Charlottetown’s Finest: The Hotel Victoria

During the 19th century a constantly recurring complaint of both travellers and the merchants of Charlottetown was the lack of quality accommodation for visitors to Charlottetown.

However, by the end of the century there were two large hotels strategically located on Water Street at the head of the Steam Navigation Wharf and bracketing the southern end of Great George Street.  To the west was the modest Queen Hotel. On the other side of the street was the far more impressive Hotel Davies with its impressive five-storey corner turret overlooking the steamer wharf and Great George Street.

The Davies was the leading hotel in the city with rooms at $2.00 a day or $10.50 a week. The dining room was the site of major banquets and meetings. It also earned a reputation as one of the few where one could get a drink in the time of increasing temperance sentiment. This was to prove more of a problem after the passage of a Prohibition Act in 1900. Early in 1903 the proprietor, Patrick Doherty, faced his third offence under act and was sentenced to six months. In his absence his wife ran the business.  In the fall of that year he closed the hotel and alarm spread within the business community that it would not re-open leaving the city once more without first-class accommodation.

The gap was filled when R.H. Sterns bought the business, changing the name to the Hotel  Victoria.  He undertook a number of improvements to the building with Bruce Stewart & Co. providing plumbing for 15 bathrooms in the structure. It would later have telephones in each room with a private switchboard, the first in the City.  Sterns also took steps to promote the hotel and in June 1904 the following note appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian

R.H. Sterns, the energetic proprietor of the Victoria Hotel is issuing very tasty booklets and souvenir postals. They contain excellent views of the golf links, scenes from Tea Hill, Great George street looking towards the hotel and the Hotel itself. 

One of the 1904 series of cards issued by R.H. Sterns. The flag is obviously an addition to the photo. Phil Culhane Collection

The following year a new card of the hotel appeared, this one with views of both the exterior and interior of the building.

It is probable that both of these cards were locally produced as the printing firm of Haszard and Moore published a not-dissimilar series at this time.

As the biggest and best hotel in Charlottetown and, indeed the province, it is not surprising that the building is the subject of quite a number of postcards. Almost without exception they highlighted the turreted corner block of the structure with its harbour views but as the years passed there were subtle differences in the view, and in the hotel itself.

This divided back “Private Postal Card” shows heavy re-touching of the street fixtures. This card was another published for the hotel. Printer not identified

In September 1919 Sterns indicated an interest in selling the Victoria . A local company was quickly formed with many leading businessmen coming forward to acquire shares and take over management of the operation.  By June of 1921 the Charlottetown Hotel Company had also taken on ownership of the nearby Queen Hotel. Sterns concentrated his attention on the Beach Grove Summer Hotel, located not far from the city.

Renovations and improvements at the Victoria meant that within a year fifty of the hotel’s rooms had baths. However it seems that part of the hotel was closed in the off-season. In summer the hotel could accommodate 200 guests, in winter the number was half that. One feature of the public rooms of the hotel was a display of Island views by photographer W.S. Louson.

Two different treatments (above & below) of the same image from Valentine & Sons. Many of the later cards show automobiles in front of the hotel.
Pugh Manufacturing published this image on cards with two different series numbers 217-1 and 898-17 which differ only in the title position and in colouration.. The building at the left of the photograph still stands and has been restored to the appearance in this photo. The prominent carbon arc street light shows in many of the photos

Another card [publisher not identified] shows the same image as the Pugh cards but the utility poles have been completely removed.
The most recent of the cards both  show the conversion of the mansard roof and additional story added to the structure after the Great War, probably for staff accommodation. One card, taken from ground level is a view often mistaken for earlier cards; the other, probably photographed from the roof of the building across the street is a view with the prominent tower for the elevator serving the eastern wing of the building.

Valentine & Sons card #113077

Photogelantine Engraving Company [PECO] card ca. 1928.
In the early morning of 12 January 1929 fire was discovered in the building. Although the twenty-eight guests and thirty staff all made it safely out of the building the fire raged for  much of the day and by late afternoon the site was a smoking ruin.

In April the shareholders decided to sell their remaining asset, the Queen Hotel, and wind up the company. The expectation that the Canadian National Railways would build a large new hotel in the city was a major consideration in the decision.

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A Beautiful Autumn – Somewhere in Canada

Autumn in Canada. Warwick Bros. & Rutter, Publishers #0533

Earlier this year a sepia toned card was offered on the sales market. It was one of several cards published by the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros. & Rutter which could be described as “generic” in that it did not specify location and was an all-purpose card which could be sold representing several locations across the country. Where exactly in the country had Warwick & Rutter chosen to represent Canada’s fall season?

The mystery appears to be revealed in the message on the card back. The correspondent has written: “This avenue is in Charlottetown in Park.” The message is almost right. This indeed was in Charlottetown but the writer is mistaken as to the specific location. In this generic card the photographer is not identified. Another Warwick Bros. & Rutter card  revels the name of the photographer and helps point to the site of the photo.

Beautiful Autumn. Prince Edward Island. Warwick Bros. & Rutter #2668

This card, not so closely cropped, uses the same negative image enhanced with publisher-chosen colour and it not only identifies the province but, more importantly, the photographer.  It is the work of talented amateur photographer William S. Louson whose name appears on more than forty Warwick & Rutter cards. Three additional cards, one from Warwick & Rutter and two  Carter & Co. cards provide even more details, although the location is variously named as Lovers Lane, Sydmount Avenue, and Avenue near Charlottetown. The two Carter images appear to have been taken on the same day.  [click on any card for enlargement to show details]

The common element in these cards is the line of mature linden trees bordering the roadway to the north and birches to the south. Although it might be mistaken for the road bordering Victoria Park, this was,and still is recognizable as, Sidmount Avenue, a street formed from the roadway leading from Charlottetown’s North River Road to Sidmount House.  A non-postcard photo of the same scene from a souvenir book of Louson’s images is seen below.

Sidmount was one of the estates created in the Charlottetown Common which in the early 19th century had become the preferred location for the homes of the great and good. Although the house is  hidden from view in the postcards the fence surrounding the buildings  can be seen peeping out from between the trees.

Sidmount House. Public Archives and Records Office Accession 2702

Sidmount was built by Charlottetown merchant Sidney Dealey about 1845. The house and 41 acre estate was advertised for sale at public auction in the 4 April 1846  and featured “a much ornamented cottage, newly erected of wood, by a skillful artisan, in imitation of the Gothic style of architecture.” Forty-three feet by thirty-four feet, this “cottage” featured a frost-proof cellar, a ground floor with dining room, drawing-room, hall, store-room and office and a second floor with two bedrooms, a dressing room, bath and library. An addition to the rear of the building contained a large kitchen, laundry and servants’ bedroom accessible by the back stairs of the main building.

The estate was purchased by lawyer, and later judge, James Horsefield Peters (1811-1891) and his wife, Mary (1817-1865). Mary was the daughter of Samuel Cunard, the founder of the Cunard Steamship Line, who owned large tracts of land on Prince Edward Island. Peters was the Cunard family agent on Prince Edward Island.

Sidmount was influenced by the Gothic Revival architectural style. The style is seen most often in rural areas, but a few examples still exist in Charlottetown. Wood framed houses in this style were decorated with lacy trim and scrolled ornamentation. As an example of the Gothic Revival style in the City, Sidmount has changed very little since its construction, and remains an important link to the history of Charlottetown.

Like Victoria Park, not far to the south, Sidmount Avenue was a favourite location for Louson photographs. He, himself, lived at Birchdale, in the Brighton neighbourhood only a few blocks from Sidmount. It is almost certain that the children in two of the photos are Louson’s children.

Today the few remaining linden trees still scatter their leaves on Sidmount Avenue each fall. While Sidmount House still survives in relatively good condition, recent years have not been kind to the property. While the house is included on the Canadian Register of Heritage Places the property has been chipped away over the years by encroaching suburban development. It has gradually shrunk with the final indignity rendered by need or greed through the disposal of the front yard to create building lots for rather large but undistinguished homes which totally obscure the fine façade of Sidmount House, now hardly visible from the treed avenue.

 

Carter and Company’s Souvenir Series

Probably the most frequently encountered name in the century-old history of P.E.I. postcards is Carter & Co.  Although they were not printers they commissioned series of postcards over an extended period. From the beginning of the postcard era until the 1950s Carter’s was easily the most important name in Island cards.

They do not, however, seem to feature highly on the interests of collectors. This may be owing in part to the large number of identifiable series – several with small numbers of cards – or because the designs they used were often associated with other publishers.

George Carter, originally of Winsloe, P.E.I., started in the seed business in Charlottetown in 1879 but quickly moved into other lines of business including books and stationary, soft goods and notions. In 1903 he met with financial difficulties and he had left the Island by 1905 but his brother Isaac continued the business under the Carter name. With the increase in tourism late in the 19th century the firm adapted quickly to the desire of visitors for souvenirs and was soon advertising the availability of products at their Charlottetown store. They published a number of souvenir  photo books of the Island and in 1908 had a line of non-postal gummed stamps with Island scenes which could be affixed to envelopes. Carter & Co. were early adopters to postcards. In 1907 they indicated that they had 500,000 cards in stock and were likely providing wholesale lots to smaller merchants across the province.

One of the earliest series identified with Carter & Co. clearly identifies the cards with an unusual vertical text on the left side of the face of the card. I have chosen to call this the “souvenir” series to separate them from other Carter & Co. cards.

Michael J. Smith in his 2010 2nd edition of The W.G. MacFarlane Picture Postcard Handbook 1902-1910 identifies these cards as the work of Toronto publisher W.G. MacFarlane.  Other MacFarlane cards for Prince Edward Island are part of a numbered series but the cards identified as “Carter & Co. Limited, Souvenirs, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island” have no number, nor does the name MacFarlane appear anywhere on the cards.  The card have an asymmetrical divided back design which is identical with another series of P.E.I. cards which Smith does not identify as MacFarlane products.

The cards were certainly in use by 1906. Nineteen images have been identified in various collections although I believe there are additional cards as nineteen would be a very unusual number of cards for a printing run.  The majority of the known cards are of public buildings and street scenes in Charlottetown. Several views also appear on cards from other publishers and some may be the work of Island photographer  W.S. Louson.

A gallery of examples of the souvenir series cards follows. Click on any image to start a slide show. A full listing of known images appears as an illustrated checklist accessed here.  I would be very interested in learning of any cards which I have not listed in the checklist.

 

 

Back to the Banks of the Dunk

Carter card
Dunk River, P.E. Island. Carter & Co. card #1152

In an earlier post I had noted the inordinate number of Pre-WW1 postcards depicting the Dunk River running through eastern Prince County of Prince Edward Island. I have recently identified another half-dozen cards showing the Dunk. Several of these are the work of amateur photographer W.S. Louson who appears to have had a particular attraction to the area but many more are unidentified as to photographer.

The Dunk was a popular trout stream, perhaps the most productive in the province and was a destination for many fishermen (and women).  It is not however, easily reached directly by train as the line of the P.E.I. Railway crosses the stream only in its upper reaches at Breadalbane. The development of automobile access was difficult owing to the restrictive views of farmers who were able to place strict limits to auto use in rural areas before the War and most visitors approached the river by horse and buggy. A bridge near Lower Freetown was one of the closest spots to both Kensington and Summerside and many of the postcards have images in this location.

Dunk steel bridge - Carter
Dunk River, P.E. Island. Carter & Co. card

Rather than develop a complete new page devoted to these newly-found images I have added them to the gallery of Dunk River photos in my original posting.  This gallery is likely only a portion of the cards that may be out there and I would be happy to learn of any other early images of the location.

My previous post posed a question relating to a postcard, labeled “Anglers’ Joy” of a hunter on the bank of the Dunk and with the discovery of another Warwick Bros. & Rutter card I have added a probable explanation for the strange title.

Suitable for Framing

During the height of the postcard craze in the early 1900s millions of cards were produced and sent or collected. Moving from storage in shoeboxes to specially designed postcard albums collectors became more sophisticated in their preservation methods. Today many collectors mirror the early enthusiasms with topical collections (horses, hotels, mountains, libraries, butterflies etc.) or geographical ones. The latter group is probably the more common. My own interests are in the early cards for Prince Edward Island – early being before World War 1.

Portfolio cover. This design was probably used for a number of different locations.

As the interest in cards grew  additional products capitalizing on the cards began to be produced.  One such product was the portfolio of cards rendered suitable for framing through the addition of a backing vignette neatly framing the card. These were probably produced by the original card publisher but may have been an “after market” item developed for collectors. This provided an easily framed version of the standard card which although often very attractive was also too small to display effectively in the Edwardian parlor. The portfolio was an excellent souvenir or gift for the tourists in the region.

The example in my collection consists of a set of five pages – although the original number could have been more – in an attractive folder measuring 295 mm by 230 mm.  It is probable that the design was used for multiple locations with the name of the city or province inserted for different press runs.

Vignette detail for page containing McCoy card #17

The printed 290 x 225 mm  vignette pages are all different and each has a specific theme which seem to be related to the various recreational activities in which a visitor may be interested. These include; fishing, canoeing and rowing, golf and travel, hunting, and sailing. The vignettes are artistically designed in an art deco format.  The cards are tipped onto the backing and owing to the thickness of the backing paper it is not possible to view the card backs.  The card identification is based on identical cards in my collection.

There is no direct relationship between the subject of the vignettes and the cards themselves.  The cards are all published by the McCoy Printing Company of Moncton and seem to be from the Acadian Series. That series numbers at least 15 cards according to The McCoy Printing Company Picture Postcard Handbook 1900 to 1910 by Mike Smith and William P. Angley  and it is possible that the portfolio originally held the entire series. It is more likely that there was a smaller selection.

My portfolio holds the following cards: Street Scene in Charlottetown P.E.I. / Victoria Park & Harbor near Charlottetown P.E.I. (Acadian Series #82), Shore Scene at Keppoch Prince Edward Island (Acadian Series #80), Law Courts Building, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (Acadian Series #74), Pastoral Scene, Prince Edward Island (McCoy card using Valentine& Sons image #100923, not in the Smith listing), Post Office, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (Acadian Series #17)

Portfolio gallery. Click on any card to see enlarged images.

I would be very interesting in learning of any other portfolios of this type which may have survived and whether this frameable vignette was in common use.

 

 

 

Rumsey & Co. published many Prince Edward Island Images

Market Square, Charlottetown P.E.I.One of the longest-operated Canadian postcard firms, Toronto’s Rumsey and Co. Ltd. published a wide variety of P.E.I. images.

For a brief history of the company and a catalogue of the firm’s P.E.I,. cards click below or on the Rumsey listing to the right of the page (desktop) or bottom (tablet & phone)

Rumsey catalogue

 

Strait Steamers on Cards

One of the more popular areas for topical postcard collection is the depiction of ships on cards. While the ports of Prince Edward Island were hardly major destinations for steamers the fact of being an island meant a dependence on vessels for connection to the mainland and there are a number of interesting cards showing these essential vessels.

One group of cards centres on the unique needs of the province for “continuous steam communication” sought by the Island Government in 1873 as a condition for confederation. The struggle for links across the winter ice-bound Strait of Northumberland gave rise to a series of ice-breaking steamers and later car-ferries whose images are captured on early postcards. Ships such as the Stanley, Minto and Earl Grey are frequently shown imprisoned in the ice. The irony is that many of these cards were sent by summer visitors who had no direct knowledge of the difficulty and boredom of the winter passage.

These tourists and residents were much more likely to have reached the Island on one of the ships of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company which provided service while the strait was ice-free, usually between April and December of each year. The Company had been incorporated in 1890 but was successor to the Prince Edward Island Steam Navigation Company, formed in 1863, and so had a near-monopoly for decades before the postcard boom.

One of the earliest cards showing Steam Navigation Company steamers was one printed in Summerside by the Journal Publishing Company

At the turn of the 20th century the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company had two vessels; the S.S. Northumberland, launched in 1891 and the S.S. Princess, built five years later.  Increased passenger travel and freight led to the sale of the Princess in 1905 and the launch a new vessel, the S.S. Empress the same year. The Northumberland normally served the Charlottetown-Pictou route while the Empress travelled between Summerside and Point de Chene  New Brunswick. Schedules of both vessels were linked to railway timetables to provide good communication to Halifax, Boston and Montreal. On my companion marine history blog, Sailstrait, I have provided details about the Princess, Northumberland, and Empress.

Although the Princess may well have been the subject of a postcard as it was still in the service in 1905 I have not been able to find any examples and indeed any photographs of the vessel are scarce. This was not the case with regard to the Northumberland and the Empress.

Although built fifteen years apart the two ships were of a similar appearance and size. Indeed, as shown below, in at least one case a card shows one ship incorrectly identified as the other. A clue to help determine the correct identification may be found by examining the smoke patterns of the two ships in the galleries below. One additional key to sorting them out is that the Empress had more lifeboats than the Northumberland.

Anticipation at Summerside P.E.I. Photo by W.S. Louson, Garden of the Gulf Series. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card#2620

Almost all the major publishers that had cards of Prince Edward Island had at least one showing a ship of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company and some publishers such as Valentine and Warwick & Rutter had images of both. Often the cards drew on the same photographic imagery although the photographer is not identified – with one exception. The Summerside image of the Empress at dock is noted as a W.S. Louson image on a Warwick Bros. & Rutter card and although the ship is not identified in his card titled “Anticipation” the Empress was the steamer servicing the Prince County port.

“S.S. Empress” Summerside, P.E. Island C.& Co. [Carter]
The identification is confirmed by a Carter & Co. “red letter” series card showing the same scene and undoubtedly taken at the same time (there are differences in the placement of the boy fishing and the spectator). These two cards are also an excellent illustration of the different treatment given to similar images by publishers. Title, cropping and most particularly shading, clarity and colour can result in cards that initially appear to be quite different  but in reality are almost identical.

An action photo of the Empress steaming is the most commonly seen image as it is used in cards from at least three publishers. Indeed Warwick Bros. & Rutter uses the same image on two cards with different titles. The image is also used on a card by McCoy Publishing and another produced for Maddigan.

Publishers with Northumberland Strait steamer cards to their credit include Kennedy, McLellan, McCoy, Maddigan, Valentine, Journal Print, Pugh, Stedman and Warwick & Rutter. I have been able to find only one card showing both vessels, the Stedman card #2572 probably published for J.D. Taylor and shown to the right.

The cards depicted in  following galleries do not exhaust the possible varieties of Northumberland Strait steamer cards but offer a representative sampling of the cards most often seen. Clicking on any of the cards will show an enlarged image.

Cards showing the S.S. Northumberland

 

Cards showing the S.S. Empress

The activity of the two vessels coincided with the golden age of the postcard. With the beginning of the ice-breaking rail-car ferry service in 1917 both ships were sold and the company wound up. Henceforth postcards detailed the loading, unloading and sailings of the S.S. Prince Edward Island and her successors.

Postcard of the Northumberland on Lake Ontario after WWI.

Both of these vessels continued to be the subject of postcards after they left Prince Edward Island waters. The Northumberland sailed on Lake Ontario until destroyed by fire after World War II and there are many cards showing the vessel. An excellent history of her life on the lake can be found here. The Empress was put on the Saint John to Digby route across the Bay of Fundy and there are a number cards of her in this role.

As always, I would be interested of learning of other postcards which show the Northumberland Strait steamers, especially the Princess.