Manitoba realtor Meagan McKillop is sitting on what she considers to be the most precious listing of her career: a 2,400-square-foot, three-storey, mint-tinged Edwardian home in Portage La Prairie, located an hour’s drive from Winnipeg. “We have a few large family homes on the market, but none that have been as thoughtfully restored as this one,” she says. Its price is almost unheard of in the modern Canadian real estate market: $399,900 for five bedrooms, less than the going price for a 400-square-foot studio in downtown Toronto. But there’s also the Canadian-history factor—the home is more than 115 years old and counts a former prime minister as one of its past owners.
Arthur Meighen was born in 1874 in Anderson, Ontario, and moved to Portage La Prairie to work as a lawyer before entering politics. He bought the Edwardian in 1916 and lived there with his wife and three children for the next 12 years. During that time, Meighen shuttled back and forth from Ottawa, where he served as prime minister twice—once from 1920 to 1921, as Robert Borden’s successor, and then again in 1926. Meighen’s Manitoba dwelling may be a fraction of the size of the current PM’s residence on 24 Sussex Drive, but unlike the latter, its structure has stood the test of time.
After Meighen sold the property in 1928—he was headed to Ottawa for a full-time Senate gig—McKillop says the home changed owners several times and the house slowly lost its stately charm. The insulation thinned, the parlour’s rustic wood flooring and baseboards cracked, and the paint in the home’s meeting room—once a site of spirited political discourse—faded with time. In 1993, a local carpenter and cabinet maker named Eric Vieweg purchased the home as a personal restoration project. Over the next 30 years, Vieweg (the current seller) carefully refurbished the home, upgrading the plumbing and wiring, reshingling the roof, installing new hardwood floors, updating the millwork on the original oak archways and crown moulding and reinsulating the house from top to bottom. “He was the perfect owner for this place,” says McKillop. “A history buff who knew what to update and what to preserve.”
Vieweg made sure to maintain key artifacts from the home’s past lives. The original staircase is still standing; a century-old claw-foot tub in the home’s primary bathroom is still functional; and the wooden pillars, wall panelling and recessed ceiling in the dining area are all intact. There were a few modifications, however: Vieweg built out custom cabinets and a corner pantry in the kitchen and laid down new granite countertops. He also turned the parlour into a cozy living area with a brand-new gas fireplace. Outside, Vieweg constructed a sprawling wraparound deck and landscaped the 200-by-40-foot lot with vibrant flowers and shrubbery.
Enticing as it is, the house failed to attract buyers when McKillop first listed it last year. (She suspects that ever-climbing interest rates and pandemic uncertainty hung over well into 2022.) But since the home was relisted in early September, McKillop has received several bites, some from passionate history buffs and some from inquisitive buyers who are attracted to the home’s central location: it’s shouting distance from a network of walking trails, the Portage Golf Club and Crescent Lake, and situated just south of Saskatchewan Avenue, the town’s main drag. The biggest plus, MacKillop adds, is that “you’ll get a feel for how one of our first prime ministers used to live.”