Description of Historic Place
The house at 353 Poplar Avenue is a one-and-one-half storey Gothic Revival influenced Island Ell shaped house clad in blue vinyl siding with an asphalt roof. It is on the north side of the street, set back with a front lawn and it has a single storey double garage extending from the southeast corner of the verandah.
The interesting dwelling at 353 Poplar Avenue has historical significance as the home of several early prominent Summerside residents, in particular the MacDowell family who owned the property for over sixty years. Once known as "Poplar Air," it was one of the Summerside residences featured in the 1880 PEI Atlas of J.H. Meacham. It contributes to the historical streetscape of Poplar Avenue, where other homes of a similar vintage co-exist on the north side of the street.
The origin of the residence is rather uncertain. It is known that early occupants were local merchant James A. Reid and his wife Gulielma. The couple likely took up residency because the land had been owned by her father, Joseph Green, who had left the land in the hands of trustees following his death in 1869.
The age of the house is in question because when it was advertised for sale in 1885, it was stated: "Having been rebuilt only a few years ago it is one of the best houses in Summerside." This suggests that the house may predate 1877, which was the year that Mr. and Mrs. Reid were married. It was the second marriage for both of them, Mr. Reid having lost his first wife in 1875 and Mrs. Reid her husband, Asher Black, in 1868. The house was advertised for sale in 1885, but was not purchased until March 1887.
The new owner of the property was Otto R. Crabbe, a resident of Charlottetown, who had grown up in Summerside. He rented the house to his sister Annie and her husband Thomas H. Robblee. Mr. Robblee grew up in Tryon and as a young man came to Summerside where he was involved in the mercantile trade. The couple lived in the house until 1890 and later left the Island to settle in Cleveland, Ohio.
The next owner of the house and lot was Patrick W. Morrison, manager of the local branch of the Merchants Bank of Halifax, later renamed the Royal Bank of Canada. He died suddenly in June 1901 at the age of 38 and his widow put the house on the market. It was advertised as "that beautifully situated property on Poplar Avenue... consisting of about an acre of land, upon which there are a good house, containing fifteen rooms, finished in first class style throughout, a well arranged barn and stables and all necessary outbuildings."
Harry Tinson Holman became the next resident in September 1902 and he made some extensive improvements to the house. It became his first residence after his marriage to Eva Constance Wright in 1903. H. T. Holman worked in the family business of R. T. Holman Limited. and after his father's death in 1906 became one of the principal owners of the company. It may have been during this time that the decorative double round arch window was added to the second storey of the south facade, replacing a former rectangular window which can be seen in the 1880 engraving. At some point, the verandah was also removed and modified to be a glazed porch on the south facade.
Holman began making plans for a large residence on Beaver Street and in November 1909 sold 353 Poplar to Art MacDowell, one of the valued employees of the Holman firm.
Arthur Wellington MacDowell was 32 years old and his wife Melissa was 28 when they acquired the house. He was the son of David MacDowell and Mary Arthur and Melissa was the daughter of local prominent businessman, R. H. MacDonald. The couple had married in 1901 and between 1902 and 1920 had a family of six children. Mr. MacDowell worked with the Holman firm for 62 years. He was manager of the shoe department for most of that time, but also travelled for the company and acted as a store director in the years leading up to his retirement in 1953. Mrs. MacDowell passed away in 1967 and Mr. MacDowell in 1970, after having occupied 353 Poplar Street for most of his 93 years.
Since that time, the house has changed hands several times but has continued to be a single dwelling.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profiles
The heritage value of the house is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the one-and-one-half storey massing
- the large steeply pitched gable roof with asphalt shingles
- the brick chimneys
- the gable-ell configuration of the house
- the wall dormers with steeply pitched roofs
- the decorative bargeboard trim of the gables and dormers which is original
- the pendant decoration at the apex of the gables
- the shed roof sunporch on the south elevation of the Ell with central pediment
- the double round arch Italianate influenced window with window cap located on the main gable end, south elevation, asymmetrically placed
- the fenestration remains however they all appear to have been modified to accommodate the blue vinyl siding