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
Advertisements

Five Views of Edwardian Queen Street

The building of the Charles B. Chappell designed Stamper Building at the south-east corner of Queen and Richmond Streets in Charlottetown created vantage point overlooking the prosperous businesses which looked east onto Queen Square. A series of postcard images showing the street scene reveal changes on the street over a period of ten or so years. They also tell us a lot about what postcards do and do not show and how sometimes all that exists is not to be seen.

All of the images are from the roof of the Stamper Building looking north up Queen Street toward the 1888 City Hall with its impressive bell tower. However, in the previous statement “all” should really read “both” as close examination of the cards, although they are from five different publishers, shows they actually share only two photographic images.  What is the earliest of the series is a card printed in Belgium for Taylor’s Book Store in Charlottetown.

Looking at details we can date this card as being from an image before 1909. That year the Fancy Grocery store of Jenkins and Sons on the north-west corner of Queen and Grafton Streets was demolished and was replaced by the columned façade of the Bank of Commerce, which had recently bought out the Merchants Bank of Prince Edward Island. Prominent in the foreground of the picture is a telephone or electrical pole with dozens of insulators. The wires, for the most part, have been re-touched out of existence.  The buildings fronting the square are almost all three-story brick structures. There is one exception – next to Weeks “People’s Store” a 19th century wooden building still remains. On the right of the card the shadow cast by the W.C. Harris designed Market Building falls on market square.

The same image is the basis of the card from  Charlottetown stationers Carter & Company.  But this card has little of the quality evident in the first.

Re-touched almost to the point of becoming merely a sketch of the scene, its photograph origins are obscured to the extreme.  The subtle details of the storefronts and signage are blurred. The utility pole has disappeared as has the shadow of the market building, replaced by the retoucher by a green sward surrounded by a neat hedge. Although the figures on the street, including a horse-drawn “sloven” in the middle of Queen Street, have been allowed to remain, they have almost become stick figures. In a clumsy but easily missed detail the sign of Haszard’s Bookstore on the building to the right to the sole wooden structure has been changed from the original in the photograph to read “Carter & Co. Ltd.” The overall result is a card showing a poorly coloured sterile streetscape devoid of shadows and details.  North of Grafton Street the lack of detail is even more noticible.

A card from Toronto’s Pugh Manufacturing Company looks at first glance to be merely a copy but it is a different and later image although also taken from the top of the Stamper building.  The chief difference is the 1909 Bank of Commerce which has replaced the wooden building on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets.

But that is not the only change. S.A. MacDonald’s store with its distinctive arched second-story show window has taken the place of the wooden store.  Streetlight standards line the western side of the street.  In this photo even some of the wiring of utility poles seems to have been left in although the large pole in the centre of the card has either been re-purposed or decapitated.

A fourth card, like many cards of the period has neither a publisher or printer identified and being unused does not even have a postmark to date it although it clearly is the same image as the one used in the Pugh card shown above.

It is more closely cropped on all sides. The offending utility pole has been re-touched out of existence but a festive line of seven flags has been added in a patriotic flourish.

The final card is from Raphael Tuck and Sons, an English firm that had been appointed official printers to Queen Victoria. The firm’s cards were printed in Germany and the output included both photographic images and a wide variety of artistic cards.

The publishing quality of the Tuck cards is extremely high with subtle colouration.  Yet this card too has been altered from the original. In this case it is not the addition of flags that is most evident but the complete removal of every utility pole in the photograph giving the appearance of a broad street unspoiled by poles, wires, or other defacing 20th century street furniture.

After the Great War Queen Street continued to be a popular scene for postcards, several of which were from the Stamper’s Corner vantage point. While there was little change in the buildings lining the streets the horses, carts and slovens were soon replaced with automobiles and trucks.

These cards are a reminder that much of what we see has been “improved” in the printing process and that postcards, like all documentation, should be viewed with a critical eye.