Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rails-to-Trails – celebrating 30 years

Guest Opinion by Ian Scott as published in The Guardian, June 10, 2019

- 123RF Stock Photo

 It was great to read the "Trail blazers" coverage on June 3, and Bryson Guptill's, "A walk around PEI? The next big thing?" on June 6 which both brought back rich memories of the early efforts to secure the abandoned rail lands in public hands for trail conversion. 

It was August 3, 1989 - 30 years ago that Rails-to-Trails was born at a meeting Gordon MacQueen and I organized with Ron Hately as primary guest speaker. 

Gordon knew Ron, a cyclist, who had travelled the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I knew Don & Florence Deacon who were international hikers.

Gordon and I were keen to do the leg work but knew we needed someone with Deacon's seasoned ability within the political realm. 

Retired from municipal and provincial politics in Ontario but full of energy, he was careful about which new causes he would embrace. I pitched the idea to him and after talking with Florence he agreed to a plan where I would volunteer as secretary and Gordon as treasurer if he would accept nomination as chairman. 

We asked him to also speak about their recent hiking tour in England. 

Ernie Morello had just completed a major plan for government called Charlottetown Routes for Health & Nature which included rail lands in Charlottetown; he agreed to be our third speaker.

Gordon was action oriented and arrived at the meeting with a cash box and receipt book declaring that "we better sign people up when they arrive." 

He deposited his own $10 bill into the cash box to become the founding member of an organization that didn't yet exist, and continued signing up members arriving at the public meeting. 

With the three speakers and election of an interim board the evening was a huge success although we eventually learned that a number of the people at the meeting would make their own case for private ownership of the rail land by adjacent land owners.

Harry Holman joined the board and as an historian knew the historical significance of the PEI Railway. He developed the slide show that guest speakers would take across the Island to make a case for preservation of the railway lands and creating a new resource. Dean Shaw likewise joined the first board and provided his office boardroom for meetings, drafted documents to register the organization, and with Gordon MacQueen was a keen salesperson for memberships. Within 19 days memberships in the fledgling organization reached 140.

A presentation by Harry Holman called PEI Railway Past & Present in Sept. raised membership to 200 and the show was on the road - Summerside - Kensington - Montague.  A newsletter kept people informed and meetings with government led to the desired response where the Province bought the land for a linear park which they administered while continuing to work with volunteer organizations and municipalities. Doug Murray, a civil servant led the process taking it from a tangled mess of old spikes and rough gravel into a smooth trail bed with interpretative panels and services at the various trail heads across the province. Even retirement has not stopped him from continuing to expand the system into spur lines that connected Stratford to Murray River in recent years. A project that has included many levels of government and many volunteers, the Confederation Trail remains an example of the importance of cooperation to realize a dream. Similar resources elsewhere that remain undeveloped are evidence our model works well.

Congratulations to everyone who continues to dream of new trails and kudos to Bryson Guptill for his vision of a 700 km trail around the Island, placing us in the league of other international hiking and cycling destinations.

As we approach the 30th anniversary date this summer I recall Don Deacon's towering stature with his helmet rising above any vehicular traffic as he biked around the city from his Water St. home, and the ever jovial Gordon MacQueen in his final years telling me how his morning walk on the Confederation Trail before the city awoke, was a wonderful tonic to start each day. 

Not only were they each believers in building dreams for others they both knew the personal value of making use of these trails. 

To all the dreamers, and to those continuing to advance the cause, 
Happy Trails.

Ian Scott is a trails advocate and craftsperson in Charlottetown.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Bears on Prince Edward Island

While viewing today's pastoral landscape across PEI we often forget a time when large wild mammals were part of that landscape. The bear is one that did survive into modern times and thus stories exist of encounters with bears and of the "last bear" on PEI.

Two articles are great sources for research on bears including:

This "dancing bear" appeared in Charlottetown in 1890s. PARO PEI Photo.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

100 Bells – in Remembrance

by Ian Scott

Bell ringers will gather this Remembrance Day in their respective places of worship across the country and around the world to remember the sacrifice of those who served and died in WWI. This will take place at the going down of the sun which locally is 4:44 pm. Peace finally arrived at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month - 100 years ago and the bells of remembrance will recognize the loss to both those who served and civilians. 

Canadian bells will be tolled 100 times, in a manner similar to a funeral with a 5 sec. period of silence between each tolling. Some counties have chosen other times during the day to ring their bells, and in the UK bell ringers will both toll their bells, but change over half way through to full ringing (like wedding bells, to celebrate the long-awaited peace). The tradition of using bells as a way of communications is longstanding and many stories are told of how people in England first learned of peace 100 years ago through the ringing of the local church bell as news travelled across the countryside bell ringer to bell ringer in a time when alternate means of communication were limited but joyful bell ringing was a sign recognized by all, at work in fields or in villages.

Charlottetown residents recall the end of WW II which likewise was communicated with the ringing of church bells. Allan C. McLeod, of Prince Charles Drive recalled the day as a boy well. In 1945 he and a friend were at the Charlottetown Driving Park. The memory remains fresh, “I’ll never forget it, the bells ringing across the city and everyone looking around and wondered what it meant.”  The arrival of peace was a moment in time that became a demarcation in the flow of events for families, communities and entire countries, as the dread of awaiting sad personal news from war zones would gradually pass away. For Allan McLeod the bells announcing the end of war permanently established a clear memory of where he was, and who he was with.

Various local churches have been contacted by the Royal Canadian Legion and have agreed to participate in this historic event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918. Bells will commence at 4:44 pm, as an appropriate way to mark this occasion. Allan McLeod will be among the bell ringers at the Kirk of St. James on Sunday.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Historic Irving Oil "Tower" Stations

While a designated heritage resource stands unused for many years now, the gas station known as Euston Street Irving served Charlottetown residents for many years as a local station at a time when there were often gas stations on many corners. It had been a survivor when many others closed but it was finally shuttered and remains in an unused state at the corner of Queen and Euston.

85 Euston Street - photo credit City of Charlottetown, Natalie Munn, 2009

The design is one that was familiar to Maritimes as the architecture of Acadian architect, Samuel Roy
and the description on Canada's Historic Places indicates:

The heritage value of 85 Euston Street lies in its role as the only remaining gas station of its type on Prince Edward Island and its association with Acadian architect, Samuel Roy. 85 Euston Street is an example of a small turreted gas station designed by Samuel Roy. He designed a limited number of these particular little gas stations for founder of Irving Oil and fellow Bouctouche, New Brunswick resident, Kenneth Colin Irving, in the 1930s. A number of Maritime cities and communities had them including Halifax, Bridgewater, and Truro in Nova Scotia and Sackville, New Brunswick but few examples remain. It is likely that this gas station was constructed in the early 1930s. It remained a popular filling station until 2008 when it closed. A rental car business now operates from the building. 85 Euston Street is the only gas station building of its type left standing on Prince Edward Island.

Traditionally, these stations were white with red trim, featured the Irving logo and contained two service bays, a gable roof and a distinctive corner tower. Influenced by the Queen Anne Revival or Chateauesque style, they were seen as a new type of station for a new kind of business. 85 Euston Street's structure has remained intact but the trim has been changed to green and the Irving logo is no longer visible. The pumps were removed in 2008.

Acadian architect, Samuel Roy began designing filling stations for KC Irving in 1931 and continued to do so until 1974. Roy was born in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, New Brunswick on 8 May 1895. He completed his primary education in Bouctouche, New Brunswick and then went on to Boston, Massachusetts where he began to study architecture. Roy joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1918, but returned to his studies, eventually going on to work with the Irving Oil Company designing stations as well as the Irving manor. He died in 1978.

Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2

The heritage value of 85 Euston Street is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the overall single storey massing of the building
- the size shape and placement of the distinctive corner tower
- the gable roof with gable dormer
- the two service bays with flat roof
- the three lights illuminating the sign above the two bays
- the size and placement of the windows
- the style and placement of the doors
- the decorative weathervane with the letter "N" atop the tower
- the decorative band running across the tower and the dormer painted to match the trim of the gable
- the brick chimney 

Examples of similar stations include the Sackville NB station which was acquired by the Village Historique Acadien in 2005 and restored to it's initial condition.

The station in Grand Pre, NS has had some sympathetic restoration and remains in operation.
Grand Pre, NS  - Google Street View Aug 2018

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Architect Isaac Smith, of Prince Edward Island

Isaac Smith (1795-1871)
We share a family connection to Isaac Smith (my wife's great-great-great grandfather) and thus over the years various family items and the interest of descendants has been of assistance to others who are researching the work and life of an important Island architect. Included is a link to genealogical resources related to Smith through my family history website Homeport. 

Parks Canada undertook the research and writing of a history of Province House in 1977 through Island-born, staff historian Mary Cullen. Published as a report it is now available online in .pdf format. Server connections can be slow but patience produces the full 450 pages of this valuable research. It was great to see that Dr. Alan MacEachern and the team at created a site where older reports such as this are now widely available.

The full title is: A history of the structure and use of Province House, Prince Edward Island, 1837-1977 / by Mary K. Cullen.

Province House at centre - from 1880 Meacham's Atlas

Daphne's aunt, Marianne (Rogers) Morrow researched Isaac Smith in the 1970's and 1980's. Marianne's research  produced the excellent magazine article published in the Island Magazine. It is entitled:  The Builder: Isaac Smith and Early Island Architecture, The Island Magazine, No. 18, Fall/Winter 1985: 17-23. The digital form of the article is available thanks to the Robertson Library at UPEI.
Isaac Smith (1795-1871)
Daguerreotype original photographed by Ian Scott
Marianne and her siblings decided to donate Isaac Smith's day books and other original documents in family hands to the PEI Public Archives and Records Office where they formed part of the Smith, Alley Collection Acc2702, which includes over 1168 textual items, plus 235 images collected by Judge George Alley and Henry Smith pertaining largely to the early history of Prince Edward Island.

The Biographical  Dictionary of Architects in Canada's entry on Isaac Smith includes a listing of 16 known building that he designed, and the website Historic Places Prince Edward Island has an illustrated biography of Smith. The website Canada's Historic Places has entries for both Province House, Government House, Barton Lodge, and Point Prim Lighthouse. A house associated with the family on land Isaac had owned at
92-94 Hillsborough Street, Charlottetown is also included in their listing.

In 2001 Maplewood Books, Charlottetown published Isaac Smith and the Building of Province House by C.W.J. Eliot as part of a series called Prince Edward Island Architects: A series from the Institute of Island Architectural Studies and Conservation. The eight page illustrated document is an excellent introduction to Smith and his work.

Isaac Smith (1795-1871)
Ambrotype original photographed by Ian Scott
Daphne and I have some original Isaac Smith items including, a previously unknown image of Isaac taken when he was younger (above). The image is damaged but still is recognizable  and was an exciting discovery when it was located in 2009.  The original ambrotype (on glass) that all previously known images of him were derived from remains in its original case and the younger image is a daugerrotype (on a silver plate).

Family Firm -- Smith Brothers & Wright

Also located in 2009 were originals of Isaac's brother and business partner Henry Smith and an unidentified image next to it with a similar case which we speculate to be Henry's bride Ann "Nancy" Bovyer. That branch of the family moved as an almost intact family unit in 1858 to Auckland, New Zealand on the Prince Edward, a ship built in Summerside for the voyage. That voyage and the emigration of Islanders to New Zealand is told in an article called, The Prince Edward Settlers,  the passenger list is also available.

Henry Smith (1797-1880)
Daguerreotype original photographed by Ian Scott.

Presumed to be Ann "Nancy" (Bovyer) Smith (1802-1862).
Found next to a matching image of her husband in 2009.
Daguerreotype original photographed by Ian Scott.

The two Smith brothers and Nathan Wright (of the firm Smith Brothers & Wright) lived close to the job site when working on Province House as all three families lived on the Prince Street block across from St. Paul's Hall. Isaac in a wooden house on the Richmond corner (where the current brick, Houle House now stands) with brother Henry next door at 100 Prince St. in the blue wooden house, and Nathan Wright up the street at 112-114 Prince.

Isaac Smith's house at left - located at 98 Prince St. Charlottetown, PEI

Government House

Government House  - from 1880 Meacham's Atlas

As the architect for Government House as well as Province House, Isaac Smith's role is documented in the collection of known source records related to Government House and related visual material that was produced as a two volumes set available in pdf format. The books were digitially published in 2015.

The two documents are an invaluable resource to current and future researchers as well as those making decisions about Fanningbank.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Hidden Lines Emerge

During renovations in May 2018, work on a house numbered 43 Churchill Ave. in Charlottetown revealed lines that helped verify a local tradition within the Kirk of St. James, a Presbyterian church with roots dating to 1825, that a portion of the original building was moved to a site on Churchill Ave. in the 1890's and converted into a private dwelling. While the moved structure had been documented as being located at 43 Churchill Ave. there was still a mystery about the location since the roof lines of the building did not match any pictures or paintings of the original church and it was difficult to know exactly how the conversion of a building that looked so different actually took place.

Prior owners of the Churchill Ave. property were aware of a church connection when I toured the building in the 1990's thus we knew a verbal tradition separate from the church tradition had been maintained.

When new owners removed the siding as part of their renovation efforts in 2018, the boards of the 'Auld Kirk' which had seen many years of service in three locations were visible along with their original square head nails. The structure is shown in an attached painting and photograph as being at the back of the church located on the Pownal Street side. The tower of the church faced the harbour.

The boards reveal that a one-story structure at the Churchill Ave. site was extended upwards to create a two story structure with a steeper pitch for the roof line. The boards also showed that at a later date an addition was placed on the right side of the building to enlarge the house and give an entry hall and improved staircase to the second floor. The colour of the boards also suggest that the bay window was likely a later addition, a theory which is reinforced by the fact that it does not sit on the original house foundation.

The old church building sat next to the original church site on Pownal St. for 20 years serving the congregation as a meeting space during the construction period and as a church hall until the new hall was added to the stone church in 1890's. It seems that the twice-moved structure left the Kirk site at the corner of Pownal and Fitzroy St. as a three sided structure with cross-bracing used to keep the open side stable during the move. It had been attached to the main church and thus would have lost the fourth wall when the building components were detached. Looking at the end fronting on Churchill Ave. today would suggest that this was the intact end thus was the exterior of the Kirk building and that the open (braced) side of the three sided structure was incorporated into the interior of the building.

The location was starting to develop more housing in the 1890's. In the 1880 Meacham's Atlas, Churchill Ave. ended at a stream running into Government Pond; it was known then as Cross Street and ran from Spring Park Rd. but ended at the stream.

The Kirk was also a contributor to other buildings in the general neighbourhood. The larger portion of the 'Auld Kirk' was also moved to find its third third home at 33 Euston Street; eventually that building was demolished in order to construct a triplex.

An early Kirk manse was likewise moved onto Euston St. in 1906 where it sits as 5 Euston today despite some alterations to the facade.

The Kirk of St. James along with a manse at right prior to 1906.

The former Kirk of St. James manse at left after it was moved by J. J. MacKinnon to 5 Euston St.
 and converted into a two-tenement residence..

The former Kirk of St. James manse now located at 5 Euston St. after conversion into an apartment building.
 The Kirk also contributed to another Brighton Road facade being the impressive brick mansard roofed house at the corner of Ambrose St. when 20 Brighton Rd. was purchased in 1906 as a manse. During that period the pillared portico was added.

20 Brighton Rd., Charlottetown, PEI

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Make Way for the Halifax Refugees!"

On this the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, this personal account of a survivor, Betty Rogers Large, as told in her book Out of Thin Air, seems appropriate.

Betty Rogers Large
When Dad was posted to Halifax in 1914, I was barely a year old. My sister Marianne was born there in October 1917, about six weeks before the tragic Halifax explosion. To help with the house Dad hired a maid, a girl named Sylvia Publicover who came from a place with the strange old name of Ecum Secum. We had an apartment within walking distance of the Citadel on Williams Street, which meant Dad could live at home when he was not on duty.

At that time the Citadel was a military intelligence center so it is difficult to ascertain precisely what Dad's duties were there I know from his papers that he continued his research and experimentation in wireless. From a receiving apparatus of his own construction, he was able to pull in, directly from Berlin and Paris, official communiques of the German and French general staffs. These were logged daily, and the information was forwarded to Ottawa. So it seems, through the years 1915-17, he was involved in some sort of wireless surveillance—probably one of the earliest forms of electronic surveillance in the history of warfare.
Keith S. Rogers - 1911 at Camp Petawawa

His routine duty at the Citadel was the maintenance of communications by visual telegraph—lamps and flags—and wireless telegraph with the various units comprising the fortress. During this period he was also seconded to the Royal School of Infantry and the Royal School of Artillery to train wireless operators. At age 23, he was promoted to Captain and placed in charge of all communications including the military telephone system. Each year he applied for overseas service, but his applications were turned down—much I'm sure to my Mother's relief—on the grounds of necessity for his service in Canada.

I was too young to have any conscious memories of Halifax; but the story of what happened when it was devastated by the explosion caused by the collision of two munition ships, the Imo and the Mont Blanc, has been told so often, it seems as if I actually do remember it—so I'll tell it that way.

It started just like any ordinary day. We were sitting around the breakfast table. Mother always said that if Dad had not had such quick reflexes, all of us, except baby Marianne, would have been killed. We had large dining-room windows, and as we looked out, we could see the man next door up on a ladder fixing his house. Suddenly, there was an awesome feeling of danger as an ominous swishing noise filled the air.

"Under the table!" my father roared, grabbing me and throwing me to the floor. Sylvia, the maid, flung herself across Marianne's bassinet. As we huddled there pressed to the floor a shower of glass flew over us, embedding itself in the far wall. Shards of it had to be taken out of poor Sylvia's back. I still carry the scar where it cut my knee. The man next door was blown off his ladder, his body found over in the next street.

Dad reported immediately to the Citadel, but before he went he took us to the Commons where the military was erecting a sort of tent city to house the thousands of fleeing homeless. We spent the night there in the open because there was fear of a second explosion. Outside, it was bitter cold; and to add to the misery, there was a heavy snowfall throughout the night which turned into a blizzard the next day.

Death, fear, and pain were everywhere as thousands of victims lay in long rows at the hospitals and receiving stations waiting their turn to be attended or pronounced dead. Dad said people reacted quickly and courageously. Military and naval units organized search and rescue parties. Firemen fought desperately to bring raging fires under control. Doctors and nurses were operating as soon as schools, halls, churches and private homes could be set up as temporary hospitals. Special trains were arranged to bring help from the United States and the rest of Canada.

Immediately the news of the explosion reached the Island, Grandfather "W.K.", who was chairman of the PEI Hospital Board, organized a team of doctors and nurses and a cavalcade of cars to go to Halifax. All the Island roads were blocked with snow. Undeterred, they drove the cars along the railroad tracks. When he arrived at the stricken city, Grandfather went straight to our home, stuck his head in at the door and called out, "Is everyone alive and well?" Satisfied we were, he left at once for the Red Cross Headquarters.

Those people with friends or relatives elsewhere who could take them in were evacuated from the city. Mother, Marianne and I were sent home along with many others on the Borden train. When we landed at the station in Charlottetown, men walked ahead of us on the platform calling to the crowds, "Make way for the Halifax refugees!" We remained on the Island for the duration of the war.
W K Rogers