Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spring Park House, Charlottetown - demolished 1996

     I was sorting through some papers recently and found this article which appeared in The Guardian Weekend newspaper in the spring of 1996, later that year the historic Spring Park House was demolished.

Developers vs. history buffs: City heritage advocates concerned that history Spring Park house could be torn down for apartment units
The Guardian Weekend. Saturday, March 23, 1996
By Ron Ryder
The owners of a history Charlottetown building are considering tearing it down and rebuilding, which has a well-known city heritage advocate in an uproar.
Catherine Hennessey, currently visiting Boston, Mass., was so worried about the fate of the home once called Spring Park that she phoned home to rally people behind the building.
Looking at the grew building that houses 8 and 10 Duvar Court, nobody would guess it was once the manor house of a country estate. Decorated with peeling paint, a sagging extension and garbage in the front yard, the house that gave its name to an entire neighbourhood now looks like a textbook case of renovations gone wrong.
But Spring Park has a history that belies its appearance. In fact, the home is believed to be the birthplace of John Hamilton Gray, a former premier of P.E.I. and one of the Fathers of Confederation.
Hennessey says developers want to tear the home down and erect an eight-unit apartment building in its place. She’s crying foul.
The former city heritage committee chair says the building has been let go and hasn’t attracted public attention because it’s on a side street and hasn’t been designated as a heritage site.
Those factors reduce the ability of history buffs to protect it, she added.
“This building is not listed. That’s the problem.”
According to local developers Hennessey’s panic is premature.
Before the building can be torn down, developers will have to get a permit from Charlottetown City Council. And the city’s planner says it shouldn’t even go to council before May.
The proposed new building is one of two multi-unit residences developers want to build on Duvar Court and on an adjoining lot at 122 Spring Park Road.
Brooke MacMillan, one of three partners behind the proposed development says they haven’t definitely ruled out saving Spring Park.
“We’re going to try to do what’s best for everyone in terms of heritage interests and business interests and hopefully we can find a happy medium,” he says.
He said people who want to preserve the old building ought to provide some incentive.
“If the building costs more to save than it does of us to tear it down and put up another one, then so be it. Unless someone’s going to pay the difference,” MacMillan says.
The project plans are far from finalized, he says.
“It’s a long road ahead of us,” MacMillan says. “There’s no bulldozers going in tomorrow.”
Ed MacDonald, curator of history at the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, says Spring Park was originally granted to Robert Gray, John Hamilton Gray’s father, by the lieutenant-governor of P.E.I.
He says the state was part of an area known as the common on the outskirts of the city. It included extensive pasture land, orchards, a brook and gardens that were famous in the city as a place to picnic.
“Local Charlottetonians used to be able to avail themselves of the gardens at Spring Park,” MacDonald says.
He says the plain, sturdy original building has been undermined over the years.
“That has been much added on to over the years, a lot of the renovations haven’t been (architecturally) sympathetic,” MacDonald says.
The building is one of the oldest in Charlottetown and would add to the architectural history of the city, he says.
Christopher Severance, executive director of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation says the loss of a historic building means the end of a concrete tie to the past along with part of the city’s character.
“The whole heritage of the Island, once you lose something like that, is poorer as a result,” he says.
Coun. Mitchell Tweel, chair of the city’s arts, heritage and culture committee, says the idea of a new apartment building on Duvar Court came up last year but was put off because area residents didn’t like the idea of a new complex.
He said the new proposal hasn’t even come up for discussion with his committee yet.
“As far as the Heritage Review Board goes, nothing has come forward,” Tweel said.
Tweel added the board is working on proposals for ways to promote heritage preservation in Charlottetown. HE says the city should look at options such as tax breaks to encourage people to maintain important pieces of real estate.
But he says heritage activists seem to be set on blaming developers rather than encouraging them.
“They always been in this confrontational mode,” Tweel said.
Hennessey says the money spent demolishing the old structure and putting up a new one should be put toward refurbishing Spring Park.
“If they could experience the satisfaction of saving an old building they’d see how wonderful it is,” she says. “We’ve been through that building it’s structural fine. It looks like hell.”

Robert Gray, came to Prince Edward Island in 1787 as private secretary to Governor Edmund Fanning. Both men came to British North America as Loyalist refugees in the wake of the American Revolution. Robert Gray married Mary Burns, daughter of George Burns, a prominent merchant and Island landlord. Gray was sent to England for his education, and spent his 20s and 30s in the British military, including service in South Africa and India. He retired with the rank of captain in the 7th Dragoon Guards. While still in the military, he married Susan Bartley Pennefather, step-daughter of J.L. Pennefather, an officer in the 7th Dragoon Guards. Gray named his first child Harriet Worrell Gray, in honour of the sister of Charles Worrell, a resident Island landlord who at one time owned close to 100,000 acres, including some once held by George Burns. The marriage of Gray’s sister, Jane, to Artemas Cambridge further strengthened Gray’s ties with leading entrepreneurs and officials who moved back and forth between Britain and Prince Edward Island. When Gray returned to Prince Edward Island in the 1850s, he was appointed to the Legislative Council, the upper house in the Island Legislature. Gray rejoined the military during the Crimean War, but did not see active service. 

**To see a map of “Spring Park” refer to the Public Archives of PEI
Host Collection
Public Archives and Records Office map collection 
Physical Location
Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island 
A plan of Spring Park, the property of Robert Gray  
Date (original)
[ca. 1828] 
Creator (original)
A plan of Spring Park, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the property of Robert Gray. Key shows a breakdown of the condition of the land. Total acreage: 76. Also shows sketch (lithograph) of dwelling house.  


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Bonshaw House, 1840-1945

     In 2002 I drew the plans for "Bonshaw House" built by W.W. Irving. Also is information I compiled about this wonderful house.
     Much of the information below comes from: 
BONSHAW: A Stroll Through Its Past
by William M. Glen and Elizabeth A. Glen, 1993
     The Ground Floor was divided into the formal rooms ( the entrance hall, dining, grand and drawing rooms ) and the support rooms ( the kitchen and storage rooms ).  The floors in the entrance hall, grand, dining and kitchen rooms were hardwood.  The entrance hall had a notable staircase and banister.  Some of the Flooring and banister was utilized in the McLeod House which now stands on the site.
     -Extracts from the Annie Laurie Robertson diary 1888 to 1903, the location of the original now unknown, extracts inthe possession of Ann Coles, Milton, Queens County, PEI, Dec. 1992.
     The Second Floor was  serviced by three staircases; one to each section of the house.  The three sections were not connected.  In March 1900 it was noted that Bonshaw House was empty as "it was hard to get help to keep up a big house".
     -Based on the recollection of Christine McNevin nee McLeod, who lived in the house for 14 years in the 1930s, Argyle Shore, Sept. 1993.
 ...By March 1845, WW had moved to Charlottetown and offered Bonshaw Farm for lease or let.  He described the farm as having a house and offices and was available for immediate possession.  No record of anyone taking up the offer has been found so it is likely the house stood empty, although the land was probably still being farmed.
  In the early part of 1848, WW was having financial difficulties, probably caused by living beyond his means.  In April he gave up the lease of the 2718 acres in Lot 30 he had from David Stewart in lieu of rent arrears to the value of 192 pounds.  He also left the Legislative Council although this may have been due to expiration of his term in office and not a reflection on his financial troubles.  The letter to explain his replacement on the Council noted "he quitted the Island".  As the year progressed, things got much worse, and WW advertised Bonshaw Farm for sale.
Valuable Property for Sale.
     Private offers will be received by the Subscriber (who is about winding up his affairs in the Island,) for the following Property, viz:
     BONSHAW ESTATE. consisting of 315 acres of Freehold Land, beautifully situated on West or Elliot River, of which it commands a view.  It is 12 miles from Charlottetown, bounded on the South by the Tryon Road and on the East by the West River - one of the finest trouting stream; in the Island, from which oysters can also be obtained a few miles lower down.  It is in the immediate vicinity of Saw and Grist Mills.  About 70 acres of the above are under cultivation, and the remainder under a growth of Hardwood, with a sufficiency of Spruce, Fir, and Hemlock, for building and fencing purposes.  The Dwelling House was built about seven years ago, and consists of a Centre, with projecting Wings and Colonade having Drawing and Dining Rooms, two Bed Chambers,  Entrance Hall, 14 feet square; back Hall, (all papered) and Kitchen on the ground floor.  There are two Chambers above , and also Servants rooms.  Frost-proof Cellars under the Centre and South Wing.
The Farm Buildings consist of a Barn 50 feet by 27 feet, and with 20 feet post; and one-half is cellared and walled; - a Stable, with 4 stalls and loose box, Cow House, Poultry House (2 floors) Stone Well- house, with a pump, Pig - , & c.
     The Subscriber also offers for sale about 10,000 Junifer (Halmatak) Sleepers, two-thirds of which are 9, 10 by 5, and the remainder 9, 9 by 4-1/2, at St. Peter's Bay and Naufrage; 500 tons Hemlock Timber, principally 13 inches square, and mostly in lengths of 15 and 27 feet, at Bedeque, Richmond, and Orwell Bays also a quantity of large-sized Birch Timber at Bedeque and Three Rivers.
     Also, a considerable amount of Book, Debts, being advance made on Timber Contracts during the Winter of 1847.
     Every information will be afforded, on application to Wm. Forgan, Esq., Solicitor, Charlottetown, or to W.W. IRVING.
Spring Park, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, August 14, 1848.
from the Royal Gazette 29th Aug 1848, page 4.