Description of Historic Place
The Matthew and McLean Heritage Building is a two storey, wood framed structure located prominently on Main Street in Souris, PEI. The main facade features large commercial storefront windows. The upper storeys have round arch windows, and dramatic Gothic hood mouldings. The main section has a gable roof with bracketted eaves. To the west is a large extension with a flat roof and a parapet wall with further eave brackets. The designation includes the building's exterior and parcel; it does not include the building's interior.
The Matthew and McLean Heritage Building is valued for its well preserved commercial and Gothic architectural elements; for its contribution to the streetscape of Main Street in the Town of Souris; and for its association with the economic history of the area.
Both Uriah Matthew (1842-1902) and John McLean (1846-1936) began their mercantile careers at the firm of Heartz and Son in Charlottetown. Benjamin Heartz was one of Charlottetown's most prominent merchants in the 1860s. By 1869, Matthew and McLean, with the financial assistance of Heartz, decided to begin their own general merchant business in Souris, a growing seaport town in eastern PEI.
Over the next century, the Matthew and McLean name would become renowned in eastern PEI. They became adept at diversifying their operation, becoming the chief source of hardware and dry goods in the area. By 1887, they had established a branch store and starch factory in Dundas. This branch store was later moved to Bridgetown, PEI, to have access to the Boughton River as a shipping route. They even supplied goods to stores in Quebec's nearby Magdalen Islands.
In the 1880s, they operated several lobster canning factories employing large numbers of local residents. Canned lobster was shipped to destinations such as Boston and the West Indies. Potatoes were grown to supply local starch factories and for export.
Uriah Matthew died in 1902 and his son, Brenton, assumed his father's role in the partnership. Subsequently, other descendents of Matthew and McLean would assume roles in the business as partners.
In addition to his business affairs, John McLean was active politically. He was a strong advocate of trade protection for Canadian goods and supported Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy. He was first elected in 1882 to the provincial legislature. In March, 1891, he resigned his provincial seat to run in the Dominion election for the Conservatives. He won his seat handily. In one of his first parliamentary speeches, McLean advocated the construction of a tunnel between PEI and the mainland. He would remain an MP until his defeat in 1904. He was later appointed to the Senate, serving from 1915 until his death in 1936. During World War I, his daughter, Rena Maude, was a nursing sister on the hospital ship, Llandovery Castle. She was lost when the ship was torpedoed off France in 1918.
Matthew and McLean remained a presence in the area until 1982, when it gave up its charter. The building was then used for other retail purposes and was extensively renovated in 2001 and re-opened as the town's cultural interpretive centre.
With its long history as a landmark in the Town of Souris and as a well preserved example of a 19th Century commercial building with Gothic style elements, the Matthew and McLean Heritage Building is an asset to the streetscape.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4320-20/M2
The following character-defining elements illustrate the commercial and Gothic architectural style elements of the Matthew and McLean Heritage Building:
- the gable roof with decorative eave bracketting
- the flat roofed extension to the west with parapet wall and eave bracketting
- the large paned commercial storefront windows of the front facade
- the location of the entrance doors with transom windows
- the Gothic style round arch windows and palladian influenced windows of the second storey
- the intricate Gothic hood mouldings over the windows
- the decorative trim boards and projecting string course with brackets
- the sign bands
Other character-defining elements include:
- the prominent location of the building on Main Street