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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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.

 

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.

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.

Victoria Park in Early Postcards

Visiting naval vessel seen from Victoria Park. Bathing huts can be seen just to the right of the seated figure. R.F. Maddigan postcard.

Charlottetown’s Victoria Park was established in 1875. It was carved from a property on the western side of the city designated as the Governor’s Farm.  When Charlottetown was laid out it had five squares: Queens, Kings, Pownal, Hillsborough and Rochford. By the mid 1800s these were becoming inadequate to the city’s needs. Queens Square was occupied by the market and other public buildings, Pownal Square housed the city jail. A chance to set aside public space on the waterfront was lost when the Imperial government gave up the ordnance grounds at the west end of Water Street. The colonial authorities decided to auction the lots off instead of establishing a park. The possibility of turning over part of the Governor’s Farm for a park was raised in 1869 and was discussed during the negotiations leading to the Island’s entry into Confederation.

Finally in 1875 40 acres constituting the westernmost part of the farm  were handed over to the city. The grant excluded the Prince Edward Battery which was retained for military uses. By 1880 the field nearest the harbour was identified as a cricket ground and one near Brighton Road (now Memorial Field) became a parade ground for the several military units in the city.  Access to the park was from Brighton Road because the proposed roadway extending Kent Street in front of Government House was opposed by various Lieutenant Governors until 1896. The roadway to the Battery was completed a year later and was extended to join Brighton Road in 1899. In 1905 additional land was carved out of the Government House Farm and the Park reached the size it has today.

As the premier recreational space the Park was the subject of many postcards highlighting the natural setting and the activities which took place there. First and foremost it provided a vantage point of the harbour with the open channel to Hillsborough Bay.

Charlottetown Harbour from Victoria Park. This view appears to pre-date the completion of the park roadway. R.F. Maddigan postcard

An extremely popular postcard subject was the view from the Prince Edward Battery (usually misidentified as Fort Edward) back toward the city. A single image was used by a number of publishers and others appeared which were only slight variations of the view.

In the early 1900s the military installation was still very much in use. The main army drill hall and other structures were on the east side of Governor’s Pond. The Battery was used by the artillery for both training and ceremonial uses. The 4th Artillery Regiment was particularly successful in Dominion competition and frequently led the country in the national results.

The new Park Roadway in front of Government House opened the Park to easy access from Kent Street. This image or a slight variation of appear on cards from a half-dozen or more publishers. This is a Haszard and Moore postcard.
Fort Edward, Victoria Park MHF
The Prince Edward Battery site continues to be used for ceremonial salutes to this day. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The annual Militia camps took place in the park until the Great War and provided an entertainment for visitors and residents of Charlottetown. Militia groups came from across the Island to set up camp in the Park and engaged in drills and competition while under canvas. The patriotism of the Boer War period made membership in the militia a popular form of comradeship and interest in civilian soldiers continued through to the Great War.

3 Among the big guns
Visitors at Camp Brighton. Carter & Company postcard.
Heavy Battery No. 3 Camp Brighton MHF
The horse artillery drawn up on the Park Roadway. The white board fence bordering the Government House grounds can be seen to the east of the encampment. Pugh postcard #42-7.

But military camps were not the only users of the park. Although there were limitations on the use of the park for shows and commercial activities which had a paid admission charge, community groups were frequent users.

YMCA Camp Victoria Park MHF
YMCA Camp, Victoria Park. There were close relationships between the military and groups such as the YMCA. The latter organization frequently had a support presence in military camps. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The vast majority of the early postcards images of Victoria Park deal with the natural views in the park.  A number of carriage lanes, some still in use as pathways today, had been opened in the predominantly birch forest and the striking groves of white birches served as both subject and background for Charlottetown photographers. W.S. Louson, whose photos were used by the Toronto postcard firm Warwick Bros. & Rutter was particularly enamoured by the park as a photo venue. [click an image to enlarge or begin slide show]

Today Victoria Park continues to be the site of postcard views and increased use of the park had led to more and more structures; fieldhouses, a bandshell, and changing rooms. During the Edwardian era the only buildings were the battery magazine, the tennis pavilion and the keepers house. Now it becoming overbuilt and is harder and harder to pretend, as our ancestors did in the beginning of the 20th century,  that the park represents a bit of the country in the city.