The Subject is Taste: Architectural Plans at the Public Archives
Prince Edward Island’s built heritage is an evocative symbol of our past. Historic churches, houses, and businesses speak to more than just the day-to-day; they give a sense of how those who came before us saw themselves, what they valued, and how they hoped to be remembered.
An ever-increasing number of the Island's heritage places have been recognized under PEI’s Heritage Places Protection Act and the heritage by-laws enacted by the cities of Charlottetown and Summerside. With the entry of many of these places onto the Canadian Register of Historic Places, our heritage places have taken on a national significance.
Taken from the extensive collection of architectural plans at the Public Archives, many of the buildings found on these pages have been recognized for their heritage character. Combined with short biographies of the architects who designed them, these plans remind us that our history is literally all around us.
Note: Title quote taken from the frontpiece dedication in John Plaw's 1796 Rural architecture; or designs, from the simple cottage to the decorated villa, including some which have been executed. Plaw immigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1807.
Digitized architectural plans
A selection of architectural plans from the Public Archives’ collection have been digitized. Many of these properties are still standing today and several are registered historic places. Where available, links to the property descriptions in PEI Historic Places have been included.
Charles Benjamin Chappell (1857-1931)
Charles Benjamin Chappell was born in Charlottetown 10 October 1857. In the early 1880s he entered into a partnership with John Lemuel Phillips. Early commissions by the firm included the Brown Block on Richmond Street’s Victoria Row and Charlottetown’s City Hall. The Chappell-Phillips partnership was dissolved in 1893.
Chappell later went into partnership with architect John Marshall Hunter. The new firm built and renovated buildings throughout the Maritimes. After parting ways with Hunter, Chappell continued to design notable buildings including Charlottetown’s Zion Presbyterian Church.
C. B. Chappell married Louisa Jane Holman on 25 September 1878. The couple had four children: Ernest C., Frederick John, Carrie and Ethel. Chappell passed away 1 October 1931 in the home he designed on Ambrose Street.
William Critchlow Harris (1854-1913)
Born in Bootle, England, 30 April 1854, William Critchlow Harris emigrated to Prince Edward Island with his family at the age of two.
After apprenticing with Halifax architect David Stirling, Harris would go on to design or assist in the design of over 120 buildings in the Maritimes. In 1877 Harris formed a partnership with his mentor David Stirling who had moved to Charlottetown from Halifax.
Harris was perhaps best known for his residential and ecclesiastical designs. Amongst these are Charlottetown’s Dundas Terrace, Beaconsfield, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, and the All Souls Chapel at St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral.
The son of William Critchlow Harris and Sarah Stretch, William Critchlow Harris never married and died in Halifax 16 July 1913.
John Marshall Hunter (1881-1942)
John Marshall Hunter was born in Lennoxtown, Scotland, 6 March 1881. After receiving his architectural training in Glasgow, Hunter emigrated to Montreal to take up a position with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He later joined a private firm specializing in ecclesiastical and residential architecture.
J. M. Hunter came to Prince Edward Island to supervise the reconstruction of Charlottetown’s St. Dunstan’s Cathedral following the 1913 fire. Hunter would go on to draft new plans for the church and oversee the rebuilding.
Soon after the completion of the St. Dunstan’s project in 1919, Hunter entered into a partnership with C. B. Chappell. Together they designed such buildings as the Charlottetown Hospital and the Summerside High School. The firm also specialized in major renovation and expansion projects such as the nurses’ residence at the Provincial Sanatorium.
John Marshall Hunter and Mary Taylor had two sons (one died in infancy) and a daughter. Hunter passed away 2 July 1942.
John Lemuel Phillips (1839 - 1904)
A native of Montague, John Lemuel Phillips moved to Charlottetown at the age of twenty-five. After apprenticing as a carpenter under Thomas Alley, he started a contracting and building business with John Lewis. The Phillips and Lewis firm was dissolved in 1880 and Phillips soon entering into a new partnership with architect C. B. Chappell.
The impetus for the new business venture appears to have been the construction boom that followed in the wake of the 1884 fire that destroyed much of Richmond Street between Great George and Queen Street. Phillips and Chappell would go on to design the Brown Block on Richmond Street’s Victoria Row.
The Phillips-Chappell partnership lasted until 1893. After its dissolution, Phillips took over the management of a starch business and several lobster factories.
John Lemuel Phillips married Sarah Jane Crabbe in 1875. They had three children: George, Hortense, and Wendell. Phillips died 27 January 1904 at the age of 65.
Isaac Smith (1795-1871)
Isaac Smith was born at Harome, England, in 1795. In 1817 he emigrated to Prince Edward Island with his wife Jane and younger brother Henry.
Isaac and Henry soon found work as skilled carpenters in Charlottetown. An early project was the round market building for Queen Square that had been designed by architect John Plaw. Isaac later provided plans for Charlottetown’s Pownal Square Jail, Government House, and Province House.
Smith left the Island in 1848 to take up a position as a traveling agent with the Nova Scotia British and Foreign Bible Society. His missionary work would take him through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.
Isaac Smith’s first wife, Jane, died in 1856. There were six children from this marriage, four sons and two daughters. Smith remarried in 1860 to Lucy Anne Hamilton of Maitland, Nova Scotia. Smith died 4 November 1871.