Description of Historic Place
Built circa 1839, the Capt. John Wren Residence is a one-and-a-half storey Cape Cod style residence. It is located on Queen Street, near the corner of Harriet Street, in the Town of St. Andrews.
The Capt. John Wren residence is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture, for its association with the Wren family and for its association with its earliest occupants.
The Capt. John Wren Residence is recognized as a good example of Cape Cod architecture. James Thompson purchased the land for this home in 1838, the year of Queen Victoria’s coronation. This small symmetrical one-and-a-half storey Cape Cod home has small eave returns and displays a central portico and dormer window. The property has been well maintained and contains its original appearance, adding to the romanticism of this approximately 170-year-old home. This romanticism is further enhanced by its being the residence of the seafaring Wren family for nearly 150 years, sea captain’s homes having a majestic aura in Maritime communities.
The Capt. John Wren Residence is also recognized for its association with its past occupants. The residence was built circa 1839 for James Thompson, who is said to have run a small private school on the premises. Major William Anstruther owned the lot from 1789 to 1830, but it is not certain if he lived here. He was a Major for the Royal Garrison Battalion during the American Revolution. In the year of Confederation, 1867, Capt. John Wren purchased the home from the widow of James Thompson and remained here until his death in 1914. Born circa 1835, Captain Wren owned a schooner which plied between St. Andrews and the West Indies. He followed the sea for over 30 years, retiring about 1894. In 1872, he suffered a terrible experience while in command of the barque James W. Elwell. After rounding Cape Horn destined for Valparaiso, Chile, his cargo caught fire. After heading for the Straits of Magellan, he and his crew of 15 had to abandon the burning ship and for 72 days this crew was tossed about in an open boat at the mercy of the sea where they suffered hardship, peril and near-starvation.
Capt. Wren’s son, Capt. Joseph Ranby Wren, captained steamships mostly in European waters, and resided near Liverpool, England. In 1919, five years after his father’s death, he returned to St. Andrews and took up residency here, his childhood home, until his death in 1973 at the age of 97. His daughter, Lelia Dewolfe Wren, a nurse at the Alexandra Hospital in Montreal for 42 years and recognized for her work in working with children with polio, moved into the home in 1973.
Source: Charlotte County Archives, Old Gaol, St. Andrews, NB
The character-defining elements of the Capt. John Wren Residence include:
- rectangular one-and-a-half storey massing;
- lateral gable roof;
- 6-over-6 wood-framed windows;
- exposed rock foundation;
- wood cladding;
- window placement and proportions;
- centrally located dormer window with eave returns;
- handsome enclosed portico with recessed panels, segmented arched doors and segmented arch windows.