Panoramic Postcard Reveals the Other side of Charlottetown

As a city, Charlottetown looks south. The town was built to face the harbour and as the ground gently rose to the few modest hills given grand names by country estates such as Mount Edward and Sidmount the well-planned street pattern began to break up.  In the ideal of Charles Morris’ plan the town lots were edged by a common and then, further out, the royalty which was a band of country lots. Perhaps it was envisioned that each of the 500 town lots would also have a 12 acre royalty lot to provide for crops and grazing for the town residents.  The system soon broke down as there was ample space within the slow-growing town for gardens and pastures. The colonial officials sold off the common and royalty lots and farms were created at the edge of the town.   When the City of Charlottetown was incorporated in 1855 it was comprised of the Town and Common. The royalty was beyond the fringe.

Prince Street School (right) was the site from which the postcard view was taken. Raphael Tuck postcard. Murray Collection.

Almost all postcards of the Edwardian era follow the harbour based approach. If there is a an overall view from the tall building the view is toward the harbour. This is the case for a Haszard and Moore postcard showing the view from the Colonial Building noted in an earlier posting.  But there was an exception. One tall building was located in the north part of the City. Prince Street School, built by the Methodists, was a four-story structure which peered out over the residential area.

Overlooking Experimental Farm, Charlottetown. P.E.I. Valentine & Sons postcard #111402. Because the eastern part of the card is often detached and has no postcard markings on the reverse it is often lost.

This rare double card published by Valentine & Sons shows the view to the north as the city bleeds out into the countryside.  The school was built in the northern part of the Common and the view goes beyond the city limits. The vista runs from the Newlands Estate in the west to St. Avards in the east.

The left half of the card shows a cluster of houses, many still standing, at the north end of Prince Street.  Malpeque Road can be traced extending out past St. Dunstan’s College, whose brick mass is seen squatting on the horizon.

This no-man’s land of mainly modest houses, tiny lots and narrow streets was Gaytown. It had been settled by those who sought the lower costs and lower taxes outside the city limit which ran just to the north of Gerald Street.  Businesses sprang up along Malpeque Road and Allen Street.  The area acquired its name when J.J. Gay, who had a market garden and nursery in Pownal moved to the area in the 1890s to better serve his town customers both at the downtown market and directly from the nursery.  Gaytown became a neighbourhood and then a community. Although administratively linked to the Village of Spring Park it had an identity all its own. By the 1930s the area had a number of sports teams playing hockey, baseball soccer and volleyball. The newspapers mentioned the Gaytown Rovers, Gaytown Ramblers, and Gaytown Hawks.  The fields at the edge of the community included the grounds of the Charlottetown Athletic Association near Allen Street.

The right half of the card looks out from the school roof to the grounds of the experimental farm with its thicket of woods around Ravenwood and Ardgowan. Many of the houses on Gerald and School Street (now Walthen Drive) are still standing.  A hint of industrialization can be spotted by the presence of oil tanks bordering the P.E.I. Railway line as it headed out of the city.

As the area outside the city grew so did the problems.  Without the benefits of municipal water and sewage systems and dependant for the most part on Charlottetown for fire protection the area was seen as a health and safety risk. As late as the 1950s there was still a public well at Spring Park.  In 1957 the Village of Spring Park amalgamated with Charlottetown and became ward 6 of the city. Parkdale continued on its own for several more years.

Although in common use well into the 1950s the name “Gaytown” has all but disappeared. While other neighbourhoods such as Brighton and Parkdale are still identifiers only a one block long street – Gay Avenue, where the nursery was located – remains to remind us of the settlement.

A postcard depicting the fields of the experimental farm which almost accidentally captured the view of rooftops may be the only view we have of a vanished community.

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Author: sailstrait

I am an archivist, historian and small boat sailor. Over the years have built several small boats, the most recent of which was a Medway Skiff. Since 2011 I have been skipper of "Ebony", a 1982 Halman 20. I sail in Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Member of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, PEI Sailing Association and the Northumberland Strait Yachting Association. I have also an interest in the history of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, Charlottetown Harbour, Northumberland Strait and the vessels that have sailed there over the years.

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