Description of Historic Place
Main Building is a large brick building situated among mature trees on the well manicured campus of the University of Prince Edward Island. It was the first building to be constructed on the campus. The designation includes the building's exterior and parcel; it does not include the building's interior.
Main Building is valued as one of the oldest academic buildings in the Province; for its architectural features; and for its contribution to the campus of the University of Prince Edward Island.
Main Building was originally constructed as the Roman Catholic St. Dunstan's College in 1854. It was built of wood, but was later sheathed in brick in 1862. The date stone above the door illustrates this completion date. The brick was fired in Tignish, PEI, a community over 150 km away and was shipped to Charlottetown by boat. This was the same brick used in the construction of the Roman Catholic Church in Tignish. Main Building would be the only building on the St. Dunstan's College campus for 63 years until 1917, when a male residence, Dalton Hall, was built.
The Anglo Saxon, St. Dunstan, was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th Century. His family came from Wessex and he had a long association with Glastonbury as a centre of learning. He was also a blacksmith, painter, and jeweller and is the patron saint of goldsmiths. His symbol, a hammer and tongs, appears in the Arms of the University of PEI. Legend says he "placed a horseshoe on the Devil's foot" only agreeing to remove it if the Devil agreed never to enter a place where the horseshoe was above the door!
The Diocese of Charlottetown's Bishop Bernard MacDonald (1797-1859) established St. Dunstan's College in 1855. After a long affiliation with Laval University, St. Dunstan's College received its university charter in 1917, but did not activate it until 1941. The College, and its predecessor, St. Andrew's College (1831-1844), was originally conceived as a preparatory school for those entering the priesthood. It was the only university in PEI until 1968, when Prince of Wales College received degree granting status. In 1969, the two institutions merged to form the non-denominational University of Prince Edward Island by an Act of the provincial legislature.
Main Building once housed classrooms, labs, a library, a residence and a chapel, however it now contains classrooms and office space. It has undergone a number of renovations throughout its history including the addition of a wing and an annex on its eastern side. Before it was decided to construct a separate building for Dalton Hall, it was proposed that a wing be added to Main Building, called the Dalton Wing, with funds provided by fox farming pioneer, Sir Charles Dalton (1850-1933). Historic photos reveal that a large ornate verandah once stretched along the length of the building's southern facade. A balcony was perched on top of this, but at some point, both were removed. The building's most recent renovation was carried out in the late 1980s. Upon completion, Main Building was officially reopened 17 January 1989 - the 134th anniversary of the reception for St. Dunstan's College's first students. Premier Joseph Ghiz (1945-1996) presided over the ceremonies.
An impressive structure, Main Building was influenced by a number of architectural styles. The Second Empire style is exhibited in the Mansard roof (added in 1877) with its numerous roof dormers, while the fenestration and the centrally placed door with fanlight are Georgian inspired. The arched windows of the 1899 addition are Gothic influenced.
Main Building continues to be a focal point of campus life as the headquarters of the Faculty of Arts.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following character-defining elements contribute to the heritage value of Main Building:
- The overall massing of the building with its three storeys
- The brick construction of the exterior with stone trim
- The Mansard roof with its corbelled cornice and gabled dormers
- The fenestration of the building including the large rectangular sash windows, the round arch windows of the dormers, and the pointed arch or Gothic windows of the 1899 addition
- The size and position of the heavy wooden doors, particularly those of the northern and southern facades with fanlight and sidelights
- The carved date stone "1862" above the main entrance of the south facade
Other character-defining elements include:
- The location of the building on the landscaped campus of UPEI forming a quadrangle at the heart of the campus
- The continued use of the building for academic purposes