Manitoba

Kennedy House tea room faces 2.5 year closure: province

A popular summer destination north of Winnipeg has spent the summer closed and won’t open again anytime soon.

Captain Kennedy House needs $1 million in repairs before it can reopen to visitors, province says

Captain Kennedy House, a privately-run tea room in St. Andrews, was closed by the province in April after engineers found the 150-year-old historic building had structural problems. (Courtesy Rob Sarginson)

A popular summer destination north of Winnipeg has spent the summer closed and won't open again anytime soon.

Captain Kennedy House, a privately-run tea room in St. Andrews, was closed by the province in April after engineers found the 150-year-old historic building had structural problems.

The tea room is in a provincial park, so the province is responsible for the upkeep of the building.

Rob Sarginson, runs Red River North Regional Heritage Group, and says the tea room is steeped in Manitoba history and its closure is hurting local tourism.

"We were all appalled that this was happening because it does have an impact on local tourism. It's a draw along River Road," said Sarginson. "We also felt for Val Brown because it was her business. She's built it up over a period of years, and it's well known ... It's the only business that's in that section of River Road. It's so distinguished and elegant."

Provincial officials say they do plan to fix Kennedy House, but it could take 2 ½ years and up to $1 million.

"The building is failing and will require significant investment to get it back to standard," said Conservation minister Tom Nevakshonoff. "This is a very old structure built over a hundred years ago, and it's not an easy thing to do."

The building was built in the 1860s by Captain William Kennedy. He was an arctic explorer who played a significant role in The Riel Rebellion. He was considered a major player in calming the tensions in the area. Later, he was stricken by arthritis, and his wife, Eleanor, eventually opened a dress shop in the spot.

A tea room was opened in the 1970s by church volunteers, and 12 years ago, Brown opened a tea room with an adjoining museum portion.

Since the tea room closed, there's been a dip in visits to the area, according to Sarginson.

"The tea room was a big draw. People would go for a drive. They'd stop for tea, and say, 'What a beautiful area,'" said Sarginson.

Jennifer Lukovich and her family were regular visitors to the tea room before it closed. They visited every summer for years.

"It's disconcerting given the fact that it's a provincial heritage building, and it's an asset that the province should be celebrating and promoting," said Lukovich. "When people visit a destination they like to experience the history of a place, and that's a perfect example that provides a sense of the province's history. It should be a priority for the province to maintain and restore it as quickly as possible with these heritage buildings."

Nevakshonoff said the province is facing massive demands on its treasury from the effects of floods and massive infrastructure projects and the emphasis shouldn't be on how long the project will take to be repaired.

"What's important is the government has committed to going ahead with the project … People should be happy with this decision," he said. "It's very important preserving our heritage and our history. It's quite often not cheap but that's what governments are for."

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