Description of Historic Place
The one-and-one-half storey house at 159 Spring Street is an outstanding example of a Gothic Revival style vernacular Island Ell shaped house designed by Summerside architect, George E. Baker. Like so many other fine showpiece houses of Summerside, it occupies a corner and is situated on the east side of Spring and the north side of Convent. It is clad in wood clapboard and painted deep blue with white trim. The registration includes the parcel and the building.
The handsome residence at 159 Spring Street has heritage value as one of the many lovely homes built in this area of Summerside at the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to being an example of the work of Summerside architect, George E. Baker, the house contributes to the streetscape and is important as the home built for prominent merchant, John A. Brace.
The date of construction is believed to be 1900, shortly after the acquisition of the land in March of that year. The design by George Baker is repeated at 141 Summer Street in Summerside and at the Presbytery House in Miscouche. The land originally was the whole block, being bordered by Spring Street on the west, Green Street on the north, Granville Street on the east, and Pleasant Street on the south. When the Brace family sold their home in 1949, the lot had been reduced to 72 feet along Spring and 149 feet along Pleasant Street.
John Andrew Brace was born in Charlottetown in 1855 and came to Summerside when he was eighteen to take a job with R.T. Holman Limited. He became manager of the hardware department and worked with the firm for fifteen years before deciding to start his own business. He joined with W.K. McKay and James MacLeod to form Brace, McKay and Company. The firm began to build a solid reputation and because of its success was able to construct a three-storey brick building in 1897. In 1901, the firm became a joint stock company with Mr. and Mrs. Brace, A. Stirling McKay, Creelman MacArthur and Lucas Allen as charter members. The firm of Brace, McKay and Company continued to thrive and in 1905 enlarged their store, which was a prominent feature on Water Street until destroyed by fire in 1958.
Mr. Brace retired from the business in 1914 and devoted more time to his involvement in the community. He was a charter member of both the Board of Trade and YMCA and was a member for 61 years of the Masonic fraternity. Mr. Brace also served for many years on the Summerside Town Council. Mrs. Margaret Brace, the daughter of Josiah Howatt and Eliza Leard, was also active in the community and took particular interest in the work of the church and the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
When the Brace couple moved into the house in 1900 or 1901, their three children were still living at home. Winnifred (b. 1883) married Lucas R. Allen in 1903 and George (b. 1887) moved to Alberta. Mary (b. 1881), the eldest, lived with her parents and taught school for a number of years. She died in 1933 and her father died in 1938. Mrs. Brace remained in the house until her death in 1948.
The new owner in 1949 was Jack Nisbet and his wife Muriel Mountain. Mr. Nisbet grew up in Tyne Valley and served overseas during the Second World War, coming to Summerside following his discharge. In 1955, he reduced the size of the property when he sold the eastern portion of the lot. Mr. and Mrs. Nisbet moved to New Brunswick where he retired as vice-president of sales after 32 years with Eastern Bakeries Limited.
The new owner in 1957 was Harold W. Champion, a heavy equipment mechanic for the construction firm of Morrison and MacRae in Summerside. He and his wife Geraldine Mae Taylor, who had married in 1940, lived in the house until 1977. The house has changed hands several times since that time.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of the house is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the one-and-one-half-storey massing and form of this house with Gable Ell footprint
- the wood clapboard cladding
- the verandah extensions and decoration, steeply pitched gable roof with asphalt shingles, and brick chimney
- the bargeboard decoration including Stick style gable decoration
- the style of windows, including both bay and single, grouped, and round arch - many decorated with Gothic Revival style caps and stained glass inserts
- the original placement (and in some cases original windows) and symmetrical arrangement of windows on all elevations