Description of Historic Place
The landmark Garden of the Gulf Museum is an imposing Romanesque Revival style brick building located on an elevation of land near the bridge in the Town of Montague, PEI. Originally built as a Post Office and Customs House, the designation includes the footprint of the building.
The Garden of the Gulf Museum is valued as an example of a former post office designed by Thomas Fuller; for its Romanesque Revival architecture; and for its contribution to the Town of Montague.
Thomas Fuller (1823-1898) was Canada's chief architect in the Department of Public Works from 1881-1896. He had been involved in the design of such famous structures as the Centre Block of Parliament in Ottawa (1859-1860), of which only the Library of Parliament remains; the New York State Capitol in Albany (1867-1876); and the San Francisco City Hall (1875).
During his tenure as chief architect, 74 new post offices were constructed across the country. Sir John A. Macdonald wanted to expand the presence of the Dominion government throughout the nation by increasing the number of public buildings. In Prince Edward Island, new post offices were built in Summerside (1883-1886), Charlottetown (1884-1885); and at Montague (1887-1888). Only the Summerside and Montague buildings remain today, and only the Montague building is the most originally intact, except for the removal of a large chimney once located on the east side of the building. The former Summerside post office is now incorporated into the Summerside City Hall.
The plans for the Montague Bridge Post Office and Customs House originated from the Chief Architect's Branch in Ottawa, but the supervising architects were David Stirling and William Critchlow Harris of Charlottetown. The contractor was a Mr. L.A. Wilmot of Dorchester, New Brunswick. The bricks were made locally by Robert Stewart. The total cost was $6315.47. It was an important development for the fledgling community of Montague to have such a building. The other Fuller post offices had gone to the county capitals in Charlottetown and Summerside. Nearby Georgetown, not Montague, was the capital of King's County. However, as David Stirling admitted in an 1884 letter to Thomas Fuller, "It is one of the finest sites for a Public Building, particularly a Customs House and Post Office, that could be found anywhere. It is on high ground... [and] ... has a fine view of the river and wharfs as also the whole of the North side of the Village." Securing the location of the building in Montague was likely aided by the Hon. Andrew Archibald Macdonald (1829-1912) who was the Island's Post Office Inspector from 1880-1884. Macdonald was influential as a Father of Confederation, Lieutenant Governor, and Senator.
The style of the former post office is similar to another Fuller design at Baddeck, Nova Scotia (1885-1887). It has Romanesque influences such as the recessed round arched windows and entrance of the ground floor. The second floor has single and grouped tall rectangular windows, while the steeply hipped roof contains an asymmetric arrangement of triangular dormers with decorative woodwork. The building was altered somewhat from its original plan, with an arched doorway being moved from the south side of the building to the north side, likely to enable the Customs House to be near the harbour. Unique embellishments to the building include original carved representations of PEI's oak trees emblem and an image of Queen Victoria, both inset in the walls above the main entrance.
The building ceased to be a post office in 1954 and was vacant until purchased by the Town of Montague in 1957 for use as a local museum. Today, it is valued by the community as a well maintained landmark.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4320-20/G4
The following Romanesque Revival influenced character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the Garden of the Gulf Museum:
- the stone foundation quarried locally from the Montague River bank
- the solid brick construction of two-and-one-half storeys
- the steeply pitched gable slate roof with corbelled brick cornice under the eaves
- the fenestration of the windows and doors
- the deeply recessed round arch windows of the first floor and the tall rectangular windows of the second floor
- the dominant round arches of the first floor
- the cut stone window caps and sills
- the triangular dormers with decorative wood detailing
- the style and position of the remaining chimney
- the location of the flag staff attached to the large dormer on the south side
- the Rococo style carvings over the main door featuring Queen Victoria (west) and PEI's oak trees emblem (south)
- the dominant location of the building on an elevation of land overlooking the harbour