Description of Historic Place
115 Murchison Lane is the site of the former Falcon Wood Estate and later the former Falconwood Insane Asylum / Hospital. Currently the provincial in-patient psychiatric facility is on the site, however a number of mature trees remain reflective of the site's former use. The designation encompasses the parcel of land; it does not include the buildings that are located on the property.
The heritage value of the former Falcon Wood site lies in its association with the Falcon Wood Estate, the Falconwood Hospital which once stood on the property, and the Government farm that was once there.
John Grubb Esq. (1787-1846), a native of England moved to Prince Edward Island in 1841. A merchant and member of the Legislative Assembly, he resided at an impressive home named Holland Grove, in Charlottetown. In the spring of 1842, he purchased a large parcel of land in the Charlottetown Royalty, where he built an impressive brick home he christened Falcon Wood. Unfortunately, the home was not finished before Grubb passed away but he left specific instructions that Holland Grove be sold when Falcon Wood was completed. The home would not be finished until the mid 1850s and there is no information left to indicate that the family ever lived there.
The Grubbs, however, did lease the property to various tenants. One tenant in particular stands out. In the spring of 1870, when Sir John A. Macdonald suffered a gallstone attack, he went to Falcon Wood to recover. Macdonald arrived there with his wife and daughter in July of 1870 and would remain until mid September of that year.
Only photographs remain of the original Falcon Wood house. It fell in to ruin in the 1870s and no longer exists. An advertisement from the 26 March 1855 edition of the Daily Examiner discusses the estate's attributes, thus producing a vision of a grand mansion on a large estate. The house was described as one of the most substantial brick buildings on the Island and contained a dining room, drawing room, parlour, library, spacious hall and staircase, servants' room, laundry, storeroom and kitchen, on the first floor. The second floor included eight bedrooms and a dressing room. The house also featured a large cellar and a hot air stove in the "sunk story". The large grounds included flower and kitchen gardens, 12 acres of land, some of which was cultivated, and "fine old trees". Those interested were to apply at the house.
The lands attached to the property were leased separately by the Grubbs, who now spelled their name Grubbe. In 1856, the lands were leased to the Royal Agricultural Society for the establishment of a Model Farm. The farm was used for crop experimentation, a stock farm and educational purposes. In 1859, charges of fraud and mismanagement of the farm caused the legislature to refuse to allow further funding. However, the farm was again leased from the Grubbes in 1865 to be used as the Government Stock Farm. The farm was sold in 1907 and the money was used to purchase land for the Experimental Farm on Mount Edward Road.
During the mid 19th Century, Falcon Wood House was being considered as a new site for the home for the mentally ill. The existing York River Lunatic Asylum was overcrowded and considered unsuitable. In 1871, it was suggested that the Falcon Wood House be used as a replacement mental health facility, but the mansion would later be deemed unsuitable for the purpose. The property was purchased from the Grubbes however, and by 1879, the new institution was built. An engraving shows the building as a sprawling and imposing five storey Second Empire style structure, decorated with iron cresting and topped by a tower. The institution was considered state of the art and served the community for many years, until a fire severely damaged it in the winter of 1931. The disastrous fire took 8 lives.
Falconwood Hospital was rebuilt in 1933 in a less grandiose style. In 1957 it would be renamed Riverside Hospital and an additional building, the Hillsborough Hospital, would be added. The Hillsborough Hospital still stands on the site.
Today, the magnificent old trees left standing near where the Falcon Wood mansion once was are evocative of the site's rich history.
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 Falcon Wood site:
- The mature trees and their physical location near the Hillsborough River
- The remaining large park like grounds