In the 1920s Charlottetown was the primary depot for the Gulf of St. Lawrence with responsibilities extending to the Strait of Belle Island and beyond as well as a number of Newfoundland lighthouses. The Aranmore saw lighthouse duties along the north shore of the Gulf and into the Strait. Late in 1919 the Aranmore had been stranded in an attempt to carry supplies to marooned and starving wireless operators at Battle Harbour and two crew members spent the winter ashore in shacks maintaining the ship. It was not pulled from the shore until September of 1920. Throughout the 1920s the Aranmore was normally attached to the Charlottetown Marine Agency during the season and was laid up in Halifax over the winter, occasionally making voyages to Sable Island. A large number of the ship’s crew were from Prince Edward Island.
Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with Ron Atkinson who was a Yacht Club Board Member for several years and was Commodore in 1964 – one of the most exciting years in the history of the club. Besides his memories of the Club activities Ron has a collection of materials which he willingly shared with me. The following photos were ones that I had not seen before but which cover a forty-year period in the Club’s history and which Ron allowed me to copy.
Although this photo was taken in 1959 it shows a structure which pre-dated the Yacht Club by many years. Remembered by Ron as “Carvell’s salt shed” the building which shows up in few other photos sat on Pownal Wharf where the Club parking lot now stands. Carvell’s had leased the wharf in the 1920s but the building may be older than that. Probably used for the storage of salt which was sold for fish preservation, the building was typical of the waterfront structures which received little or no maintenance after shipping dropped off in the late 1930s. Before that Carvell’s Wharf was a busier spot and the regular steamers using the wharf included Clarke Steamships Gaspesia. By the time this photo was taken the wharf had crumbled with only the rock pile visible to the right of the picture.
This photo was taken sometime before 1937 when the Yacht Club clubhouse was built on the stub of what had been Lord’s Wharf. Work undertaken through the depression works program had made a great job of clearing the site and restoring the pilings and infill for the wharf. The float which was the boarding point for boats was already in place and anchored yachts were beginning to fill the basin. To the left of the picture, moored at Carvell’s, or Pownal wharf, are two of the boats essential to the history of the Club; Hal Bourke’s Restless and Mac Irwin’s Roamer. The wharf had an extension running east and west to enable large steamers to tie up and given the perspective this photo must have been taken from the deck of one of the steamers. The wharf would have provided excellent shelter from to south-east winds for the yachts in the basin. Note that the area to the north of the Club is almost empty with neither the City Barn nor the Eastern hay and Feed warehouse yet constructed.
Probably copied from a newspaper this picture can be dated between 1938 and 1940. the new architect-designed clubhouse overlooks the snipe fleet and a small schooner. The ground is still almost empty between the Club and Water Street. In June 1940 the City of Charlottetown let a contract to Albert MacKinnon for a new City Barn to be built just north of the Club. The design for the structure had been drawn by architect James Harris. The building was to house the city’s public works equipment and horses.
With a group of members launching one of the club’s Snipe fleet changes to the club’s surroundings can be spotted in the background. The City Barn, very recently built but already looking old, is in place and visible behind it is the Eastern Hay and Feed warehouse, later Atlantic Wholesalers. The photo is probably from the early 1940s. Several of the participants seem to have military-style dress and the Club was a popular spot for airmen training at the R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. facilities at what is now the Charlottetown Airport. Although not absolutely clear it is likely that the gentleman in the leather jacket to the left of the boat is Mac Irwin who was involved in almost every Club activity.
Jump ahead about thirty years. With the fleet at anchor in what must have been a very high tide the changes that time has brought can be seen. Several additions (clearly without the influence of an architect) have been made to the clubhouse to add to the facilities and increase the bar revenue. The scotch derrick which served as the mast crane is to the right of the building and a number of finger piers extend east from Lords’s Wharf. The City Barn and the Atlantic Wholesale warehouse still stand and the various sheds, barns and warehouses on Pickard’s wharf all seem to be awaiting demolition and redevelopment as Harbourside. Experienced club members will recognize many of the boats afloat and ashore; Plumb MacDonald’s boat is in what is now the ‘hood, Mac Irwin’s last Roamer is moored just west of Pownal wharf, and that looks like the Hunk A Dory in the parking lot. It is amazing to see how much the view is dominated by the bulk of St. Dunstan’s Cathedral.
I have previously written about the Plant line and the ships that provided a Charlottetown-Boston link. In that article I briefly noted that Henry Plant also was a pioneer in the development of winter cruising (not forgetting the pioneering effort of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company’s steamer Northumberland ).
This week Kevin Griffin, who works with a company called the Cruise People has written an extensive and interesting history of the cruise activities of the Plant Line in his daily cruising-business blog. The Plant cruises provided a winter use for several of the Charlottetown-Boston steamers when the Strait iced up and the Boston traffic fell off. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Plant Line operations. Griffin may be familiar to regular readers of this blog as I have referenced his very useful and entertaining history of the Clarke Steamship company, ships of which were regular visitors to Charlottetown well into the mid-twentieth century.
As we are still watching the snow slowly recede and waiting for winter to end in fact as well as in calendar it is tempting to think that one could do much worse than taking a cruise in warm climates just now.