The St. Andrews Rectory was the centre of religious, political and social decisions from the time it was built in 1853-4. Its founder, and first resident, was the rector and builder of St. Andrews Church, Reverend William Cockran. This Georgian Scottish-Manor house was built from local materials including limestone from nearby quarries and pine lumber from across the river at Birds Hill. It became the preferred Red River style for wealthy officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company who retired to the Red River Settlement with their Metis families in the 1850s.
Though this house seems too “grand” for an Anglican parish priest, Cockran wanted a house that could become the residence of a bishop. He felt that St. Andrews would become the centre of the Anglican Church missions for the whole of British North America. Although his dream never came to pass, he continued to establish new churches and communities including Portage la Prairie, High Bluff, Poplar Point and St Peters.
The Hudson’s Bay Company officers at Lower Fort Garry adopted St. Andrews as their church. They were in the Rectory’s salon for many social occasions and for controversial discussions about free trade, the explorations of Captain Kennedy, the first steamboats on the Red and the annexation of Red River Settlement by Canada.
Whether it was honouring Queen Victoria or celebrating religious holidays or just tea after church, the Rectory was the heart of the St. Andrews community.
St. Andrews Heritage Centre began as a volunteer group that was formed in the early 1980s to write Beyond the Gates of Lower Fort Garry (published in 1982) to celebrate the RM of St. Andrews centennial.
In the summer of 2013, after lengthy negotiations with Parks Canada, St. Andrews Heritage Centre moved around into St. Andrews Rectory National Historic site for a historical setting for their museum exhibits and public programs.