Description of Historic Place
Great George Street Historic District National Historic Site of Canada consists of a wide street, six blocks long, in the heart of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The site begins at the waterfront and extends north along Great George Street to include Province House National Historic Site of Canada. Ascending gently from Peake’s Quay, the street is lined with buildings of various domestic architectural styles and functions, but since the buildings are all of similar scale and setback, the street offers a harmonious and coherent viewscape. Official recognition refers to the street’s six blocks, from Richmond Street and Province House to the waterfront.
Great George Street was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1990 because of:
- its strong associations with the birth of this nation;
- its richness of domestic architecture, much of which dates from the Confederation era.
On August 31st and September 1st 1864, the Fathers of Confederation arrived at Peake’s Quay Charlottetown to attend the Charlottetown Conference. The event was hosted at Province House, the historic seat of Island government, which sits at the end of Great George Street. The discussions at this conference resulted in the confederation of four provinces of British North America into the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867 in Québec. Since 1864, Great George Street has retained its original colonial plan, its close association with the water, and its regular ascent to the central square and seat of government at Province House. In fact, the view up Great George Street from Peake’s Quay contains many elements that the Fathers of Confederation would have experienced on their way to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864. These elements, including various buildings from the period, are designed predominantly in the British classical style.
Great George Street has evolved architecturally while preserving spatial arrangements and structures that are typical of the successive stages of its history. While the street remains anchored to the Confederation Era with roughly one-half of its buildings dating from that period, the surviving later buildings testify to the evolution of the streetscape over time. Through their variety of stylistic and functional types, the richness of domestic architecture on Great George Street speaks to facets of economic, political and social life experienced by many Canadians as the young country matured in the post-Confederation era. The evolution of architectural styles displayed on this street, including British classical, Neoclassical, Italianate, Queen Anne Revival, and Gothic Revival, is remarkably harmonious due to general overriding similarities in scale and setback that provide the street with an overall coherence.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1990, 1992, 2006.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island;
- its composition with its slight ascent, beginning at the waterfront and extending six blocks to its terminus at Province House National Historic Site of Canada;
- its mixed use character, including residential, commercial and government buildings;
- the elements contributing to its harmony and coherence, notably the buildings’ common scale, the two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half storey rectangular massings, the regularly arranged windows and symmetrical compositions of the façades, and the relationship of the buildings to the street, slightly setback from the sidewalk;
- the common scale, massing, materials and exterior features of the eight surviving multi-bay, hipped and side-gable roofed wooden structures dating from the 1820s to the 1860s;
- the typical scale, massing, materials and exterior features of the surviving buildings dating from the 1850s and 1860s, including their brick construction, side gable roofs, and façades peirced by large openings with stone lintels;
- the scale, massing, and materials of Province House, including its impressive Wallace sandstone construction with smooth-faced ashlar stonework featuring rusticated stone on the first floor below a stringcourse and those features indicating its Neoclassical style, such as its symmetrical composition, low-pitched roof, projecting three-storey central portico with arcading on the first storey and ionic columns on the second and third, capped by a pediment on both projecting wings, windows on each storey and a heavy cornice;
- the typical scale, massing, materials and exterior features of the surviving buildings from the post-Confederation period, notably the former head offices of Prince Edward Island and Union banks including their Italianate style, Island-brick construction, symmetrical façades, mansard roofs, and regularly arranged, segmentally-arched windows; the former bishop’s palace, including its Italianate style with Gothic Revival details and stone construction;
and a residence as an example of Queen Anne Revival style with its lively massing and varied exterior finishes;
- the Gothic Revival style, scale, plan, materials, exterior features, and orientation of St. Dunstan’s Roman Catholic Basilica National Historic Site of Canada;
- viewscapes along Great George Street, between Peake’s Quay and Province House.