There are few today who can recall Paoli’s wharf. Most of the evidence of the wharf is buried beneath a condominium and a military training facility at the western end of Water Street. At low tide the rubble of the wharf fingers is visible but the scene gives hardly a hint of how busy the place was years ago. Like other wharves in the harbour these jettys had different names over the years as they were associated with individuals or businesses. The name Paoli was once synonymous with commerce on the waterfront. Today it has almost vanished along with the wharf itself.
When Charlottetown was laid out as the capital of the colony a section of land on the waterfront was reserved for military uses and Water Street ended at the gates of a minor fortification grandly named George’s Battery with a collection of cannon overlooking and protecting the anchorage. For almost a century this was the main military base of the Colony with barracks, drill square and an ordnance ground. Over the years there was a gradual withdrawal of Imperial forces. The facility became redundant and in 1864, ignoring requests for the property to become a public park, the Ordnance Grounds was given to the government of the colony, divided up into twenty-one building lots and auctioned off, giving the colony a windfall profit of 5,000 pounds Island currency. An impressive new carriageway, Dundas Terrace, populated with the fine houses of the elite, ran curving along the harbour from Water Street to Sydney Street. Haviland Street passed through the eastern side of property accounting for the slight jog in the present street line near Connaught, or Jail Square. In addition to the prestigious town lots the sale also released an undeveloped section of the waterfront. This was acquired by a Charlottetown merchant, Owen Connolly, and by 1878 three wharves had been constructed, two of which enclosed a timber pond.
Although used for general shipping from an early date the wharves soon came to be used as one of the main lumber yards for the city. By the end of the century Connolly’s Wharf was the site of James Barrett’s Bee Hive Lumber Yard and a few years later the Aylward and Deegan Coal Company had a space on the wharf as well. From early in the twentieth century the lumber firm of Poole and Lewis, later L.M. Poole and Company and which had originally been located on Peake’s wharf, was relocated and occupied the west side of the property which gradually became known as Poole’s Wharf. Into the twentieth century it was a busy place and was visited by both sail and steam freighters carrying lumber and other bulk cargos for the Island.
The bookkeeper for Poole & Lewis was Simon Paoli, son of Paul Paoli who had come to the Island from Corsica in about 1863. Paul followed the sea for much of his life and at the time of his death in 1898 he was master and owner of the tug May Queen. Simon soon became an essential part of the lumber business and when L.M. Poole retired about 1910 Simon took over the operations of the company although the name of the firm continued unchanged until it was wound up in the late 1950s. The business prospered and in 1913 it was reported that with increased demand from fox ranches for fox pen materials and keepers dwellings, the company was importing an average of a vessel-load of building materials a day. Simon purchased Connolly’s West Wharf in 1917 and the name gradually changed from Connolly’s to Poole’s to Paoli’s.
The property consisted of the wharf with extensive water rights, a breastwork to the west, and a large work yard. By building up the property and filling in the shallows the property was increased from one to four acres by 1927. In 1921 Simon admitted his son Simon Paoli Jr. as a partner in the firm. A visiting newspaper reporter noted in 1927 that the wharf was a busy place with seventeen staff waiting on customers and unloading three schooners. Four horse and wagon teams were engaged year-round in deliveries to customers. The wharf had seven sheds storing in excess of a million feet of lumber. Besides the shipments by water the firm also received from 150 to 200 rail car loads of building supplies annually.
In addition to the lumber yard operations the east wharf was home to a number of coal depots over the period, the last being Large’s Coal Yard which began in the early 1930s and operated until the mid 1950s.
Simon Paoli Sr. died in 1940 and in 1955 his son sold the property to the Department of National Defence for $27,500. The next year construction of the naval training facility, H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte, was begun. L.M. Poole & Company moved to the four-story brick building on the corner of Queen and King street, later occupied by Kays Brothers but the business did not long survive being separated from its wharf.