Jeannette Foster Kennedy or “Jennie” was born in Toronto, Ontario to James and Martha Kennedy. Losing both parents by the time Jennie was 12 years old, she moved to Owen Sound, Ontario to live with her Aunt, Mrs. Robert Paterson.
Intelligent and artistically gifted, Jennie attended one of the most prestigious schools in Canada at the time, The Brantford Young Ladies’ College. A testament to Jennie’s gift can be exampled by a scholarship opportunity to study art in Paris offered to her at the completion of her studies. Jennie never took the opportunity to study in Paris, and instead put her focus on getting married and starting a family.
Meeting through various social circles, Jennie Kennedy and Robert Butchart were deemed to be a well suited match; they were married in 1884 in Buffalo, New York. Following their wedding, they travelled to England to embark on their honeymoon where Mr. Butchart obtained the cement recipe that would make him one of the first in Canada to produce Portland Cement. After the honeymoon they headed west and opened a plant in Victoria in 1905, taking advantage of the rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production.
The Butchart estate included both the Butchart home and the quarry. When Mr. Butchart’s cement company exhausted the limestone in the quarry, it left a three and a half acre hole on the property. In efforts to making the area more appealing to the eye, Mrs. Butchart’s creativity was sparked, transforming the hole into a beautiful garden appropriately named the “Sunken Garden”.
The garden proved to be so successful and it continued to grow and so did the public interest surrounding it. The Butchart’s suitably named their home “Benvenuto” which is Italian for welcome. This naming reflects the Butchart’s spirit when it came to allowing people in their home to visit the gardens, as well as, to have tea. Today, the Gardens are a national historic site and approximately one million people visit from all over the world each year.