Description of Historic Place
This interesting Gothic Revival house stands on the south side of the intersection of two of Summerside's busiest streets. Dating from about 1863, the residence was originally constructed for James Ludlow Holman, an early Summerside merchant, considered by many to be the Island's "father of tourism." The house features a wide gable roof with eave returns and decorative bargeboard. A verandah wraps around the first storey. The registration includes the building and its lot.
The heritage value of the Holman-Cunningham House lies not only in its affiliation with several prominent families, but also as a handsome example of Gothic Revival architecture. Surrounded by an attractive verandah, the house features a gable roof with eave returns and decorative bargeboard trim. It has become a landmark at the busy intersection that once was considered a rural area.
The building was the home of James L. Holman, older brother of Robert T. Holman who established Prince Edward Island's largest department store. James came from Saint John, New Brunswick in 1851 to establish a mercantile business in St. Eleanor's and in 1862 moved into Summerside. In 1867, he bought J.C. Pope's wharf and the next year devoted his business activities to a wholesale trade, supplying local retailers with staple goods. In 1873, he opened a 125 room tourist resort on the island in Summerside harbour and bought a small steamer to transport guests. His Island Park Hotel was just establishing itself as a destination for visitors from the United States when Mr. Holman died in 1877. The hotel never reopened and stood empty until it was destroyed by fire in 1904. Mr. Holman's widow, Ada, who had been living in the house since its construction around 1863, sold it in 1881 and moved with her sons to Saint John, New Brunswick.
The next owner of the house was John Stavert, a bachelor farmer, who grew up in Wilmot as part of a large family. He moved into the Holman house with his younger brother George and his family. They farmed together on land located along the MacEwen Road and for a short time George operated a produce business. After John died in 1898, George Stavert continued to live in the residence until 1907.
George Washington Bell, from Stanley Bridge, was the next to acquire the property and he also farmed the nearby fields. Mr. Bell was Harbour Master for Summerside for many years. His obituary in 1955 refers to the house as the Willows, presumably a name chosen by him and his wife Sophie Bishop, whose father was the owner and operator of Bishop's Foundry on Water Street.
When the couple sold the house in 1927, the new owner became Dr. John R. Cunningham, a graduate of Guelph Veterinary College as well as the Royal Dick Veterinary College in Edinburgh, Scotland. He and his Scottish wife, Isabel Bannatyne, came to Summerside where Dr. Cunningham set up a private practice catering to Island fox ranchers. He established the Old Orchard Laboratory on his property and, by 1928, had the care of more than 20,000 foxes under contract. In 1931, Dr. Cunningham closed his veterinary lab and became head of the diagnostic laboratory at the Prince County Hospital, retiring in 1957.
Mrs. Cunningham continued to live in the house until her passing in 1966. Around 1943, she had opened the house for tourists as Mulberry Lodge. It was also popular with local citizens as a venue for dinners and receptions. The business expanded in 1954 with the construction of motel units on the land to the west of the house. After the death of Mrs. Cunningham, her only child William who had managed the motel, assumed ownership of the property. He remained in the hospitality business until 1975 when he sold the motel. He and his family lived in the house until 1978 when they moved into a new residence and leased 2 Water Street to the provincial government as a group home and later for office space. In the spring of 2007, new owners opened the house as a bed and breakfast establishment known as the Holman-Cunningham Bed and Breakfast. The house remains an asset to its streetscape.
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Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The following character-defining elements illustrate the Gothic Revival influences of the house:
- the two-and-one-half storey massing and form of this large house
- the large steeply pitched gable roof
- the eave returns
- the gingerbread style bargeboard
- the brick chimney
- the kitchen or Ell section at the south elevation
- the steeply pitched twin dormers on the west elevation and similar single dormer on the east elevation
- the placement of windows throughout and continued use of main doorway on the east elevation
- the single storey roofed veranda with vaulted ceiling, brackets, and turned posts that wraps around three sides of the house
- the role of the house on the historical streetscape at the corner of Glover Shore Road and Water Street East