Description of Historic Place
This dwelling at 171 Fitzroy Street on the corner of MacFarlane Street is an interesting two storey Second Empire style house, a rare style in Summerside, due in part to the fire of 1906 which destroyed several outstanding examples of that style. The mansard roof shingles are green asphalt and the cedar shingle cladding is painted light green/gray with darker green trim, while the details are painted light brown. The registration includes the parcel and the building.
The attractive house at 171 Fitzroy Street has heritage value as the home of well-known contractor, Nathan MacFarlane, and his family of four daughters. The building stands as testimony to the carpentry skills of Mr. MacFarlane and its Second Empire features add an interesting architectural style to the streetscape.
The structure as it now appears is the result of a smaller, simpler house being rebuilt in 1902 by its owner Nathan MacFarlane. In that year, Mr. MacFarlane would have been forty years old and well established as a building contractor. The original house on the lot was apparently not adequate or desirable for his young family, so in 1901, he decided to enlarge it and carry out some major renovations. His labour must have resulted in a total transformation because according to a local newspaper in July 1902: "Mr. Nathan MacFarlane has just completed his handsome new residence on Fitzroy Street. The building is a large two-storey one and is a creditable addition to the best houses in town."
Nathan A. MacFarlane, born in Fernwood, was the son of Nathan and Margaret MacFarlane who owned a farm in that community. He moved to Summerside to take up the trade of carpentry around 1889, the year that he married Martha Ferguson of Summerfield. The MacFarlane couple had four daughters, namely, Margaret (b. 1891), Alberta (b. 1892), Martha (b. 1893) and Enid (b. 1896). In February 1898, Mr. MacFarlane left with a group of other Island men to travel to the Yukon for the Klondike Gold Rush. He returned to PEI in October 1899.
Mr. MacFarlane was very involved with the construction industry in the early town of Summerside. He was a partner for some time with Schurman, Clark and Company and later with John M. Clark in the firm Clark and MacFarlane, but separated from Clark in 1897 to form the Mechanics Manufacturing Company Limited. He was well known as a contractor and according to the press deserved his reputation for "square, honest dealing. A large number of substantial buildings in this part of the county bear testimony to his skill and good workmanship." He was still working in 1927 when he died at age 73. His funeral was held at the house, as had been the funeral of his daughter Margaret, after her death in 1907 at age 17 from meningitis.
The other three daughters went on to professional careers. Enid, the youngest, was a schoolteacher and lived at home in Summerside. She and her sister, Martha, graduated from McGill in Montreal around 1921. The latter specialized in institutional administration and was working in Florida at the time of her retirement. Alberta was a domestic science specialist and lived in Victoria, British Columbia, before moving to the United States. In Chicago, in 1946, she received a citation from US President Truman for her work with the Citizens Food Committee. Upon her return to Summerside in 1959, she helped establish the PEI division of the Canadian Arthritis Society and served as provincial president from 1970-1973.
Mrs. Nathan MacFarlane (d. 1951) deeded the property to her three daughters who spent their retirement years at 171 Fitzroy. Mattie died in 1981 and Alberta died in 1984. The youngest in the family and the last to pass away was Enid in 1987. After eighty five years in the MacFarlane family, the trustees of the estate sold the residence to new owners in 1988.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of the house is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the two storey massing with ell shape
- the Second Empire style mansard roof with asphalt shingles
- the brick chimney
- the rounded protruding corner on the southeast elevation
- the variety of paired and single rectangular windows
- the second storey windows with caps and brackets and first storey windows with stained glass inserts
- the semi-circular canopy with posts over the doorway of the east elevation
- the cedar shingle cladding