Fifteen Edwardian Views of Queen’s Square

As the central square of the City of Charlottetown, Queen’s Square was a frequent subject of Edwardian postcards.  The Square housed most of the Province’s major public buildings and was bordered by the main commercial streets of the city.  Most cards publishers of the period showed one or two views, with the Provincial Building being easily the most common.

The Bandstand in Queen’s Square. The three-story building in the background is on the corner of Great George and Grafton streets.  Pugh postcard #524-2

However the cards of the Pugh Manufacturing Company have a remarkable deviation from the norm. Of the 80 or so Pugh cards for Prince Edward Island published before WWI at least fifteen show Queen Square or the streets surrounding it. There was certainly much to see on the Square. In 1905 there were four large buildings which represented the major public and government presence in the city. At the west end of the square was the William Harris designed market building (1903) with its adjacent weigh scale house.  The land in the square to the north and south was the public market square.

A street, now vanished  separated the market from the cluster of government buildings. The central section of the Square consisted of three uniformly large brick or stone buildings. These were; the Cabot building (1887), also designed by William Harris, which was the post office and Dominion Government building, the Provincial (or Colonial) Building (1847) now erroneously referred to as Province House*, which contained the provincial legislature, most government offices and land registry; and the Thomas Alley designed Law Courts Building (1876) which replaced an earlier law courts destroyed by fire in 1884, on the site of the Cabot Building This part of the Square also contained the band-stand and the public gardens designed by Arthur Newbury.**

Another street cutting the square separated state from church with the Church of England (1896), Sunday School and Anglican Rectory, all in harmonious sandstone occupying the remainder of the public land in the centre of the city.

Sunnyside (a section of Grafton street) to the north, Victoria Row (Richmond Street),south,  and Queen Street, west, provided the sites for the city’s major businesses. The east side of Queen’s Square was Prince Street which was, and is, a residential street.

View of buildings on Queen’s Square. The uniform setback resulted in a large open public area which was developed as the Queen’s Square Gardens. Pugh postcard #898-15.

Oddly the Pugh series of cards does not contain a card showing the Colonial Building, except in combination with other buildings, a view which was invariably included in the offerings of other postcard publishers.  Perhaps even then the image was too common to be remarkable.

For architectural historians post cards can be frustrating for they usually show only a single elevation the backs and sides of buildings rarely make the cut.  The Pugh cards  show images from all around the square. Perhaps it was the well-maintained gardens which were being featured but we have rare views of the bandstand which later vanished from the Square and something other than the usual elevations of the Market and Cabot Buildings. One event at the Boer War memorial is a card subject but the memorial itself features on another.  

Today most of these views could not be taken. The building of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in 1964 eliminated the street separating the market square from the rest of the block,  reduced the Cabot Building to rubble and forced the disappearance of the Gardens.  The brutalist structure elbowed its way to the edge of the streets and forced what little public open space was left up onto a plaza visibly at war with the surrounding streets.

The Pugh views speak to a much different time when the city centre was open and welcoming. We are fortunate that it has been so well documented.

Thirteen other Pugh images of Queen’s Square are available. Click on any image to start the slide show and enlarge the images.

  • * The name Province House rarely appears in printed sources before 1964 and when it did the reference was usually to the Legislature Building in Nova Scotia.
  • ** For information on the Queen’s Square Gardens see The Island Magazine Fall/Winter 1990
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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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