Description of Historic Place
The Bishop's Residence, or Palace as it is known as locally, is a large stone Italianate and Gothic Revival influenced residence and rectory located on historic Great George Street. In the past, it has been used not only as a home for the Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown, but also as the Diocesan office, a retirement home for priests, a convent and St. Dunstan's Cathedral Basilica rectory. It is located next door to the magnificent St. Dunstan's Cathedral Basilica, a National Historic Site. The designation encompasses the building's exterior and parcel; it does not include the building's interior.
The heritage value of the Bishop's Residence lies in its importance to the Roman Catholic community of Prince Edward Island; its attractive Italianate and Gothic Revival influenced architecture; and its role as a landmark in Charlottetown.
The Diocese of Charlottetown, when created in 1829, included Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and the Magdalen Islands. Father Angus Bernard MacEachern (1759-1835) who worked tirelessly tending to the needs of Roman Catholics throughout the Island and the Atlantic Provinces had lobbied for many years to make Charlottetown a separate diocese from the huge Archdiocese of Quebec that included an area from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. Bishop MacEachern was designated a National Historic Person of Canada in 1968 for his role as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown.
It would be many years before the current Bishop's Residence would be constructed. Although the cathedral church of the diocese was in Charlottetown, bishops of the diocese did not live in the city until 1860, when Bishop Peter MacIntyre moved to the capital. He lived in the small wooden Reddin House next door to St. Dunstan's Cathedral for a time.
It was Bishop MacIntyre who initiated the building of the Residence. As early as 1867, he had employed stonecutters for a winter preparing the materials that would be used for a new Episcopal residence when finally, in 1872 construction got underway. The new residence or "palace", as many refer to it as, is almost the same design as the Bishop's residence in Saint John, New Brunswick. When it was constructed, the large stone building stood in stark contrast to the wooden and less elaborate, St. Dunstan's Cathedral next door that had been built in 1843. In fact, the ornate Bishop's Residence influenced the decision to build a far more elaborate cathedral in stone.
The architect of the massive residence was John Corbett. In 1875, the local press reported that the Bishop, who was by now living in the residence, held a dinner to honour those that had worked on the building. During this dinner, the Bishop presented Corbett with a gold watch for his dedicated service as architect. The residence might not have been completely finished at this point judging by an ad that appeared nine years later in the 15 May 1884 edition of the local newspaper, the Daily Examiner. Mr. F. Landry, artist, advertised that his work was done at the Bishop's Residence and since he would be remaining in Charlottetown for a month, he would be taking orders for "painting, graining, paper hanging and kalsomining."
The Bishop's Residence would be renovated a number of times throughout the years. Unfortunately, in 1913 when fire affected the neighbouring St. Dunstan's Basilica, the residence suffered a great deal of damage. The Diocese used this as an opportunity to add a wing on to the rear of the home and redecorate the interior. The architect, John Marshall Hunter, who was working on rebuilding of the Basilica, was chosen to work on the residence as well. Michael Welsh was chosen as the contractor. The new wing would house a convent, as well as the staff dining room and kitchen
Later in 1924, a large balcony was added to the south side of the residence. Architects, Chappell and Hunter worked on the project, as did contractors, Phillips and Clark.
A beautiful building and a local landmark, the Bishop's Residence is a source of pride to the members of the Diocese of Charlottetown and the City. Situated in an area with a great number of historic buildings and churches, the Bishop's Residence supports the heritage character of the area.
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 the Bishop's Residence:
- The square massing of the building with its three storeys
- The Wallace sandstone exterior with label mouldings, medallions and designs above the windows including quatrefoils
- The style, size and symmetrical placement of the windows particularly the sash windows and the arched dormer windows
- The size and central placement of the Gothic arched front door with its decorative transom light above and huge door surround decorated with quatrefoils, a Gothic arch, and crenellation which imitates battlements
- The hipped roofline accented with eave brackets, roof dormers, and various chimneys
- The Italianate belvedere with Mansard roof and arched windows
- The various additions including the ornate two storey balcony and the large addition on the rear of the building
Other character-defining elements include:
- The location of the building on Great George Street adjacent to St. Dunstan's Cathedral Basilica National Historic Site