Robert L. Cotton’s Charlottetown Summer Resorts

The wharf for the Resorts ca. 1915

The wharf for the Resorts ca. 1915

As tourism developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries many entrepreneurs sought ways to take advantage of the interest in the Island. Farm tourist homes developed into larger summer resorts such as Shaw’s and Gregor’s on the north shore and Smith’s (later the Redcliff Inn) in Hampton and the Keppoch Beach Hotel near Charlottetown.

In 1913 another model for tourism  was developed. Managing partner Robert Lawson Cotton along with shareholders  J.O. Hyndman, W.R. Aitken, A. MacKinnon and J.P. Gordon incorporated  Charlottetown Summer Resorts Limited located, not as the name suggests, in Charlottetown, but across the harbour in Holland Cove. The Cove had been the site of a number of private cottages for some years but the new company embarked on an ambitious development, or rather developments, as notices for the site noted Holland Cove, Holland Heights and Holland Hall. A series of cottages with a centrally located dining hall was be operated on the American plan. This building must have been quite large as shortly after the Resorts opened some fifty people sat down for supper there – meals $.50. The resort would also have other shared facilities. A tennis court was opened in July of 1913 and a landing pier was built at the Cove giving five feet of water at high tide and plans were made to extend the wharf so that gasoline motor boats could also land passengers when the tide was low. A carriage service was in place to meet the Rocky Point Ferry and convey passengers to the resort (fare 15 cents). By August a direct boat service from Charlottetown to Holland Cove to was in place with three departures from Charlottetown each day. In addition to the Holland Cove compound, the company also held property at nearby Ringwood where additional cottages were constructed.

The Resort was an early success. At the end of the 1913 season the Guardian editorialized that the company had realized 30% on investment. Cotton was quick to respond that while the company was “much gratified”  the figure was not correct. He said that the business had proven that tourism could be profitable but that it was still not as profitable as the booming fox business. By 1915 some thirty cottages had been built on the Summer Resorts property including five-room house for Colonel Ings built on the point to the west of the Cove. These buildings appear to have been a mix of private family  dwellings and units for rental. Generally, for both the cottages occupied by Charlottetown families and those occupied by visitors (many of whom were from the English families of Montreal, often with Island connections), the period of occupation was the entire summer season. Often wives and children were sent to the Cove as soon as schools allowed and husbands followed as work allowed.  In 1921 the Guardian noted that by mid-June all but four of the forty cottages at Holland Cove and Ringwood had been engaged, several of the Charlottetown families had already moved in for the summer and that the first visitors from outside the province were expected during the week.

When the Official Motor Guide for Prince Edward Island was published in the early 1930s Charlottetown Summer Resorts had 27 cottages available for rental. A three-room cottage furnished was $65.00, a four-room furnished was $80.00 and $100 would get you a five-room cottage – all prices for the entire season! All cottages had a veranda and an open-front heating stove for cool evenings. Board was available at the dining room for $8.00 per week. In addition to the resort residents the dining room also catered to casual diners who arrived directly by boat or via the Rocky Point ferry.

Holland Cove looking East ca.1915

Holland Cove looking East ca.1915

Within a few years the Resort had become quite a summer colony. Cotton was a master at publicity and ensured that social notices included information about the comings and goings around Holland Cove.  For example following is the information supplied to the Charlottetown Guardian for their 10 June 1926 edition:

The Charlottetown Summer Resort Cottages at Holland Cove have filled up earlier this season than ever before and the residents there have already settled down to the summer’s enjoyment, the first tennis tournament of the season having been played yesterday. Amongst the new people at Holland Cove for the first time this year are Mrs. C. Bancroft Fraser with her three children and Mrs. Martin of Montreal who is occupying one of the cottages at the shore. Also Mrs. Fred McKay and two children and Miss Wright and little daughter Molly who are in one of the cottages on the Middle Cove. Colonel and Mrs. Campbell and two boys from Kingston, Ontario  who were here several years ago are back again and Dean H.M. MacKay, Mrs. MacKay, and Ian and Betty are spending their sixth consecutive summer in one of the hill cottages. Mrs. Morrison and two daughters from Keene N.H. are again in the same cottage as last year. Mr. and Mrs. L.C. DesBrisay and daughter from Montreal are expected a little later on and several other arrivals are expected. Miss Florence Pope is in her cottage again. Miss Green of Summerside has been with her and she is expecting Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pope and son from Ottawa. Miss Morson, Miss DesBrisay, and Miss Simpson are in the cottage adjoining the dining hall. Mr. C.L. Miles and family are again in the same cottage as last year. On the opposite side of the cove Mrs. Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. Cosh and Master Pete and Mrs. J.O. Hyndman and daughter Constance are again in residence and Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Gordon are back again as usual in their large cottage below the orchard.   

Over the years more and more of the cottages were purchased from the company and the pattern of summer-long invasion from Montreal and beyond did not fare well in the depression years. By the Second World War the Resorts had ceased operation although the area remained (and still remains) a summer colony. Some of the resort cottages built by Cotton are still in use today while others were removed from the site or torn down. After the war the dining room and much of the land had became the property of the Charlottetown Y.M.C.A. and was used for the “Y” Camp.  A series of bunkhouses was constructed in 1946 YMCA by volunteers and was used for many years for both boy’s and girl’s camps.

In the course of researching this posting I have discovered two more postcards of the area which appear above and also have been posted to the Holland Cove photo gallery here. That brings the number of postcards and views of the area to over a dozen. Not bad for a small summer community on P.E.I.

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