Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Kingston Trip - Part 1: Greystone Manor

My wonderful daughter agreed to my request that when I visited her in Montreal this summer she would drive me the 3+ hours to Kingston, Ontario. 

A long time ago I had found my great-great-grandfather’s property on McGill's County Digital Atlas of Ontario, and overlaying with Google maps I found where the property was located in Pittsburgh Township. Sort of. I was going by the contours of land by the St Lawrence River. Without a modern address, it was hard to tell exactly. 

John Seale came here from Ireland with his young family, and had two more children here before his wife Sarah Honor died in 1834. Two years later John married my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Hunter. With her he had one daughter, Anne, and seven sons.

From information sent to my uncle in 1969, I knew a little of the history of the manor. It was built in 1817 by Colonel James MacKenzie, who was sent to Ontario after the Crimean War as a commander in the British Army. Soldiers that were masons and carpenters were put to work clearing the land and building the manor, using local limestone. Over the years the home had different names, depending on the owner.  
Then, it was Greystone Manor.

Two years ago I tried maps again since Google had added more features to their maps. Now the property had a label of... Allsuites Whitney Manor?

The present owner, Terry, and I did a little back and forth, comparing and sharing info. Fifteen years ago, she bought it and restored all the inside, turning it into five luxury suites. Terry named it after her Whitney grandfather, who purchased the dilapidating manor in the 1980s and hired masons and carpenters to restore all the outside. 

Terry did not know that there was a connection between the Whitney and Seale families. I told her of my family research and the fact that the grandson of her 2x great-grandfather married the granddaughter of my 2x great-grandfather! (she was Anne's daughter) We left it that if I was ever in the area she would give me the grand tour, reminding me that in two years it was going to be the 200th anniversary of the manor. That is when the seed was planted.

Welcome to Greystone Manor

Back, facing the water

The extension on the left side was originally the chapel. Some of the family baptism records say private baptisms, and the marriage record of his daughter Anne said she was married at her father's home. I thought perhaps these rites took place in the living room. No - the family had their own chapel. Before St Mark's church was built in the 1840s I can imagine some of the neighbours had Sunday services here when it was difficult travelling to Kingston. 

My daughter and I spent the night in the Chapel. Downstairs was a living room and well equipped kitchen, and at some point a second level had been added to make bedrooms and a luxury bathroom.

The front door of the manor must be at least 8 feet high.  I know many members of the Seale family were tall, but not that tall! It makes for an impressive entrance.

Inside, the staircase leads up to what was once a magnificent ballroom.  It is said that when MacKenzie's wife arrived from England he had a grand opening of the manor and during the festivities he rode his horse up the stairs and into the ballroom. 

You can guess what it was like for us to get a tour and to spend the night in the home once owned by my great-great-grandparents. Where my great-grandfather and his many siblings lived!! I could also imagine my grandfather as a young boy, perhaps spending Christmas there with many aunts, uncles and cousins.  

It was a very special occasion for my daughter and I, one we will never forget. 

Note:  The manor is in Barriefield village (a Heritage Conservation District) and is now a Township of Pittsburgh Heritage Building. This plaque is on the front door.

Note: Read Part II here



  1. What a wonderful treat, Dianne!

  2. Now that is an amazing experience. How wonderful that is so nicely taken care of.

    1. Yes, it is awesome that Terry's grandfather took it upon himself to buy it so he could restore it. It was already six apartments, which he kept. She showed us his photo album of the work in progress, the whole back wall was bowed out! Other parts, especially fireplaces and chimneys, were in in just as bad shape. It is now a Heritage building. Oh - I should add that.

  3. How lovely! I lived in Kingston for six years while studying at Queen's University, so drove through Barriefield a number of times. So happy that you finally tracked down your ancestor's house and that you were able to spend time in it. A treasured memory indeed. And what a wonderful time of year to visit Kingston :) Did you get into town at all?

    1. Yes. I finally met a Kingston cousin I had been corresponding with and she drove us around. Beautiful city! I'd like to go again and spend more time there.

    2. It is, isn't it. I still miss it so much. My husband and I met and married there. Hope you get to visit it again soon!


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