Description of Historic Place
86-90 Queen Street is a brick, Early Commercial influenced building located in Charlottetown’s historic business area. It was built between 1862 and 1864 for use as a home, but has housed businesses for most of its history. The designation encompasses the building’s exterior and parcel; it does not include the building’s interior.
The heritage value of 86-90 Queen Street lies in its association with local business; its Early Commercial style architecture; and its importance to the Queen Street and Sydney Street streetscapes.
Donald McIsaac constructed 86-90 Queen Street between 1862 and 1864 on land held in trust for his wife Ann Reddin. The corner was called Sims Corner for its former owners, Thomas and Charlotte Alchorn Sims, who had obtained the property from her father as part of her dowry. McIsaac was a prosperous merchant who operated a distillery and a store that carried both dry goods and groceries. However, his new house at 86-90 Queen Street, was rented out. An advertisement for the premises that appeared in the 14 December 1866 edition of the local newspaper, the Islander, described the property as "a commodious, well-known, three storey brick house occupied by William Full and renting yearly for 100 pounds."
A later owner of the building was P.P. Gillis, a colourful, local merchant who owned a variety of businesses, including a stable business and the Red Pharmacy, which had a “conviviality shop” or bootlegger located in the back. The bootlegger was quite popular with local businessmen during prohibition. Interestingly, as late as the 1970s, the painted sign of the Red Pharmacy was still visible between the first and second row of windows on the Queen Street facade of the building.
During the period when Gillis operated his businesses, which was from approximately 1895 until 1910, Mr. John F. Reardon operated his barbershop out of the building. These shops, which catered to men, were called “hairdressing saloons” and advertised hair cutting, curling and shampooing.
According to telephone and city directories, the building remained commercial in nature throughout the Twentieth Century. Some of the occupants included the National Clothing Company, Philip Carter’s store, the J.J. Hughes Company Ltd., the Imperial Tobacco Company, the G.R. Keefe Drug Company, the Baird Co. Ltd., Wholesale Druggists, Mayor B. Roy Holman’s fox fur business and Walter Bears & Son Wholesale Dry Goods. Throughout the years the 118-120 Sydney Street section of the building housed a number of sample rooms and storage for various businesses, and later, in the 1950s, apartments.
86-90 Queen Street is an excellent example of an Early Commercial style building in the City. Originally built as a home, the building was converted for commercial purposes very early on in its history. The style was often characterized by a ground floor exclusively used for storefronts, simple mouldings and a balanced facade of shingles, clapboard or brick. 86-90 Queen Street is an excellent example of this style in the City. It isn’t clear when, or if the addition on the back of the building was added at a later date, however the 1878 Panoramic View of Charlottetown does show a large, flat roofed building attached to 86-90 Queen Street so it is clear that this section was in place very early on in the building’s history.
The building is located within an area that contains a number of commercial heritage buildings on Queen Street- one of the most important and well-preserved historic streets in Charlottetown. An attractive and well preserved building, 86-90 Queen Street is evocative of the early economic history of the City and is typical of commercial buildings constructed during the Confederation era in the Maritimes. For these reasons, it helps support both the Sydney and Queen Street streetscapes.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following Early Commercial style character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of 86-90 Queen Street:
- The overall massing of the building with its symmetrical facade
- The size and shape of the building's brick exterior with its stone lintels and sills
- The style and placement of the windows, including the large second and third floor windows. The large storefront windows, although the storefront was probably added when the building was converted to a shop from a home.
- The size and placement of the doors, including the storefront doors, as well as the doors of the northern section with their transom lights.
- A lintel still visible on the north west corner of the building, where a door once was.
- The arched former carriageway with its decorative keystone.
- The recessed storefront with its large windows, transom lights and simple mouldings.
- The steep pitch of the gabled roof
- The corbelled brick detailing at the roofline
- The placement and style of the chimney
- The size and shape of the brick addition on to the back of the building with its largely flat roof and corbelled cornice
Other character-defining elements include:
- The location of the building on Queen Street and Sydney Street