35 Longworth Avenue / Birchwood
Hennessey Funeral Home
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
35 Longworth Avenue is a wood framed, Second Empire style former mansion that was once home to businessman, shipbuilder, and Premier Lemuel Cambridge Owen (1822-1912). The home was purchased in the 1960s by the Hennessey Funeral Home and later joined with the Cutcliffe Funeral Home next door. The designation encompasses the building’s exterior and parcel; it does not include the building’s interior.
The heritage value of 35 Longworth Avenue lies in its fine Second Empire style architecture; its association with Lemuel Cambridge Owen; and its importance to the streetscape.
Birchwood, as this former mansion was once called, is one of the finest examples of the Second Empire style architecture in the City. The style is usually identified by its Mansard roof, which was named after François Mansart (1598-1666), and popularized by his son, Jules Hardoin Mansart, an architect who worked for France's King Louis XIV around 1700. The Mansard roof is almost flat on the top section and has deeply sloping, often curved, lower sections that generally contain dormers. The Second Empire referred to in the name of the style is that of Napoleon III (1852-1870). The style reached Canada through Britain and the United States and was used extensively throughout Charlottetown from approximately 1860 until 1880. What makes Birchwood particularly striking is its extensive use of trim moulding. The decoration of the dormers, including the small, rounded columns with decorative fretwork above the dormer windows are particularly interesting details, as well as the iron cresting, dentil trim and heavy bracketing at the eaves.
Lemuel Cambridge Owen, who was familiar with ship designs through his shipping business, designed his mansion at 35 Longworth Avenue in the mid 1870s. A local builder, Mr. Harper was chosen to construct the mansion. Although Owen kept a diary, he was certainly not verbose unless the subject was concerning the direction of the wind or ships. The sparse entry for the day that he moved into his beautiful mansion was as follows “ Nov.11, 1876. Fine day. Moved to our new house.”
Lemuel Cambridge Owen was a large figure in Prince Edward Island history. Involved in both the economic and political life of the Province, Owen had come from a prominent and successful family. He became involved in the shipbuilding industry through the business of successful merchants and shipbuilders, the Peake family and later through his own successful company. He was not only a shipbuilder, however, but was considered one of the most successful merchants on Prince Edward Island serving as director of various companies. Owen eventually became involved politically and was elected Premier of Prince Edward Island in 1873 where he served until 1876. He retired from business in 1892 and three years later, sold Birchwood, and moved into his son’s home.
William H. Aitken purchased Birchwood in 1895. The Aitken Family would live in the home until 1963 when horseman, broadcaster and Hennessey Funeral Home owner, William J. Brown purchased the building and moved his funeral home business from Kent Street to 35 Longworth Avenue. The Hennessey Funeral Home business was begun by cabinetmaker, Michael Hennessey in 1883. By 1900, he had expanded his services to include the preparation of remains for viewing and interestingly, his was the first funeral home to have its own horse drawn hearse. In 1978, another funeral business, the Cutcliffe Funeral Home, moved next door to the Hennessey Funeral Home. The two buildings were joined together and operate together today.
An extraordinary example of a Second Empire home and associated with one of the Island’s most prominent citizens, 35 Longworth Avenue is an asset to the Longworth Avenue streetscape.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following Second Empire style influenced character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of 35 Longworth Avenue:
- The overall massing of the building
- The symmetrical facade and wooden cladding
- The Mansard roof
- The wide paneled frieze board with heavy elongated bracketing and dentil trim
- The gabled dormers, with interesting fretwork above the windows and columns at the sides of the windows
- The style and placement of the windows, including the tall, two over two windows with their shutters and the shorter dormer windows
- The size and placement of the double doors with large transom light
- The style and placement of the large chimneys
- The large verandah with its interesting treillage, columns, balustrade and iron cresting above
- The large, central square tower with its Mansard roof and paired dormer windows
Other character-defining elements include:
- The addition on to the back and the western side of the home
- The location of the building on the corner of Longworth Avenue and Birchwood Street
Prince Edward Island
City of Charlottetown
City of Charlottetown Zoning and Development Bylaw
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Governing Canada
- Politics and Political Processes
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
Cross-Reference to Collection