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.
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 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.