A Gentleman’s Residence at Keppoch

Bayfield House c. 1895 with the bare headland of Blockhouse Point and Holland Cove in the background

Bayfield House c. 1895 with the bare headland of Blockhouse Point and Holland Cove in the background

Even amidst the collection of low, one story cottages that now surround it, and somewhat screened as is by trees, the building still stands out as a landmark when viewed from Hillsborough Bay. Partially because of its landmark status the Bayfield House is listed on the Canadian Register of Heritage Properties. It is an unassuming building, At two and half stories the house is large when compared to its bungalow neighbours, but not overly domineering.  It must have been much more striking when first built because early photos show it standing alone in the field overlooking Keppoch Beach.  The building has remained. It is the neighbours that have changed.

Keppoch was originally a farming district. The name comes from Keppoch, Airsaig,in Scotland and had been used by James Duncan for “Keppoch House” his residence looking out over the bay. Dr. Henry Brougham Hillcoat purchased the property in 1854 and advertised a warning to trespassers or those carrying off wood or hauling seaweed from the property. By 1858 Hillcoat had returned to the United Kingdom where he drowned attempting to save one of his children in waters at Port Talbot. The property was later owned by William Walsh and contained 240 acres when it was offered for sale in 1905 after his death. In addition to farming the property was the site of a summer resort eventually becoming the Keppoch Beach Hotel.

Larned002

Detail of Keppoch from Meacham’s 1880 Atlas of Prince Edward Island

Slightly to the west, and closer to the shore, just beside the brook running to a shallow cove a house was built (probably in the late 1860s) for Henry Wolsey Bayfield who had purchased the property in 1866 when he retired. That house still stands on the site today. Bayfield was an Admiral and had responsibility for the early hydrographic surveys and charting of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The house gradually acquired neighbours as the convenience of the shore so close to Charlottetown meant that more and more townsfolk and visitors from out of province removed to Keppoch for the summer, especially after the opening of the Hillsborough Bridge made travel from Charlottetown easier.

By 1875 the house had acquired the name “Redcliffe House” and in that year was advertised for sale by Bayfield’s lawyer son Edward but it does not appear to have changed hands at that time.  Following Admiral Bayfield’s death in 1885 the house was offered for sale by auction and was described as follows:

That valuable seaside house, Redcliffe, and premises, with about 3 1/2 acres of land attached, magnificently situated at Keppoch, at the entrance of Charlottetown Harbor, commanding an extensive sea view, and at the same time, within easy reach of the city, being only two miles from the steam ferry Southport.

The house has a southern aspect, is large and commodious, substantially built of the best materials. It has a drawing room and dining room with folding doors, eight bedrooms, large kitchen and cellar, coach house, stables, &c., with every convenience for a gentleman’s family, and with a small outlay could be suitably arranged for a Summer Hotel. A never-failing spring of pure cold water within fifteen yards of the house. 

For purity of atmosphere, soft and balmy sea breezes, deliciens sea bathing , excellent mackerel, trout and lobster fishing, &c., this Seaside residence cannot be surpassed in any part of Canada. 

It was acquired by the Robertson family who operated it as a summer resort until 1909 when it underwent a major change, becoming a family summer cottage. The purchaser was Charles Pierpont Larned, a well-heeled attorney from Detroit Michigan.  He was reported to have remodeled the house from top to bottom “introducing many improvements.” These included turning one of the ground floor rooms into a billiard room. He also connected his new house and a number of the other summer residences by a telephone line to Charlottetown.

Included in his plans was the building of a pier for his gasoline launch. The boat itself was shipped from the Detroit Launch and Power Company and arrived in July of 1909. The powerboat company was shortly to change its name to the Hacker Boat Company and became one of the leading builders of powerful mahogany speed boats under the name “Hacker Craft.”  The company still operates and produces high-quality launches today. Larned’s 30 foot boat boasted a top speed of 12 miles per hour from its 20 hp engine.  He was very much a gentleman of leisure who appears to have avoided tinkering with the boat himself for in 1911 he was advertising a three-month job for a reliable man experienced in gasoline boats to take care of the craft. Keppoch is not well suited as a place to keep a boat and it is doubtful if the promised wharf was ever built. In 1913 the boat was offered for sale – a splendid sea boat complete with cushions, chairs, folding anchor, and life preservers – “Will sell at a bargain.”

Larned’s interests extended beyond the law. He was one of the founders of the Detroit Player’s Club and an active supporter of, and participant in, amateur theatrics. His wife, Lillie Whitney Larned was daughter of the owner of the Whitney Opera House in Detroit and was herself one of the founders of the Theatre Arts Club. Lillie Larned entertained frequently at Keppoch and often performed monologues at social gatherings  as she did at a Parlor Concert at Government House in 1911 and in a benefit performance in aid of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society at the Charlottetown Opera House in 1913.

Larned001It all came to an end in 1918. Pleading “pressure of business” C.P. Larned put the property up for sale in May of that year. Described by the Guardian as “the finest summer residence in  the Maritime Provinces” the house changed hands in September.

Bayfield001

Detail of Keppoch from Cummins 1928 Atlas of PEI. The Bayfield property is not named but can be seen to the east of the brook.

The new owner was the Rev. Julian Clifford Jaynes of West Newton Massachusetts, a Unitarian minister. He and his family had been summer visitors to the Island for more than twenty years, often staying in Malpeque. It is likely the billiard room was converted to other purposes. Jaynes did not have much opportunity to enjoy his new summer house as he died in 1922. The following year his widow offered the house for sale and in 1924 called for tenders for the property. However it did not find a buyer and Mrs. Jaynes and her children continued to be part of the summer colony at Keppoch for decades. The family was aware of the historic importance of the place and following the death of the last of the immediate members of the Jaynes family in 1996  it passed to the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation who placed covenants on the site to ensure its preservation before returning the property to private ownership.

Bayfield House in Keppoch seen from Trout Point. ca. 1950

Bayfield House in Keppoch seen from Trout Point. ca. 1950

Rev. Jayne’s son, Julian Jaynes Jr., who spent his summers at Keppoch, was an intellectual who was a member of the faculty of Princeton University. He developed a controversial theory of consciousness published in 1976 as “The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which enjoyed unusual popularity at the time. A recent article on Jaynes life and ideas and present thinking regarding the theory can be found here

Detail from aerial photo of Keppoch in 1935. Bayfield House is in the centre of the photo just to the east of the Pollywog Pond.

Detail from aerial photo of Keppoch in 1935. Bayfield House is in the centre of the photo just to the east of the Pollywog Pond.

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12 thoughts on “A Gentleman’s Residence at Keppoch

  1. Islander

    I’d be interested to know what covenants were placed on the site by the Heritage Foundation? I know the land was divided and another large house and garage were built next to it, and I haven’t seen any real maintenance done on the original house. I doubt that’s what Mrs. Jaynes really wanted…

    Reply
    1. Keppoch Cottager

      I do not know all the covenants but one was that the exterior look had to be maintained. As a long time summer visitor to Middle/Center Keppoch, I can say that the new owner, a PEI resident, has done extensive work on the outside and is even restoring most of the inside to it previous look, except the kitchen and bathrooms which have been modernized. The land was not sub-divided, but both parcels visible in the 1928 atlas between the Chas V Stewart and W W Owen properties were owned by the Jaynes family in 1996. The smaller property was not of historical interest and was sold separately with the new owner building the new house and garage.

      Reply
  2. Marjorie (Downe) Toews

    Charles Stewart and his wife, Georgie (Mutch), were the last owners to farm what is now known as West Keppoch and upon whose land had existed a sanitarium overlooking the entrance to Charlottetown Harbour. As a grand niece of Georgie, who spent many summers with her in Keppoch, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Jaynes’ summer home with her in what was referred to as Middle Keppoch, and heard the story of the Jaynes’ disastrous effort to winter over one year, much to their great discomfort. Although the house itself is a lovely large structure beautifully situated, it was the Jaynes family with their antiques and gracious manners that made it the premier summer home in the area. Alex, a hunchback, (does anyone remember his family name?) looked after the Jaynes’ property, cutting the grass, making repairs, etc. and, with push mower in tow, would make his way over the field to cut the grass of the Stewart property. Marjorie (Downe) Toews

    Reply
    1. Norah Henry

      I do remember Alex working around the ice house but never a surname. Great to see the house being looked after and I presume the interior restored . Like you I have memories of visiting Mrs Jaynes when early on and then later when she moved to the old cottage all year around.

      Reply
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  4. Peggy Forbes

    There is a gentleman by the name of Paul Gallant who lives on the Rosebank road.Not sure if Alex was his father…but he has fascinating stories of he and his father caring for property in this area.

    Reply
  5. LYNNE REES

    I am currently researching the maritime history of Port Talbot, South Wales UK and came across a burial register entry and a supporting newspaper article reporting the death of HB Hillcoat, in the harbour at Port Talbot in 1858, while attempting to save one of his sons from drowning. He was buried locally. i can email you both images if they’re of interest to you and the background history of the house, Regards… Lynne

    Reply
    1. sailstrait Post author

      Thank you for your interest in Sailstrait. We know little about Dr. Hillcoat. He was a doctor formerly in the service of the East India Company and was settled in the rural community of Crapaud by 1852. Following the death of his wife in 1854 he moved nearer Charlottetown and purchased the Keppoch estate. He decided to return to the United Kingdom and invested in a vessel called the Snowdrift in 1858. At his death the same year he left a widow and eight young children. The local Charlottetown Examiner re-printed the information surrounding his death from an unidentified Welsh newspaper.

      Reply
      1. Lynne

        You know more than I do! So, thank you. The newspaper was ‘The Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette’ of 11th December 1858. I’ve added the link below. The article is a paragraph in a news column (the 4th across) and quite brief: the headline is ‘Death of Father in Saving a Son’s Life’.

        The entry for HB Hillcoat’s burial in the parish register is rather mysterious as in the column for ‘service conducted by’ it says, Dr Hillcoat. It has to be a relative. Also, while he was allegedly buried at Aberavon on 7th September, his body was ‘removed’ to Baglan (a neighbouring parish and church) on 9th September. I can only presume that he may have had affluent friends in that parish.

        I’m not yet sure if I will include this story in the book I’m planning, but if I do, I hope it will be okay to reference this blog entry? If it is okay and there’s any precisely worded source you’d like quoted then please let me know.

        https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3091401/3091406/18/

        Best wishes, Lynne

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  7. Tom McMillan

    When my twin brother, Charley, and I purchased in 1973, and then restored in 1974-75, the “Keppoch estate” main building — the former Keppoch Beach Hotel — we renamed the place Duncan House, after the original builders (in 1840), James and Andrew Duncan. Our second choice for a name was Hillcoat Hall, after the self-same doctor mentioned above, who we understood to have owned and lived in the house for a time in the mid-1850s. (We simply liked the alliterative name Hillcoat Hall, but opted for Duncan House, instead. That was not only because the two Duncans had built the house, but also because, like Charley and me, they were brothers.)
    Tom McMillan
    Boston, MA/East Keppoch, PEI

    Reply

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