Description of Historic Place
The Joan Watson and Jackie Lavers Home is a large two storey house with a hipped roof. It is influenced by the Colonial Revival style as shown by its wide eaves with brackets and corner pendants, the hipped roof dormers, the stacked bay windows, and the large verandah across the front of the house.
The house is valued for its association with the MacKinnon family of Montague; for its well preserved Colonial Revival style architecture; and for its contribution to the streetscape.
The property on which the house sits was purchased on May 22, 1913 by Lauchlin M. MacKinnon from James E. Robertson. Lauchlin or "Lauchie" was the only child of Donald Laughlin MacKinnon, the founder of the renowned Montague Furnishing Company. Laughlin would marry Adelaide MacDonald and raise a family of three children in the home: Athol, Eric, and Olga. All three never married and remained in the family home throughout their lives.
Donald L. MacKinnon had begun the business around 1880 on the south side of the Montague bridge. He originally had only two employees who built household furniture and coffins. This fledgling business suffered a major setback in the winter of 1911, when a fire destroyed the factory. The building had also been rented out for various uses including as a telephone switchboard, restaurant, and an auditorium. One of the last major events it hosted was the reception for Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who gave a speech there in the autumn of 1911.
The Company soon rebuilt its operation moving into a former warehouse once owned by Island entrepreneur Owen Connolly on the north side of the bridge. This building no longer stands on Main Street. The reputation and quality of their products, especially their coffins, which were made from locally harvested logs, continued to grow. They would eventually sell their coffins across Canada, to Newfoundland, the West Indies, South America, and even South Africa. They owned warehouses in Sydney and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and as far away as Athens, Ontario.
The business was associated with some major events in Canadian history, including the 1917 Halifax Explosion. The plant worked around the clock, sending hundreds of caskets to the scene. In 1922, the Company was given the honour of directing the funeral for Alexander Graham Bell, who had died at his estate in Cape Breton. The quality of their product received further profile in 1929, when a sample of their caskets won a design medal at the French Exposition in Limoges.
The Great Depression of the 1930s impacted the business and the number of employees was reduced. After World War II, increased shipping costs, a shortage of raw materials, and increased off Island competition eventually led to the company closing its manufacturing business. The family continued to operate a funeral home into the 1980s.
The current house was built in 1913 by Lauchlin MacKinnon at a time when the fortunes of the company were bright. It represents the financial success the company had achieved and the status of the MacKinnon family in the town of Montague. The contractor for the new home was a Mr. Bradley and the builder was a Mr. Lathard.
The Colonial Revival style of the house was in vogue at the time. This style was popular on PEI from the 1890s to the 1930s. They often had a square configuration with hipped roofs and hipped roof dormers. Bay windows, string courses, and verandahs were also aspects of the design.
This example of the style is well preserved and evocative of a family whose company once contributed greatly to the economy of Montague. It continues to contribute to its streetscape.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/M20
The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the house:
- the two storey elevation
- the hipped roof with hipped roof dormers
- the brick chimney
- the wide eaves with brackets and corner pendant decoration
- the stacked bay windows
- the oriel window
- the wood shingle cladding - pine siding on first storey and shingles on second separated with stringcourse
- the original fenestration of the windows and doors
- the front entrance with sidelights
- the front verandah with Tuscan style columns and balustrade
- the roof deck above the verandah also with balustrade
- the location of the house on Main Street on a treed lot