Description of Historic Place
The Joseph-Felix Arsenault House is a two-storey wood frame, asymmetrical mix of Queen Anne Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Stick styles, built in 1897 in Wellington.
The Joseph-Felix Arsenault House is valued for its architectural importance, its importance to the community of Wellington, Prince Edward Island, and its historical associations with the prominent Arsenault family.
Joseph-Felix Arsenault (1865-1947) was the son of Joseph-Octave Arsenault (1828-1897), a prosperous merchant and Senator, and longtime Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly for the district of 3rd Prince, and the elder brother of Aubin-Edmond Arsenault (1870-1968), the Island's first Acadian Premier and Supreme Court judge. Joseph-Felix, himself a two-time Conservative M.L.A. for 3rd Prince, worked as a merchant in partnership with his father in J.O. Arsenault and Sons (later J.O. Arsenault, Son & Company). It was a business that dealt in dry goods, but which also dabbled in livestock, agricultural produce, the lobster industry, as well as in the operation of a brick kiln.
Joe-Felix Arsenault's house, which he had built in 1897, is believed to have been the product of plans drawn up by Dr. Andre Gallant (his brother-in-law), an accomplished architect who would design three prominent structures in Wellington, in addition to design elements contributed by George Gard of Alberton.
Shortly after investing in a sizeable bricks and mortar mercantile establishment in Wellington, the Arsenault family's business declared bankruptcy in 1901 and was taken over by H.S. Sharp Ltd. of Summerside. Joe-Felix Arsenault remained involved with it until 1905, when he relocated to the United States. He returned to the Island in 1913, and for the next three decades worked in the civil service, in addition to operating a couple of general stores in the Evangeline Region in the 1920s.
Following Joe-Felix Arsenault's departure, the house had a succession of owners until around 1945, when it was acquired by Napoleon Arsenault, who then passed it on to his son, Sylvere, in 1947. The property was purchased by its current owners in 2003.
The integrity of the Joseph-Felix Arsenault house has in large part been maintained since its construction, with the exception of a back kitchen wing that was removed circa 1950. It has been a well-known heritage place in Wellington for many years, and is unique for its role in interpreting the rise of the merchant class among Island Acadians following years of disadvantage and poverty. It is notable as well for the extensive documentation attached to it courtesy of Joe-Felix Arsenault's children, who compiled detailed accounts of the house, its usage, the lives of those who lived there, and the general economic conditions of Acadians at that time.
Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File #: 4310-20/J2
The heritage value of the Joseph-Felix Arsenault House is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the overall excellent condition of the exterior
- the overall massing of the house
- the elaborate architectural detailing
- the original roofline
- the original window and door openings
- the double windows with multi-paned upper sections on the north elevation
- the triple window on the flat wall of the south elevation
- the triangular windows in the upper eaves (north and south elevations)
- the shed roof of the verandah on the north elevation
- the cornerboards
- the clapboard cladding split with cornice
- the belt course of fish-scale shingles defining the area between the first and second storey (south, north, and east elevations)
- the Stick style spindle detailing on the second floor verandah (east elevation)
- the two-storey, open porch system with a shed roof (east elevation)
- the asymmetrically placed front door (east elevation)
- the straight stick balusters on the verandah, with spindle/grillwork in the upper areas (east elevation)
- the door opening on the second floor (east elevation) leading to a balcony porch
- the offset tower with two-storey stacking bay windows (east elevation)
- the cornerboards on the tower (east elevation)
- the conical cap on the tower (east elevation)
- the board-and-batten cladding in the upper eaves (north, south, and east elevations)
- the offset attic window (east elevation)
- the wide eaves on the east elevation
- the 1 ½ storey south and west projection wings off of the south and north elevations.
- the location of the house on its original footprint