Description of Historic Place
The Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead is a well preserved 1856 wood framed house built in the Gothic Revival centre gable style. It has undergone several additions in its history. Located in the community of Orwell, it sits on spacious grounds with mature English oak trees. The designation includes the footprint of the building.
The house is valued for its association with Sir Andrew Macphail (1864-1938); its well preserved Gothic Revival centre gable architectural style; and for its contribution to the community of Orwell. The property was originally owned by the daughters of the Island's colonial governor, Colonel Edmund Fanning. It was later leased to George Gay who operated a farm and saw mill. He lived in a log house on the property. In 1829, the property was sold to John Fletcher who built and operated a grist mill on the nearby river. He constructed the main section of the present house in 1856 in a low pitched centre gable style.
In 1864, the property was sold to William Macphail (1830-1905). He had come to Canada with his schoolmaster father from Nairn, Scotland in 1833. By 1862, William, now a schoolmaster himself, came to the Orwell area to become master of the Uigg School. His son, Andrew, was one of ten surviving children.
Andrew Macphail inherited his family's love of learning. After attending the local school in nearby Uigg, Andrew went on to Charlottetown's Prince of Wales College. Now qualified as a teacher, he served in the small communites of Melville and Malpeque, before deciding to study medicine at Montreal's McGill University. He graduated with a BA in 1888 and an MD in 1891. He left for London, England that same year for further medical studies and returned to Canada as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. From 1893 to 1905 he was a member of the medical faculty at Bishop's University in Quebec. By 1907, he returned to his alma mater, becoming McGill University's first professor of the history of medicine. His literary interests soon found outlet when he became editor of McGill's University Magazine (1907) and founding editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (1911). He would publish several books and numerous articles on topics as varied as: literary criticism, theology, feminism, modern education, and military and diplomatic history.
With the outbreak of World War I, Macphail enlisted as a medical officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France. He served at the Front and was knighted by King George V in 1918. He knew Colonel John McCrae and promoted his work, contributing an essay to the famous book In Flanders Fields and Other Poems in 1919. He would later write a controversial history of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, The Medical Services (1925).
Despite his international reputation, Sir Andrew relished his rural roots at Orwell. He often returned to his humble birthplace to enjoy the Island's idyllic summers and experiment with new farming crops and methods including seed potatoes. Although an academic, he exalted the importance of farm life in rural Canada. His most famous book, The Master's Wife (1939) is regarded as a fine social history of life in rural 19th Century PEI. Toward the end of his life, Macphail became disillusioned with modernity and the accelerated pace of change which threatened the values of the rural Canada in which he had been nurtured.
The current homestead has had several additions including a sun porch in 1906 and a two storey dining hall and study in 1911. The home remained in the family until 1961 when it was given to the Province. Although part of a provincial park, the house remained vacant until efforts to restore it began in 1991. Today, it is the centrepiece of the Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation. It is an asset to the Orwell area and to the Province.
Source: PEI Heritage Advisory Committee Files
The following character-defining elements illustrate the Gothic Revival centre gable heritage value of the house:
- the two storey elevation with low pitched centre gable roof
- the fenestration of the doors and windows including the array of two over two windows
- the wood shingle cladding of the exterior walls and roof
- the Nova Scotia Wallace sandstone front doorstep
- the 1906 sun porch addition with windows which open by lowering them into the basement
- the 1911 dining hall and study addition which includes a large brick fireplace
Other character-defining elements include:
- the location of the house on well maintained grounds with mature English oak trees