Winnipeg’s Kelly House- A Home with a Long History

kelly house 88 adelaide streetThis charming home is right here in my Exchange District neighborhood at 88 Adelaide Street, but I had never noticed it till just a couple of weeks ago when I was on  a walk. Built in 1884 it stands as the lone residential dwelling on a street of warehouses, factories and businesses. In 2010 it became the home of Cancer Care Manitoba. 

sunburst motif gables kelly house winnipegI loved the sunburst gingerbread motif on the gables. When I got home from my walk I did some research to learn about the house. thomas kelly winnipegThe house was built by Michael Kelly a contractor originally from Ireland in 1894 for a cost of $2.200. In 1875 the land on which it stood had been given to Alexander McDermott as part of a Crown grant. He sold it to John McKechnie, the Scottish owner of a Winnipeg foundry who in turn sold it to Michael Kelly and his brother Thomas.  Michael lived in the house till 1894. 

kelly house oldMichael and Thomas rented the house to a variety of people.  A Mrs. M Redmond rented it when Michael moved out and in 1896- J.M. Murray a printer took out a lease. James Cadham an architect settled in with his family from 1897 to 1901. Cadham had come to Manitoba from Ontario with the Wolseley Red River Expedition and stayed when he was discharged. By 1908 there was a boarding house at 88 Adelaide run by Mrs. Margaret Little and it was in that same year Thomas became the sole owner of the house. kelly house 2004In 1922 the house was seized by the city of Winnipeg because its owner Thomas Kelly was involved in a big scandal and had failed to pay his taxes. Kelly was arrested for perjury, embezzlement and fraud and although he tried to escape to the United States ended up being sentenced to two  and a half years in Stony Mountain prison. He had been given a contract to build the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and was charged with graft and corruption and lost the contract.  Turns out he was lowering wages and changing building specifications to keep costs down to the unrealistically low bid he’d made. An article in the New York Times claimed he had defrauded the Manitoba government of some $1.182,562. According to an article by Bruce Cherney Kelly only served a nine months of his prison sentence and not behind bars, but staying at the warden’s house and passing his days playing poker. kelly house 2007A whole variety of people owned 88 Adelaide after that, a restaurateur, a hotel proprietor, and a sportswear company.  In 1982 the Winnipeg Film Group had its offices there.
back of kelly house 2004

In 2007 the house was incorporated into the plot of a series of children’s middle years fantasy books called The Serpent’s Spell written by Rae Bridgman.  The 2008 annual report of Centre Venture says they will partner with the City of WInnipeg and Adelaide Investments Group to restore Kelly House as the new headquarters for Heritage Winnipeg.

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

But I also read the house was in danger of being razed for a parking lot in 2010 and Cancer Care Manitoba saved it and renovated it. The sign on the door today says it is the home of Cancer Care Manitoba as does the Manitoba Historical Society website. 88 adelaide street winnipeg

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Categories: Buildings, Exchange District, History, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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