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Limestone building blocks


The roots of our historic inn can be traced all the way back to the early 1800’s. The original owner, James McKenzie, a Scotsman, was sent here as a commanding officer in the British Army. For the tidy sum of 50 cents an acre, he bought the land Whitney Manor currently sits on – and the 350 acres or so surrounding it. 

As most of the men under his command were mechanics, stone masons, and carpenters by trade, McKenzie had no problems finding skilled laborers to complete the task of building his dream home. 

When work was completed in 1817, the over eight thousand sq. foot farm house stood out as an architectural marvel. It was built in the likeness of an English estate, with very large rooms and cathedral ceilings. The beams were hand hewn, all the rooms upstairs and down had fireplaces, and there was even a flat section of the roof on which a fish pond was built. 

Comprised mainly of limestone, the house featured a formal ballroom on the second floor, separate maid’s quarters, and a Chapel. No expense was spared during the construction, which included the decision to use rectangular blocks instead of ruble. Along with making the building more structurally sound, those blocks give our historic inn a decidedly more detailed and unique appearance than many of the other properties built during that time.

Thomas King Whitney, owner of Whitney Manor
Battle of 1812 Captain James McKenzie


Lancaster bomber


Born on June 3rd, 1782 in Scotland, James McKenzie was known as a true ‘born and bred’ seaman. The earliest nautical experience on record had him joining the British Merchant Navy at the tender age of 14. He went on to serve in the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, attaining the rank of Master. 

In 1813, McKenzie was assigned to the defense of the Great Lakes, where he accompanied Sir James Lucas Yeo, to Upper Canada, and served in many roles during the war with the United States. James McKenzie was described by Yeo as “a very worthy man and excellent officer.

By 1817, and with the war now over, McKenzie set down permanent roots in the area by building Greystone Manor (now known as Whitney Manor). He also became Ontario’s premier steamboat captain, on The Frontenac, the first Canadian built-steamboat on the Great Lakes.

McKenzie eventually retired in 1831 and sadly passed away shortly after from the cholera pandemic. Following his death one admirer went as far as to call him the “father of steam navigation in Upper Canada”.

A man who is fondly remembered for always having a smile on his face and a penchant for whistling while he worked, King Whitney was a well-respected pillar of the Kingston community.

A veteran of World War II, Whitney was deployed in Europe where he spent most of his time as the tail gunner in a Lancaster Bomber. Confined for up to nine hours or more, in cramped spaces and in freezing temperatures, the tail gunner was one of the most dangerous places in a Lancaster Bomber, acting as the first line of defense against enemy aircraft.

Luckily, Whitney beat the odds to return home, raise a family, and open a successful home furnishings store in downtown Kingston.

Later in his life, King became the 15th owner of this historic property, renaming it Sopwell Hall. This property remained in his family for another two generations, and it is named in his honor.

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