Description of Historic Place
The rectangular building that stands on the southeast corner of Water and Granville Streets was once the community's railway station. Built in 1927, it was situated adjacent to the railway tracks that were laid through the town in the 1870s. The structure replaced an earlier one that was no longer suitable. The CNR withdrew its rail service from PEI in 1989 and the building was closed. In the 1990s the local Rotary Club led a successful campaign to open the building as the town's public library. The tell-tale hipped roof, wide eaves, and large brackets betray the building's original purpose. The registration includes the building and its lot.
The former railway station at 192 Water Street has served as a very important structure in the life of the town, offering residents access to a system of public transportation that has now disappeared from Prince Edward Island. In more recent years, it has found new life as the community's public library. The building also has value for its presence on the streetscape of Summerside's most important downtown thoroughfare.
Constructed in 1927, the attractive station replaced an aging and inadequate building that was sold and hauled to a new location south of the tracks. The CNR architect, Mr. Crudge, met with Summerside contractor Percy Tanton and Charlottetown architect, C.B. Chappell, to prepare and develop the plans. Howard N. Price and Colin Cameron of Moncton were the contractor and foreman of the project, using local labour as much as possible. The station measured 132 by 32 feet and had an ell extending from the southwest corner. The interior consisted of a general waiting room, a separate women's waiting room, the ticket office, express office, baggage room and a Western Union Telegraph office.
The station was just one of several structures owned and operated by Canadian National Railways on its Water Street property. There was also a large brick freight shed built in 1907, and an engine house and water tank erected in 1928. The engine house was situated at the main approach to the railway wharf where large warehouses were located.
The second floor of the building, which had no designated use in the original plans, was opened in 1946 to provide sleeping quarters as well as a kitchen and bathroom for the railway enginemen. A stairway to the upper level was built inside the front door. At some point, the ell was removed and a baggage room extension on the east side added.
In the late 1940s, Canadian National began to combine freight and passenger service. The number of Islanders who travelled by train continued to dwindle and in October 1969, the coach service was discontinued. The last train left Prince Edward Island in December 1989 and, by November of 1990, the building had been boarded up by CN Rail workers.
The fate of the structure became an important focus of discussion in the community. In 1991, the Rotary Club led a successful campaign to make the building a permanent home for the town's public library. The provincial government acquired the property in 1994 and entered into a lease in 1995 with the group known as the Friends of the Rotary Regional Library. In April 2000, the Friends purchased the railway station and the lot on which it stands for $1.00. The City of Summerside assumed the costs of operational funds in November 2003 and purchased the property in 2005.
As a result of Summerside's Canada Millennium Fund Mural Project the west and part of the north elevation now feature murals created by local artist Greg Garand. They are a testament to the history of the railway in Summerside.
The building remains a focal point of the community and greatly contributes to its streetscape.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The character-defining elements of the former rail station include:
- the one-and-one half storey building with a hipped roof and an off-centre cross-gabled projection on both the north (street side) and south (track side) elevations, adding usable space on the second storey
- the triangular dormer on each elevation
- the wide eaves projecting six feet from the wall, creating shelter from the elements on all four sides of the building, supported by deep, angled brackets
- the brick course that runs below the windows around the building, topped by a cement cap
- the stuccoed walls above the brick
- the Tudor-style timbers decorate the gables and dormers
- the placement and type of window and door openings
- the continuing contribution of the building to the historic Water and Granville streetscapes