This is an older building in Kemptville that may be hard to recognise, but it stands today in a part of town that was once the residential centre for the social and business elite. The illustration is from the Canadian Illustrated News of 1878 and shows the home of Thomas Blackburn on the corner of Prescott Street and South Rideau Street, with its gardens and surrounding fence. Today, it is the Home Hardware store and South Rideau has become Elizabeth Street. The property is one of those that has been a constant in the life of Kemptville for almost 150 years, and is well known to both store customers and generations of students who attended the High School across the road.
The house dates from the 1860’s, and came into the possession of the Blackburn family in 1869, when it was bought by Thomas Blackburn, who owned a large store on Prescott Street facing Asa Street. This building is still standing today and has a long and distinguished history of its own. But the Blackburn family wanted a fine house to display their success, and the house at Prescott and South Rideau did just that.
It remained in the family until 1914, when Isabella Blackburn, described as an unmarried spinster, sold it to Nathaniel Kennedy. Thomas Robinson lived here between 1926 and 1949, running an insurance business from his home. Then, in 1950, the building was bought by James Kennedy, who had come to Kemptville in 1946 and ran a hardware store out of the Finnerty Block (now the Clothier Inn). He moved the business to the Blackburn house in 1950, and it has been operating there under other owners ever since. It was bought from Kennedy by the current owner’s family, the Hamilton’s, in 1966.