Description of Historic Place
The Royalty Oaks Natural Area is four-hectare mixed woodlot, located off the former North Ridge Parkway in the former community of East Royalty, which became part of the City of Charlottetown in 1995. Consisting of trees that are between 100 to 300 years old, some of the species in the woodlot include the red oak, sugar maple, red maple, beech and yellow birch. A trail, picnic area and interpretive signage have been added to the site in recent years. The designation encompasses the entire parcel of land.
The heritage value of the Royalty Oaks Natural Area lies in its role as a small area of mature woodland within the City boundaries and because of its association with the prominent Cambridge and Wright families.
Two prominent Islanders, John (1748-1831) and Mary Cambridge (d. 1832) owned the land around Royalty Oaks in approximately 1810. The couple came to Prince Edward Island in 1784 as land agents. They would go on to build successful businesses, which included milling and shipbuilding enterprises. Their son-in-law, George Wright (1779-1842), went into business with the Cambridge family in 1808. In 1813, the Cambridge and Wright business partnership was formally dissolved and the operation was given entirely to Wright and his wife, Phoebe.
The Wrights, who had built a substantial residence nearby called "Belmont", acquired the Royalty Oaks property in 1819. Wright was not only a businessman, but served in a number of offices throughout the years including: Administrator of Prince Edward Island, Surveyor General, Judge, and High Sheriff.
By 1920, during the fox farming industry boom, the Royalty Oaks property was home to a large number of foxes. The area proved ideal for their pens as it provided shade for the animals in the summer and protection from the elements in the winter. In 1982, the fox pens were removed.
The Royalty Oaks property has been preserved despite the fact that the wooden shipbuilding boom and the clearing of land for agriculture had placed a heavy burden on the Island's forests. Many of the trees are estimated to be well over 100 years old. In 1989, the Mount Allison University Dendrochronology Lab examined a red oak tree from the woodlot that had blown down in a winter storm and it was found that the tree was 126 years old! The area contains perhaps the largest concentrated stand of red oak trees in the Province. The Red Oak is the official provincial tree of PEI.
The property was purchased by the Prince Edward Island Government in the 1980s and has become a natural area for the public to enjoy within the City limits. A trail has been cut through the area and a picnic site and interpretive signage have been added. A beautiful and relatively untouched natural area within the City limits, the Royalty Oaks Natural Area is an important part of the City and the Province's heritage.
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 Royalty Oaks Natural Area:
- The variety of trees such as red oak, sugar maple, red maple, beech and yellow birch
- The various forms of herbaceous plants in the area
- The current boundaries of the natural area
- The trails and interpretive signage throughout the site
- The proximity of the property to "Belmont", the former residence of the Wright family