Benjamin Sapiens

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Prince Edward Island

Last month, I joined Mom and Aunt Barb on a trip to Prince Edward Island, which none of us had ever visited. We didn’t go on our yearly camping trip on MDI with her this year, but this trip was a very nice substitute.

The two salient features of PEI are red dirt and Anne of Green Gables. Other prominent features include:

  • Francophones!
  • Japanese tourists. Anne of Green Gables must be huge in Japan, because at least a quarter of all the tourists were from there.
  • Fields of wheat and potatoes.
  • Views of the ocean. The island is only forty miles wide, and it’s cut through with inlets, bays and estuaries, so it’s hard to drive far without catching a glimpse of the coastline.
  • Really lovely, unique churches.
  • Céilidh. This is just good old fashioned traditional Gaelic music. It’s the Irish word for “gathering” or “celebration,” pronounced “kay-lay.” We didn’t get the chance to hear any while we were there, but Mom and I listened to some at the National Folk Festival the week after.

Anyway, we had great three days there. Here’s some of what we saw.

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The Campbell House

The Campbell’s home, which Lucy Maud Montgomery called the “wonder castle of my childhood,” was built in 1872 by her Uncle John and Aunt Annie Campbell. The first Campbells settled here in 1776, and the house is still in the Campbell family after over two hundred and thirty years. It was the setting for Anne’s Lake of Shining Waters.

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Green Gables

This, of course, is the inspiration for the titular house in Anne of Green Gables. In real life, this farm was the home of David Jr. and Margaret Macneill, who were cousins of Montgomery’s grandfather. The farm was first settled in 1831 by David Macneill Sr. Although Lucy never lived here, she grew up nearby with her grandparents. She came to know her cousins’ farm through her explorations of the surrounding woodlands and places she discovered and named, such as Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood.

Soon after Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908, people began coming to Cavendish in search of Green Gables, along with the other places and people of Avonlea in the novel. It became a part of Prince Edward Island National Park in 1937 and it was declared a National Historical Site in 1985.

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Charlottetown

The provincial capital of P.E.I. It was founded in 1764 and named for King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte. In the following year it became the provincial capital of St. John’s Island, which was renamed Prince Edward Island in honor of Prince Edward, fourth son of George III and father of Queen Victoria and Commander-in-Chief of North America.

Charlottetown City Hall

Built 1887-88 in the Romanesque Revival style. Its multi-functional plan, typical of town and city halls of the period, included a police station, fire hall and stable on the ground floor, and council chambers, a court room, and offices on the upper stories.

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Beaconsfield Historic House

Beaconsfield Historic House is a large Second Empire and Italianate influenced home located on the corner of Kent and West Streets. Prominent local architect William Critchlow Harris designed it for one of Prince Edward Island’s most successful shipbuilders, James Peake Jr. (1842-1895).

Unfortunately, the Peakes were destined to enjoy their elegant home for a very brief time. With the collapse of the shipbuilding industry and other personal financial problems, James Peake was forced to declare bankruptcy and had to leave Beaconsfield in 1882. He eventually moved to British Columbia where he died a broken man.

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At the time, Beaconsfield was considered to be one of the most elegant and modern homes on the Island.

It featured gas lighting, central heating, a water closet and running water. It had twenty-five rooms, eight fireplaces, encaustic tiling, porcelain chandeliers, a beautiful coloured glass window above the staircase that featured Peake’s initials, lovely gardens and a waterfront view of Charlottetown Harbor.


Province House

Seat of the Prince Edward Island Legislature since 1847 and Canada’s second-oldest seat of government after the Nova Scotia Legislature’s own Province House in Halifax.

In September 1864, Province House had an important role in helping Prince Edward Island host the Charlottetown Conference. This conference resulted in the Canadian Confederation, which formed the British Canadian colonies into the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867, and was the birth of Canada as a nation.

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Red sandstone cliffs

Sandstone cliffs overlooking Northumberland Strait between PEI and the New Brunswick mainland

Auntie Barb in front of the lighthouse with her Anne of Green Gables hat.

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More photos here

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