Tag Archives: Lord’s Wharf

Fred Small’s Yacht Club photos

IMG_0746Fred and Jean Small were two of the earliest members of the Charlottetown Yacht Club and they continued to be active in the club well into their senior years. Fred was, in his latter, days one of the members of the verandah gang who presided over the waterfront dispensing wisdom and observations and Jean was active in what was then referred to as the “Ladies Aux”. Along with Mac Irwin and Hal Bourke and his family they were a constant at the Club.

After the passing of Fred and Jean a small collection of snapshots was presented to the PEI Public Archives and Records Office. For the most part unidentified, the photos provide a glimpse of the activities of the Club in the 1940s. While the snaps are of undistinguished quality without sharp focus they never the less give a taste of what was going on the warm summer days on the waterfront: scraping the bottom, racing, picnic excursions, but mostly just knocking about in boats.

The period was the heyday of the snipe although there were still a few of the Northumberland class 3 boats still sailing. Scout, Wings and Joke contested the placements in the harbour races of the half-dozen or so snipe fleet. There were a couple of small schooners. The Restless and the Roamer were the big motor boats in the fleet and served as committee boats, fleet tenders and picnic platforms.

The harbour background still saw coal boats at Pickard’s wharf next to the Yacht Club and the ferry Fairview can be spotted as part of the background in one of the pictures but there was a marked reduction in the number of steamers and coastal schooners visiting the port. The Yacht Club was the busiest place on the harbour. The new clubhouse and reconstructed wharves promised years of sailing pleasure and social activity. It was a simpler time.

It is not clear if the photos in the collection were taken by the Smalls or were presented to them. In either case they are a valuable record of the early years of the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

Click on any photo to enlarge the images and begin the slide show. I would be obliged if any viewers could give additional identification of the individuals and boats.

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A Short History of a Short Wharf

Today it exists only as a short stub of a wharf, one of two sheltering the Charlottetown Yacht Club’s junior sailing fleet. The name Lord’s Wharf has all but disappeared along with the wharf itself but the latter survives in an abbreviated state and serves as a reminder of a depression works project which gave employment to dozens of Charlottetown men and helped see their families through the late 1930s.

Mr. Lord comes to Charlottetown

William W. Lord moved to Charlottetown from the Tryon area in the early 1840s. He acquired the property at the south-east corner of Water and Pownal Streets which had a water lot which gave him rights over the seabed out to the channel marking the edge of the harbour.  The lot was not a deep one and the waters of the harbour lapped at the rear of the property not far from Water Street.

Rankin House at the corner of Pownal and Water Streets 1894

Rankin House at the corner of Pownal and Water Streets 1894

One of the early improvements was the erection of a building on Water Street across from the corner where Samuel Holman was to run West India House. Lord’s building was originally a house but it was shortly turned into a hotel called the Rankin House which served as a landmark at the head of the wharf for many years. W.W. Lord achieved success in business and politics and was a director of the Union Bank, the Bank of Prince Edward Island and a number of insurance companies. His son, Artemis Lord, was, for many years, agent for the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

Business on the Wharf

Advertisement from Frederick's Directory 1889

Advertisement from Frederick’s Directory 1889

The wharf was also the home of a number of other businesses. In the later part of the nineteenth century.  John F. Worth was a sail maker with a loft on Lord’s wharf. As a private wharf the site did not attract the same sort of notice as came to the wharves owned by the colony or by the City of Charlottetown such as Queen’s, Pownal Wharf or the Prince Street Ferry Wharf.  Nor was the wharf the home to shipping companies such as the Island Steam Navigation Company or the Plant Line. Occasionally there would be advertisements for cargos landed such as herring from Newfoundland in 1854 or coal in 1891 and lumber in 1909.

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The waterfront about 1860. The closeness of Lords and Pownal wharves can be clearly seen.

Although built later than Pownal wharf which dates from the 1830s, Lord’s wharf had a major challenge as it was very close to the earlier construction and the basin between them was scarcely wide enough to accommodate two vessels abreast. Although there was 16 feet of water at the end of the wharf it shoaled quickly.  The wharf had been built by the common method of sinking timber cribs with rock and then bridging the cribs until the desired length or depth was achieved.  Unless maintained the wharves deteriorated quickly. Lord’s wharf was narrow and there was little room for warehouses on the wharf itself although buildings were found on the landward end.

Lords 1869004

As the age of wooden ships came to a close derelict vessels could be found next to several of the Charlottetown wharves.

By the turn of the 20th century the wharf had fallen on hard times and it seems to have been rarely used. In 1901 docking at the wharf was hampered by the hulk of an old schooner which had been dragged by a storm to the west side of the wharf. Rankin House, formerly a building of note on Water Street, was likewise “neglected and dilapidated” and its removal in 1907 was applauded by the Guardian.  In 1909 the wharf was purchased by “well-known junk dealer” Louis Block who undertook some repairs. Pyne and Hyde’s Star Foundry occupied one of the buildings on the wharf but it had ceased business by 1911 when Block purchased the equipment. He maintained a warehouse and junk yard on the wharf gathering hair, skins, old cloth and metals. The site was plagued with a number of fires.

Elevators and Rolled Oats

In 1913 Lord’s Wharf was the preferred location for a proposal to construct a large Rolled Oats Factory on the waterfront. The Colonial Corporation of Halifax had created the Price Edward Island Cereal Company and told City council that it was planning a large concrete dock, mill, grain elevator, box factory, cooperage and powerhouse on the Lord’s Wharf property with planned investment of more than a $600,000. The wharf would be served by an extension of the railway along Lower Water Street. The proposed mill would produce 300 barrels of rolled oats each day, primarily for the export market.  An interview by an enthusiastic reporter with one of the proponents of the scheme appears in the 11 November 1913 Guardian and reads remarkably like economic development proposals floated across the local government desks on a regular basis to this day. The economic spin-offs would be huge for the city and the province, employment would be created, a market would be provided for local products, value would be added to the surplus oat production, etc. etc. etc.  The proposal was missing only the impact on tourism that a five-story grain elevator on the waterfront would provide.  All that was required by the company was a tax exemption, free site, free rail connection, a subsidy from the federal government for the construction of the elevator, a grant from the province, and for Islanders to purchase stock in the corporation. However, unlike today, none of the levels of government were seduced by the promised benefits and the proposal died. It would be 60 years before a grain elevator was built in the province and it would be far from the waterfront.

A Wharf Cut Short

Lords 1869002

Lords and Pownal Wharves in 1919. The rockpiles marking the remains of Lord’s are not shown but extend almost to the channel.

The wharf fared scarcely better than the proposal. The hulk of the schooner had been raised and floated away when the east side of the Pownal Wharf was dredged in 1915. Six years later the remains of much of Lords Wharf were removed by the dredge. For years it had been judged an impediment to the navigation of vessels using the Pownal and Plant Line wharves to the east and west of Lord’s. What was left was barely half of the original length of the wharf.

By this time the wharf property had become the property of the City of Charlottetown and it was one of a number of locations where works projects took place to provide employment during the height of the depression.  Over $6000 was spent in 1936 and 1937 improving what was left of the wharf and making work for the city’s unemployed. As early as July 1936 City Council was looking into a proposal to rehabilitate the wharf and turn it over to the Charlottetown Yacht Club. In August 1937 the City Recorder was authorized to enter into a lease for the wharf.  By the end of October of that year the new club house on the wharf was nearing completion.

The corner lot at Water and Pownal became the site of the Eastern Hay and Feed Company’s new Charlottetown warehouse which was opened in November 1940. The opening was celebrated by a huge dance in the three empty floors of the  building featuring  both square dancing with Don Messer’s orchestra and modern music by the Blue Dome orchestra. Advertising advised couples to  “Swing and sway at Eastern Hay.” Eastern Hay and Feed later became Atlantic Wholesalers. Part of this structure still serves as P.E.I.’s Supreme Court building. Between Eastern Hay and Feed and the Yacht Club the City of Charlottetown works department had a large barn that was probably had been one of the warehouses on the wharf.

Since taking over the responsibility for Lord’s Wharf the Charlottetown Yacht Club has maintained the resource but once again deterioration of the wharf is taking its toll and siltation caused by discharge from the City’s storm water drains and by the change to currents from developments elsewhere in the harbour is creating problems at the wharf. This time it is unlikely that make-work employment projects will hold the solution.

Memories of the Charlottetown waterfront in the 1840s

Early in 1900 Elizabeth J. Macdonald, wife of Senator A.A. MacDonald, sat down to write her reminiscences of the Charlottetown she remembered from half a century earlier.  Titled “Charlottetown Fifty Years Ago” and published in a series of 9 installments in the original Prince Edward Island Magazine in 1900 and 1901, her account provides a glimpse of the town at mid-century.  This excerpt concerning the harbour was published in the June 1901 issue of the magazine.

Charlottetown waterfront from the south west by Robert Harris (undated) collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

Charlottetown waterfront from the south-west by Robert Harris (undated) collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

And what are we to remember this time, what is there interesting to record? Is it the appearance Charlottetown presented to a stranger coming up the harbour, and what are we to imagine some of the many immigrants coming here from Scotland and Ireland in the early forties, and later on, thought of it?  Some probably would see it very flat and unattractive, others look upon it as well-protected from the encroachment of any enemy, and others again would think it a comparatively busy place; that is if its numerous shipyards, with generally two or three vessels under construction, were any indication, and would decide there was plenty of work for all who were able or willing to do it.

The Douse shipyard being on the Douse property near the west end of Richmond Street was the first to meet the eye, as it showed up from the harbour, and there Mr. Douse built several vessels.  The next to be seen was close by where the Stream Navigation Wharf now is, and where the second Gulnare was built in 1845 by Peake & Duncan. The first Gulnare was built in Quebec and came to Charlottetown in 1841, the same year that Captain Bayfield, Commander Bedford, Lieutenant Orlebar, and the other officers of the surveying staff came to take up their residence here. The second Gulnare not being quite up to their expectation, they had the third one built in Quebec. She proving a failure, the late Mr. Longworth undertook to build the forth. All were topsail schooners and we understand the fourth Gulnare was more satisfactory. After that they had their first steamer, the Margaretta Stephenson, built by and belonging to a firm in Quebec by the name of Stephenson.

Further along and almost directly below where the Duncan House now stands, was the Duncan shipyard where the ring of the workman’s hammer was constantly heard and there the largest ship ever built on this Island, registering 1791 tons, was launched in the year 1858, by the firm of Duncan. Mason & Co. and named the “Ethel” after Mr. Duncan’s only child. Mr. Heard’s shipyard was about where the railway yard now is, only nearer where the railway wharf is  built. On the shore not far from the Kensington shooting range of today was McGill’s shipyard, where there appeared to be always a vessel on the stocks. Some of the old ship-builders used to say, was that ship building was like making patchwork quilts, that when one was finished there was almost enough material left to make another, and in that way they were induced to go on building. But the wooden ships of P.E. Island are almost among the things of the past and it is only now and again that we hear of a ship being built.     

Charlottetown 1863. Detail from D.J. Lake Map 1863

Charlottetown 1863. Detail from D.J. Lake Map 1863

By 1863 when the map above was drawn the number of wharves had grown. Besides the municipal government wharves at Queen and Pownal streets additional wharves had been built:  From west to east these were Lord’s Wharf (the stub of which forms the east wharf of the Charlottetown Yacht Club), the first of several Peake’s Wharves (later to be called the Plant Line wharf, then Poole & Lewis, and still later, Pickard’s),  Bourke’s (also known as Tremaine’s and the ferry wharf before 1856) Reddin’s Wharf at the foot of Great George Street (which was later named the Steam Navigation Wharf) and then the Duncan shipyard. Furthest east was the Colonial government ferry wharf at Prince Street. Both Borque and Tremaine had been holders of the ferry contract in the 1840s and 1850s.

Lake map waterfront 001 (2)

Wharf detail – Lake Map 1863

In an earlier article in the series which was published in June 1900, Ellen MacDonald had recalled the wharves and ferry service of her youth:

As far as we can remember there were only three wharves, Queen’s Wharf at the end of Queen Street, Peake’s Wharf on the west side of Queens, and Tremaines, or the Ferry Wharf on the east side of Queen’s. All the wharves were much shorter than now; Tremaine’s was only a few blocks or piles long, quite long enough for the sail and team boats that crossed to Southport. A sailboat crossed on Mondays and a team-boat on other days of the week. The team-boat was run by two or sometimes three horses. There was a large wheel in the middle of the boat, (just such a one as is used in a tannery to grind bark) to which the horses were attached; the horses going round and round in a circle, turned the wheel and propelled the boat. Passengers came from the Southport side and returned again about four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.  

A story is told of a middle-aged lady who came across the ferry to do some shopping She had not taken into consideration that the tide was falling when she left home; it was one of the sail-boat days and when she  got to the Charlottetown side the tide was low, and she being very stout and heavy, could not climb the wharf, neither could her friends lift her up so she had to remain in the boat for some hours, until the tide fell lower and then rose sufficiently high for her to reach a proper stepping place. That was one of the inconveniences of long ago.