Description of Historic Place
This one-and-one-half storey former sea captain's house is located on the north side of Water Street. It originally was a Centre Gable style house with Gothic Revival elements and details including a steeply pitched gable roof with black asphalt shingles. Rectangular sections extend to the north of the main part of the house. It is painted white and has finials at each gable end and dormer. It is located close to the highway immediately to the east of an automobile dealership.
The attractive residence at 21 Water Street was built for sea captain Alexander Ellis Kennedy. It has historical significance as his home, as well as the former residence of other prominent citizens including W.B. Bowness and R.B. Rankin. It contributes to the streetscape of this area serving as a vivid reminder of the existence of a mid 19th century rural and sea-connected community. Today, the house is juxtaposed with a modern automobile dealership immediately to the east.
Ellis Kennedy was the son of Alexander Kennedy, also a mariner, and Esther Darby, both of St. Eleanor's. They had married in 1818 and had six children before 1833. The house was likely constructed about the time of Ellis' marriage to Mary Jane Schurman in 1865, a union that resulted in ten children over a period of twenty years. The household included his parents Alexander and Esther, who died in 1878 and 1888 respectively, the latter at age 95.
Captain A.E. Kennedy had a long career as a master mariner, engaging in coastal shipping to and from the port of Summerside. He owned at least seven schooners between 1856 and 1895, including the Dasher, the Fury, and the Great Deceiver. After the death of his wife in 1900, he sold the property and went to live with five of his children in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he died in 1915.
The house and acreage was then purchased by John McKay, a farmer in New Annan, who owned it for 21 days before selling it for a profit of $50 to William Bell Bowness. Mr. Bowness had developed a carriage making business on his farm in New Annan in the 1880s, having learned the trade from his uncle, James Tuplin. When he purchased the Ellis Kennedy homestead, he moved his family into the house and transferred his business to the new location. His first wife, Jane Sutherland (m. 1858) died in 1915 and he remarried Henrianne McCaull, the widow of John Arbing.
The property sold at a mortgage sale auction in August 1920 to the highest bidder, local farmer, Arthur W. McEwen. Several days later, he resold it to R.B. Rankin of Alberton. Robert Bowness Rankin was born in Cascumpec in 1877 and as a young man moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey with his parents James and Rebecca. His mother was a sister of William Bowness, thus Robert bought the home of his uncle. He returned from the United States and married Cecelia May Hudson of Cascumpec in 1902. The couple lived in Alberton before moving to Summerside with their six children. Mr. Rankin was a carpenter by trade and specialized in the construction of bridges and wharves. He was also known in the silver fox industry and operated a ranch for many years on the northern portion of the property.
Two of the Rankin children lived for many years at 21 Water Street with their parents. Brenton (b. 1919) moved back into the house in 1943 after a medical discharge from the Canadian Army. Beatrice (b. 1915) was a registered nurse and served overseas during the Second World War. Upon her return to Canada in 1946, she worked for ten years at the Queen Mary Veterans' Hospital in Montreal before returning to Summerside.
Mr. and Mrs. R.B. Rankin died in 1963 and 1969 respectively. Bea, as she was known in the family, continued to work until her retirement from the nursing staff of the Prince County Hospital in 1979. Brenton died in 1979 and Beatrice in 1994. In 1975, the property had been purchased by their nephew, George Rankin Schurman, who wanted to retain the home of his grandparents. For several years after 1995, the house was used as the Summerside office of his company, Canada First Real Estate.
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 wood frame and wood shingle cladding
- the steeply pitched gable roof
- the brick chimneys
- the decorative gingerbread at the peak of the gables and decorative finials on the roof
- the rectangular Ell extending north of the main house that is believed to be part of the original house (servants' quarters)
- the bay windows with bracketted eaves
- the rectangular windows with hood moulding
- the round arch windows of the dormers
- the double door narrow vestibule with windows on each side