Links and documents
1832/01/01 to 1834/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Gainsford House is a two storey brick, Georgian influenced double tenement located on historic Water Street. Subsequent additions to the Gainsford House in 1847 and in the early twentieth century have made it the central piece in a row house. The designation encompasses the building’s exterior and parcel; it does not include the building’s interior.
The heritage value of the Gainsford House lies in its role as the oldest surviving brick home in Charlottetown, its association with the Gainsford family, and its association with publisher of the Islander newspaper, John Ings, and its importance to the Water Street streetscape.
In 1832, the land on which the Gainsford House stands was deeded not to Elizabeth Gainsford herself but to three prominent citizens, Hon. T. Haviland, Daniel Brenan Esq. and Rev. B. McDonald in trust for her. Although it is a foreign concept today, until 1896, married women could not purchase, hold, or sell property on Prince Edward Island; it was placed in trust for them.
The Gainsford House was constructed at some point between 1832 and 1834 of brick. Most homes at this point in Charlottetown’s history were being constructed of wood, however a house on Richmond Street which has not survived had been constructed of brick as early as 1823. The decision to build in brick may have been influenced by the fact that John Gainsford was a partner in a brickyard and made his own bricks. The Gainsfords decision to build in brick proved to be a wise one, as a devastating fire swept through the area in 1857. The building was the only one to survive in the area, partially because of its construction material, but also through the “extraordinary exertions, and the constant application of wet sheets and blankets to the roof”.
When the house was built, the Gainsfords' lived in the western section and rented the eastern section to the publisher of the Islander newspaper and Queens Printer, John Ings. After Elizabeth Gainsford died in 1852, John Gainsford sold the eastern section to John Ings and the western section to plasterer, James Connell. Connell sold his section to Archibald Kennedy in 1863, but Ings would stay on until 1908.
In 1847, Ings built an addition to the eastern side of the Gainsford House, where he would publish the Islander newspaper and operate a reading room. Later in the early twentieth century, the western side of the Gainsford House also received an extension. This small wooden addition, with a brick facade, housed veterinarian, James L MacMillan’s office.
Located on a street with a range of early to mid 19th century architecture, the Gainsford House is unique and compliments the streetscape. Historian, Irene Rogers stated that the home was thought to be one of the most important homes in the community. Directions would be given using the Gainsford House as a reference point. “Across from Gainsford’s brick house” or “next to Gainsford’s brick house” was the address often given for homes of less important status in the area. Part of a well kept and beautiful row house, the Gainsford House is still an important part of the architecture in the area.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following character-defining elements illustrate the Georgian influenced heritage value of the Gainsford House:
- The overall massing of the building and the symmetry of the facade
- The style and placement of the brick and stone throughout the facade, including the freestone lintels and sills
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large six over six windows of the first and second floor, as well as the rounded dormer windows.
- The style and central placement of the heavy paneled doors
- The roofline with its rounded dormers. Although the dormers were added at different points in the home’s history, they add flair and overall symmetry to the home.
- The style and placement of the chimneys that add further to the symmetry of the building.
Other character-defining elements of the Gainsford House are:
- The central location of the building within a four part row house
- The location of the building on Water Street
Prince Edward Island
City of Charlottetown
City of Charlottetown Zoning and Development Bylaw
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Multiple Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
Cross-Reference to Collection