Description of Historic Place
The Keir House is a large, two storey, Georgian house with neo-classical design elements, hipped roof and a symmetrical front façade, located on the edge of Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island.
The Keir house is valued for its age, its association with Presbyterian minister Rev. Dr. John Keir (1780-1858) and his family, and the prominent role that the family played in community education for Malpeque and surrounding areas. The house also has a notable connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was a friend of John Keir's daughter Anne. Montgomery modeled parts of her novel "Emily of New Moon" on the Keir household.
This large picturesque house, built in the Georgian style, was established around 1810, when the Ramsay and Sinclair houses, dating back to approximately 1780 and 1805 respectively, were relocated to this site and joined. The home was established for Scottish-born Rev. Dr. John Keir, a minister and founding member of Presbyterianism on Prince Edward Island. Rev. Dr. Keir served as minister to a wide area including Malpeque, Bedeque, Lot 16 and Richmond Bay.
In 1843 Keir was named Principal Professor of Theology for the Presbyterian Divinity College for the Lower Provinces. At this time, as there were no centralized buildings in which to hold classes, students lodged at the Keir home, and attended lectures in the family dining hall. In 1857, a grand celebration was organized to commemorate Rev. Dr. Keir's Golden Jubilee of his work on Price Edward Island. The following year while conducting a lecture in Truro, Rev. Dr. Keir passed away suddenly. He was buried in Malpeque cemetery.
The Keir House was also the site of a prominent medical practice. Rev. Dr. Keir's son, Dr. William Keir, who completed his medical training in Edinburgh, Scotland, established an office in the front parlour of the home. He would continue his practice here until his death in 1917. His son Dr. James Keir, travelled to the University of Philadelphia to receive his medical training. Upon his return, he practiced medicine from the family home from 1904-1944. The home was inherited by the grandson of Dr. James Keir, William Auld. With the house remaining within the family for so many subsequent generations, a large private library consisting of over 500 books, as well as the papers of Rev. Dr. John Keir, had survived unchanged within the home. These were generously donated to the Provincial Archives by William Auld.
The original integrity of the home remains largely unchanged. Though newer window replacements on the south and east elevations have been added, the original openings were maintained. The front elevation porch and second floor sun porch were completed in the 1920s.
Because of the close connections that the Keir family held within the community and the generations of service they provided, the Keir house is a valuable landmark to both the community of Malpeque and to the province.
Source: Heritage Places files, PEI Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File #: 4310-20/K13
The heritage value of the building is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the inclusion of two earlier houses into the design
- the pitch of the hipped roof
- the symmetrical front facade
- the wood clapboard siding on main level and wood shingle cladding on upper level
- the belt course separating the two levels of the home
- the square verandah posts supporting the balcony
- the front portico with pedimented enclosed second floor balcony
- the front door with sidelights and fan lights
- the placement and size of the window openings
- the decorative shingles in the neo-classical pedimented cap of the balcony
Other character-defining elements:
- the ballast rock fence
- the close proximity and picturesque setting by Malpeque Bay