room and get tidbits of its history throughout. I recommend this if you have other places in your itinerary for the day.

2. Behind the Ropes Tour



Note: Only a maximum of 3 people are allowed on this tour.

Duration1.5 hours to 2 hours

If you have more money to spare, this past-the-barrier tour is so worth every dollar! Guided by the museum’s collections registrar, Ines Bonacossa, you’ll get to step inside the rooms and have a more in-depth look at the nooks and crannies of Dalnavert.

The room barriers will be opened just for you, and you’ll also have a peek into cabinets, drawers, and chests to see what the Macdonald family used to keep in their house!

3. Dalnavert on Drugs


$6 to $10

Note: This tour is only open to those aged 16 and above.

Duration45 minutes
Tour Day and HourSunday: 1:30 PM
DisclaimerThis tour contains disturbing facts about history, drug use, addiction, and medical practices.

Now this is a tour that you don’t see often. Friends on Dalnavert is now offering a deeper dive into the history of drug use (and misuse!) in the Victorian era.

In this unique tour, you’ll get to see different types of drugs that were used to treat ailments in the past. You’ll also learn about ridiculous medical practices in history, including the use of opium to treat “hysterical” women.

I will admit that this tour is kind of disturbing, but I request that you keep an open mind. It’s one of a kind and it’ll give you a deeper insight on the not-so-talked-about things of the distant past.

4. Dementia-Friendly Tour

Fee$24 per pair
Duration1.5 hours
Tour Day and HourLast Saturday of every month: 10 AM

In partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, Dalnavert Museum offers dementia-friendly tours. The $24 admission fee covers the patient and their care provider.

The tour, of course, will be longer than usual to make room for any questions from the guests and accommodate their special needs.

5. Spanish Tour


$6 to $10

Note: Only a maximum of 4 visitors are allowed on this tour and only pre-bookings are accepted.

Duration1 hour
Tour Days and HoursFriday and Sunday: 12 PM and 2 PM

To accommodate more visitors, Dalnavert Museum started offering Spanish-language tours helmed by fluent speakers and collections registrar Inés Bonacossa.

6. School Tours

Rates$5 to $10 per student
Tour Days and Hours

Standard hours: Wednesday to Friday during operating hours

Note: Programs scheduled outside the standard operating days and hours are subject to additional fees.

Friends of Dalnavert made it their mission to facilitate programs and exhibits, as well as develop partnerships and programs that will further the knowledge and cultural awareness not only of its visitors but also of fellow Manitobans.

The museum has created programs aligned with Manitoba Social Studies, English Language Arts, and Canadian History curriculums and is now offering tours for students throughout the province and the country.

If you are a teacher interested in this tour, feel free to keep in touch with the museum’s education team.

The programs that are currently available are:

  • Grades 6 to 12: Online Learning Package (English Language Arts) – online
  • Grades K-12: Victorian Winnipeg (Social Studies/Canadian History) – in person
  • Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2: The Five Senses Past & Present (Social Studies/Science) – in person
  • Grades 4 to 8: Old Spaces – New Skills (English Language Arts/Creative Writing) – in person
  • Grades 5 to 6: A House That Divides – 1919 General Strike (Social Studies) – in person
  • Grades 9 to 12: Four Storeys/Four Stories (English Language Arts) – in person

Private Functions

The museum is available to rent for your next fun event!

If you’re looking for a unique wedding venue, a spot to host a bridal shower, or simply a place to party, you can reach out to Friends of Dalnavert and they’ll be happy to transform the premises for your function needs.

Photography Sessions

Being such an iconic piece of Winnipeg’s history, it’s no wonder that Dalnavert has captured the attention of artists throughout the country.

Home to late Victorian and early Edwardian items and furniture, the museum is an ideal backdrop for a vintage-inspired photoshoot. If that’s right up your alley, you can contact the staff for a schedule.

With that being said, there are still limitations in place in order the protect the artifacts inside. Dalnavert is happy to accommodate your photography project but make sure to discuss expectations with a staff before your shoot.