Description of Historic Place
The Murchison House, built circa 1823 in Mount Buchanan, is a 1 ½ storey wood frame, Maritime Vernacular house with a symmetrical facade, adapted from an 18th century Scottish cottage style.
The Murchison House is valued for its age, its condition, and for its association with prominent figures in, and its importance in interpreting the story of, the early Scottish settlement of southeastern Prince Edward Island.
This 1 ½ storey dwelling was built for, or possibly by, Samuel Murchison (1793-1864) circa 1823. A farmer, he was born on the Isle of Mull and came to the Island alongside his father, Donald, in August 1803. They formed part of the 800-strong group of Highland Scots that Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk, assembled and sent to the Belfast region of Prince Edward Island in order to populate his landholdings. Donald was granted 120 acres in present-day Mount Buchanan with frontage on the Pinette River that Samuel would later inherit. Their Scotch origins are reflected in the construction of the house, which is adapted from an 18th century Scottish cottage architectural style.
Samuel married Alice, a daughter of Dr. Angus MacAulay (1759-1827). Dr. MacAulay served as an agent for the Earl of Selkirk, and played an important role in the lives of the early settlers, tending to their physical needs as a general practitioner, and to their spiritual needs as a Presbyterian lay preacher. Samuel himself was a religious man, and served as a church elder. It is this connection that has given rise to the belief that his house might actually have served as a meeting place where Robert Jones, the architect of St. John's Presbyterian Church in Belfast, met with church elders to discuss designs for the project.
The Murchison House has been structurally altered since its construction. It was originally sited near the river, but was moved closer to the main road in 1908, at which time an ell section was built onto the west elevation of the house to serve as a kitchen. In addition to being moved and gaining a wing in 1908, in the 1950s a back section of the house was detached and relocated a short distance away in order to be used as an outbuilding. Around 1990, a double-section wing was added to the rear of the house. One section, which connects to the 1908 wing, is single-storey and runs north, while the other is a 1 ½ storey garage with an east-west orientation. Neither section connects to the ca. 1823 body of the house.
The house passed out of the Murchison family in 1957 when it was acquired by the Townsends, who currently maintain ownership of the property. It is one of the oldest extant dwellings built in this part of the province and is notable as such; however, it is equally significant for its role in interpreting the story of one of the most important and successful waves of Scots to settle on the Island.
Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File #: 4310-20/M42
The heritage value of the Murchison House is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the low-pitched roofline of the ca.1823 body of the house
- the massing of the ca. 1823 body of the house
- the original door and window openings
- the eave returns on the ca. 1823 body of the house
- the wood shingle cladding
- the cornerboards on both the ca. 1823 body of the house, and the 1908 west elevation wing addition
- the centred door with two-over-two vertically sliding windows on either side
- the overall good condition of the house