Among the postcards loaned to the Robertson Library at UPEI by collector Ed McKenna, and subsequently included in his book Historic PEI: Vintage Postcards of Prince Edward Island, is a striking RPPC (Real Photo Postcard) image of a freestanding structure identified as “Pavilion Victoria Park.” The ornate building, complete with shields and flags stands near a wood. In the middle stands a man, as pleased as punch, and off to the side are children, moving too fast to be caught in focus in the long exposure.
The building was not familiar to me and I had seen no other photos so I convinced myself that this was not Charlottetown’s Victoria Park but another. There were after all, dozens of Victoria Parks across the country. See here for an example of the type of name confusion which could result in error. The nearest Victoria Park is in Truro and I posted the image on a Nova Scotia Postcard site to see if someone could correctly place it. I even found a spot using Google Earth where the pavilion could have stood. The photographer was unknown to me – after all Wallace was “not an Island name” and was more associated with Nova Scotia. As it turns out it is not surprising that there were no answers forthcoming.
I let the matter drop for a while and took on several other projects among which was research on John P. Nicholson, a previously unknown Charlottetown architect who is now in the Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Architects. One of the links to his work led me to his credit as designer as pavilion for the visit of the Duke of Connaught. That visit took place in 1912, the same year as the postmark on the card!
The visit was a major celebration for Prince Edward Island. Not only was he Governor General but he was also a bona fide Royal, being the third son of Queen Victoria. Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, Duke of Connaught and Strathern was accompanied by his wife, Princess Louise, and his daughter Princess Patricia. The Duke and Princess Patricia arrived by train from Summerside while the Duchess, feeling poorly, met them after taking the steamer Earl Grey down the Strait. The visit had all the pomp one might expect with a royal visit (and not merely a vice-regal one). There were military parades and the streets were lined with uniformed Islanders from the several branches of the local militia. There were balls and speeches and addresses of welcome and royal responses. Princess Patricia even played a round of golf at the Belvedere Golf Club while the Duke took an incognito motor tour of the city.
For many the best view of the royal visitors was at a public gathering at Victoria Park where thousands of Islanders gathered to gawp and listen the addresses. After listing to several speakers welcome the Duke on his first visit to the Island he gently reminded his audience that he had been here before, in 1869, while en route to join his regiment in Quebec. That occasion too, had been a celebration with the ball at the Colonial Building going on until 4:00 a.m.
But was the speaking platform at Victoria Park the same one as the pavilion depicted on the postcard? Fortunately the Royal Visit to Charlottetown was documented in an issue of the Canadian Courier, a weekly magazine published in Toronto. The article included photos taken by Charlottetown photographer J.A.S. Bayer. One of these “The Welcome in the Park” shows the postcard pavilion and neatly ties up one of the larger loose ends.
The identity of Wallace, the photographer, has not been resolved. Perhaps he was simply one of the dozens members of the press who were following the tour. The identity of the man standing before the pavilion is likewise unknown but I would like to think it was John P. Nicholson standing in front of his design. The structure was clearly a temporary one, indeed the roof may simply have been of fabric and it may have been disassembled shortly after the visit. I have been able to find no other images or references. One more enduring reference to the Royal Visit was the re-naming of Pownal (or Jail) Square as Connaught Square but both names continue to be used.
Post Script 1 December 2019 – Through the courtesy of Charlottetown heritage advocate Ian Scott I have been provided with one additional image showing the pavilion. This is a detail from the photo with children and their ponies at Victoria Park. The original is found in the W. Keith Rogers family album held by the family.