Description of Historic Place
This large stately two storey Georgian influenced residence at 286 Fitzroy Street was the home for more than a century of the family of R.T. Holman, known across Prince Edward Island and the Maritimes for its prominence in the retail trade. It is on the south side of the street, painted green with beige trim and has two gable roofed sections and a two storey mansard roof extension to the east overlooking a garden dating from the 1870s.
The house is valued for its well preserved architectural elements; its historical association with the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Summerside; the history of the family of R.T. Holman; and for its contribution to the streetscape.
Robert Tinson Holman (1833-1906) acquired the land as three separate parcels. The first one purchased was the lot and house sold to him in 1870 by Rev. James MacDonald, a Roman Catholic priest. The Lake Map of 1863 clearly shows a Roman Catholic Parsonage on the lot and historians believe that this building became the home of the Holman family.
The second parcel of land purchased by R.T. Holman was also obtained from Rev. James MacDonald. Acquired in 1875, it was the adjacent lot running 50 feet along Fitzroy and 116 feet along Summer Street and was the former site of the Roman Catholic chapel, which had been brought to Summerside from Indian River in 1853. The chapel faced Summer Street and was used as a place of worship until 1874.
The third parcel that makes up the property of the Holman Homestead was acquired by Mr. Holman from Daniel H. MacDonald of Bedeque in 1885. It was located on the west side of the house and measured 45 feet along Fitzroy Street and 100 feet in depth. The 1878 Ruger's Map shows the Holman house with the large ell attached, but with a one storey wing on the east side. Conjecture is that this wing was enlarged sometime after 1880.
Robert T. Holman became established as a general merchant on Water Street in 1857. In 1864 he married Ellen MacEwen, the daughter of William MacEwen and Lavinia Darby. The couple had ten children, eight of whom lived to be adults.
Mr. Holman constructed a four storey brick warehouse on the south side of Water Street in 1874, followed in 1875 by a new store. When his retail firm continued to expand, he erected the large three storey brick building that has stood at 250 Water Street since 1895. In 1919, the store and the warehouse were joined together and the Holman Department Store became famous throughout Prince Edward Island and beyond. Robert T. Holman died in 1906 leaving the business in the hands of his sons Harry and James Leroy who remained in Summerside for the rest of their lives.
After the death of her husband, Mrs. R.T. Holman continued to reside in her house at 286 Fitzroy Street. Gladys, the youngest of the Holman children, remained at home and sometime before 1911 her sister, Carrie, returned home to live. When Mrs. Holman passed away in 1939, a local newspaper reported: "Her home and particularly her garden, which she maintained as a memorial to her late husband, were some of the beauty spots of Summerside."
The Holman garden was well known in the town. As early as 1879, it was noted in the press as "the finest flower garden on the Island." The location on the southwest corner of Fitzroy and Summer Streets made it very visible to all passersby and many references appeared in local newspapers to its beauty in different seasons. In 1895, Mr. Holman planted a thorn hedge around the grounds and installed a fence woven in panels and held in position with iron posts. For many years after the turn of the century, George Cameron, a well known greenhouse gardener, was in charge of the "beautiful Holman Homestead Flower Gardens... the pride of the town." Some have suggested the Holman Garden is one of the oldest, continuously maintained Victorian gardens in North America.
After the death of their mother, Carrie and Gladys lived in the family home for the rest of their lives. Carrie Holman died at age 95 in 1972 after many years of active participation in the life of the town and province. During her years as commissioner with the Girl Guide movement, its founder, Lady Baden-Powell, visited her home. She was an advocate for Island history and her series of radio broadcasts in 1948 were published in book form as "Our Island Story."
Source: City of Summerside Heritage Property Profile
The heritage value of the home is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the two-and-one-half storey massing of this house which is composed of three distinct sections with rectangular footprints
- the gable roof extension off the west and south elevations and a smaller flat roofed Second Empire extension on the east elevation
- the cedar shingles on the roof
- the two symmetrically placed brick chimneys of the main house and the central chimney on rear extension
- the round arch or Romanesque style windows of the second storey of the extension on the east elevation
- the heavily bracketed wide overhanging eaves and eave returns
- the one oriel window of the second storey west elevation
- the bay windows
- the six-over-six and four-over-four windows with caps
- the wooden shingles and clapboard cladding