Description of Historic Place
Ministers Island is a 500 acre island located in Passamaquoddy Bay near the town of St. Andrews. It is connected to the mainland by a natural bar that is covered by high tide and exposed at low tide.
The designated site of Ministers Island includes the entire island which encompasses a shell midden archaeological site, the home of Loyalist and Anglican minister Samuel Andrews and the summer estate of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne. There are also partial foundation remains of several farm buildings. The entire island is covered with a network of roads enclosed by fieldstone walls and gates.
Ministers Island is designated a Provincial Historic Site for the following reasons:
Archaeological digs of the shell midden site have shown that the Passamaquoddy people lived on Ministers Island (Qonasqamqi Monihkuk) for thousands of years. The heritage value lies in the age of the shell midden, which dates to approximately 2700 years ago, and the insight the shell midden provides into pre-contact marine cultural adaptations in the Passamoquoddy Bay region.
In 1790, Samuel Andrews, an Anglican Minister and Loyalist, constructed a home on the island. The name "Ministers Island" relates to his residency on the island. The Minister’s House is a circa 1790 Loyalist house. This building, prominently placed at the entrance to the island, is a good example of a 1 ½ storey vernacular residence from this era.
Beginning in 1892, Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, visionary builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, established his summer estate here. As Van Horne’s summer estate, Ministers Island is a remarkable regional landscape that served as an inspiration to Van Horne, the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The island was a haven for his pursuits of, and involvement with, tourism, agriculture, horticultural technology, and landscape painting. The estate consists of an eclectic collection of Shingle-style buildings, many designed by the Montreal architect Edward Maxwell. The buildings on the estate include a creamery, a livestock barn, a boarding house, an automobile garage, a horse stable and carriage house, a gas house, a windmill, a gardener’s house, a greenhouse, and Covenhoven, the primary residential building. The overall design is a tangible surviving example of late -19th century British and American landscape traditions, set into the landscape with four zones of usage – gardens, recreational facilities, agricultural lands, and forest. Ministers Island forms a remarkable private estate that sophisticatedly connected to the Atlantic Canadian coast and effectively adapted to its island environment. This integration with the environment is evident in the bathhouse, which used a tidal pool, and in the use of a windmill.
Spread amongst the Van Horne buildings is a collection of furniture, artefacts, artwork, domestic items, industrial items and agricultural items, all relating to Van Horne’s daily life and to his various pursuits. Many items in this collection are in situ.
Source: Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Site File # 16.
The character-defining elements that define the Shell Midden Archaeological Site include:
- context within its immediate landscape and shore edge;
- documented and currently undocumented archaeological resources related to the use of Ministers Island (Qonasqamqi Monihkuk) by the Passamaquoddy people.
The character-defining elements that define the Minister’s House (circa 1790) include:
- first structure visible as one enters the island;
- 1 ½-storey rectangular massing of vernacular structure;
- exterior elements, including gable roof, fenestration and overall symmetry;
- original interior elements, including spatial arrangement.
The character-defining elements that define the grounds of the Van Horne Summer Estate include:
- treed carriageways;
- planter urn sitting on one of the gate posts;
- roads delineated by fieldstone walls and mortared stone gateposts.
The character-defining elements that define the Van Horne Summer Estate buildings include:
- Creamery (1911), a rectangular building built of heavy timbers and large granite blocks with a hip roof and a conical tower. Elements include the interior finish and spatial arrangement;
- Livestock barn (1898-1899), a massive rectangular building of timber and steel construction with a hipped gable roof and ventilators on a stone foundation. Elements include 2 cylindrical grain/feed silos, interior spatial arrangement;
- Boarding House (1899), a Second Empire style building on a fieldstone foundation, exhibiting a 2 storey mansard-roof. Elements include asymmetrical door and window placement.
- Automobile Garage (circa 1920's), an Arts & Crafts inspired 1 ½ storey gable-roofed building. Elements include cobblestone and shingle walls, fenestration, doors, as well as spatial arrangement and finish of the interior;
- Horse Stable and Carriage House (circa 1890-1895), a Shingle style inspired 1½ storey bell-cast gable-roofed building. Elements include shingle siding, dormers, varied fenestration and doors, as well as the spatial arrangement and finish of the interior;
- Gas House (circa 1894), a Shingle style inspired round bell-cast structure with a conical roof, exposed rafters, and exterior wood shingled walls on a fieldstone foundation;
- Windmill (circa 1894), a Dutch inspired structure of reinforced concrete with round tapering bell-cast form, conical roof, front and rear gabled dormers, wind blades, and exterior wood shingled walls on fieldstone main floor;
- Gardiner’s House (circa 1894), a single storey asymmetrical wood shingled residence with medium-pitched hip roof, fieldstone foundation and original fenestration throughout;
- Greenhouse (1908), a rectangular building of practical design with stone gable walls and chimney.
- Bathhouse (1912), a reinforced concrete structure with a conical roof, stone walls, wood rafters and a man-made rock-cut tidal pool. Elements include interior finish and spatial arrangement and its location at the waterline;
- Covenhoven (1890's), an asymmetrically massed building with various additions in keeping with the original design. Elements include the various siding materials, the various window sizes and arrangements, the unaltered interior spatial arrangement and finish, as well as the shingled roofs;
- Collection relating to Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, including furniture, artefacts, artwork, toys, domestic items, industrial items and agricultural items.