Description of Historic Place
The modest building at 101 Water Street with gable roof and wood shingled exterior houses a unique collection of lathes and milling tools of an old fashioned machine shop. It is the only surviving structure of what was once a group of buildings that comprised the thriving industry of Bishop's Foundry. The registration includes the building and its lot.
The Bishop's Machine Shop has significant heritage value as a remnant of a metalworking business that employed four generations of men from the Bishop family. The foundry buildings which once stood between King and Autumn Streets where they meet busy Water Street were in the midst of an early industrial area of the town. Once part of a much larger industrial complex, the building lends an important historical context and heritage value to the Water and Autumn streetscapes. Now restored for interpretation activities, it provides a window on the heritage of small manufacturing in Prince Edward Island history.
Blacksmith, George Bishop, who had learned the trade from his father, Elias Bishop, purchased the land in 1873. Around 1876, he built a foundry for the manufacture of farming implements. The buildings were constructed to surround an inner courtyard where scrap metal was heaped. Operating under the name of Bishop's Foundry, the business turned out hundreds of plows and other agricultural implements along with mill supplies. The building that became the machine shop was originally used as a blacksmith shop and later as a stock room, the machining being done in the larger building which ran parallel to Water Street.
Two of George's sons, Elias and Thomas, became involved in the foundry and were assisted over the years by local hired labourers. George Bishop and Sons Ltd. directed advertising to farmers and fishermen and had customers from almost every community in western Prince Edward Island. In 1935, the Bishop brothers divided the business. Elias assumed ownership of the foundry, but ill health forced him to retire around 1946. The foundry was rented out until 1948 and demolished sometime in the 1950s when the property on which it stood was sold. Thomas took charge of the machine shop and built an annex with a second-storey office space on the back of the original building. Thomas Bishop used his beginning capital to clean and rewire the "old shop" as well as to acquire some new equipment.
His only son Ralph, who had been training as a machinist, joined the army in 1942. Upon his discharge in 1946, he was thirty-six years of age and resumed work with his father, becoming a formal partner two years later. Thomas H. Bishop and Son considered their principal service to be repairs on motorboat equipment and farm machinery. The tags used to identify a customer's ownership of a piece of metal or equipment listed mill works, motor boat(s) and equipment, agricultural implements, saw mandrels, pump jacks and special machinery.
When Thomas Bishop passed away in 1958, Ralph became the sole owner. He retired in the mid 1970s, but continued to visit the shop, performing the occasional odd job. When he died in 1996 at the age of 86, his estate passed to his niece who sold the Water Street property to the City of Summerside to be preserved as part of the community's rich history.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of the building is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the foundation of timber beams supported by stone
- the plain one-and-a half storey wooden construction with gable roof
- the brick chimney
- the cedar shingles on the roof and exterior walls
- the small recesses in the walls that resemble trap doors which were cut out to allow for work on large pieces that would not otherwise fit in the shop
- the placement of the windows and doors
- the continuing contribution of the building to its streetscape and as a place of historical interpretation