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A mural program was initiated for the City of Summerside in 1996, when a partnership between the City and Tourism PEI led to the commissioning of the mural depicting the Great Fire of 1906 for the side of the Fire Hall on Fitzroy Street. Four other murals followed between 1997 and 1999.

To celebrate the millennium, the City of Summerside was approved for funding through the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP) to create five additional murals that would explore our heritage, celebrate our achievements and leave a lasting legacy.

The Murals

The Great Fire of 1906

Location: Summerside Fire Hall, 248 Fitzroy Street

Facts: Mural # 1. Measures 25 x 20 feet. Erected 1997.

Mural Artist: Greg Garand

Summerside was ablaze in a fierce southeast gale during the night of October 10, 1906. The fire began its destructive path at the Railway Freight Shed, apparently ignited by a spark from a train engine. Advancing in a 300-yard wide swath diagonally across town to the courthouse, it leveled more than 155 buildings, most of them residential. Through the heroic efforts of fire fighters and citizens, many homes were saved from the onslaught. Miraculously, not a single life was lost. In the aftermath of this heroic event, Summerside was rebuilt. Many magnificent period homes were constructed adding to the built heritage that enriches our neighborhoods even today.

This mural was made possible through partnerships with the City of Summerside, the Province of Prince Edward Island, and the Provincial Mural Advisory Council.

Salute to the Prince Edward Island Railway

Location: Former 1927 Summerside Railway Station, 192 Water Street

Facts: Mural # 2. Erected 1998 in partnership with Tourism PEI.

Mural Artist: Greg Garand

The Prince Edward Island Railway began operating in 1875. Its establishment was accomplished largely through the efforts of two Summerside brother, James Colledge Pope, who was Premier when the Railway Bill was passed in 1871, and William Henry Pope, a Father of Confederation. The narrow gauge track ran from Tignish to Souris. The routing through Summerside, bypassing the more established communities of Bedeque and St. Eleanors, reflected the town’s growing prominence as an important centre of commerce and trade.

The massive and controversial debt incurred during the PEI Railway construction was the single most compelling factor in forcing the Island to abandon its strong Anti-Confederation position and join Canada in 1873. The terms of Confederation were negotiated for P.E.I. by Premier J. C. Pope, and included a guarantee of a continuous steamship connection with the mainland. This became a significant factor in Summerside’s early development since freight and passengers were transported from Summerside by steamship to Pointe du Chene, New Brunswick.

The rail connection continued until the Borden, P.E.I. – Cape Tormentine, N.B. ferry service was introduced in 1917. The last train rolled out of Summerside in 1989, ending more than a century of railroad tradition.

The mural depicts six historic photographs:

  1. Rail men posing proudly with hand-fired steam engine #4, driver David Pound at the throttle
  2. Summerside Engineers Ernie Deighan and Freddie MacKinnon in front of engine #119
  3. Summerside freight shed crew 1910
  4. Oiler standing by narrow gauge steam engine mounted with large cowcatcher
  5. The 1913 “Million Dollar Train” transporting breeding foxes from Tignish. Among those shown in Charles Dalton, co-founder of the silver fox industry
  6. Freight train carrying dehydrated potatoes destined for military forces overseas 1945

Streetscape – Downtown Summerside – c1893

Location: The building at 223 Water Street

Facts: Mural # 3. Erected 1999.

Mural Artist: Tammy Peters

During the middle part of the 19th century, Summerside became a thriving centre of commercial and mercantile trade, servicing the agricultural and shipbuilding industries. This view, looking west on Water Street, highlights a number of businesses and features that defined the personality of Summerside. Familiar establishments, such as John MacKenzie, Tailor, Godkin Bros., Jeweler and Milligan’s Dry Goods are evident. The famous Holman’s Department Store, founded in 1857, is seen under expansion on the extreme left. On the right, fronted by the wooden sidewalks typical of the day, is Campbell’s Hotel that catered to many travellers frequenting the town. In later years, during the Silver Fox “Boom,” Campbell’s, together with the Queen and Clifton Hotels, housed fur buyers from around the world. Note the horse-drawn wagons that were used to deliver bulk coal and other commodities throughout the town and surrounding communities.

The Sleet Storm of 1956

Location: This mural, located at the southeast corner of Water & Queen Streets, was damaged beyond repair in a windstorm, however, its story is presented here for your information.

Facts: Mural # 4. Erected 1999 with sponsorship by Island Tel.

Mural Artist: Greg Garand

It was late Friday night, January 6, 1956, and the rain had been falling for hours. Then the temperature fell dramatically. Wet snow and ice began building up on utility lines making them look like huge sausages, up to three inches in diameter. Massive icicles hung from the lines six to eight inches long. Poles snapped under the strain, tumbling like dominoes, one after the other.

It was the worst natural disaster in Island Tel history. All utilities suffered almost complete collapse. Thousands of Island homes went without electrical power, telephone, heat and water for weeks. Summerside was hit particularly hard. Daily bulletins were issued by the town with assistance from the Red Cross Disaster Service. Volunteers visited home to home and when needed, evacuated residents from unheated dwellings.

Total damage suffered by power and telephone utilities was estimated to be a staggering figure of $2 million, of which half a million was in Summerside alone. The mural depicts the scene at this very location in the aftermath of the storm.

Military Heritage of Summerside

Location: The Building at 340 Notre Dame Street. Mural was recently removed for conservation.

Facts: Mural # 5. Measures 10 x 15 feet. Erected 2000.

Mural Artist: Greg Garand

The military presence in Summerside began in 1941 when No. 9 Service Flying Training School was established to train personnel for action in World War II. Later, No. 1 General Reconnaissance School, RCAF Station Summerside and finally Canadian Forces Base Summerside were integral parts of the community until it was closed in 1989. Thousands of Canadian men and women have called Summerside home while posted here during periods of their military careers.

Summerside volunteers served with distinction in the Great War, World War II, and Korea. This mural celebrates the rich military tradition of this community and is dedicated in honour of its many veterans who served so courageously during time of war.

The veterans illustrated represent the many that have served. Also depicted are the insignia and ships of the Merchant Navy, including the corvette HMCS Summerside.

Flying Officer Charles E. Monty completed two tours of operation over enemy territory as a rear gunner with Bomber Group. The survival rate for such service was atrociously low. Flying mostly in Halifax bombers, Monty received the Distinguished Flying Cross from King George VI.

Company Sergeant Major Harry J. Bishop served with the North Nova Highlanders in France, Holland, Germany, and Africa, where he was wounded. Bishop received the Military Medal from Alexander of Tunis for conspicuous gallantry in action at the battle of Bienen, Germany.

Nursing Sister Bea Rankin sailed from Halifax in 1943 on the Queen Elizabeth along with 27,000 other passengers. She served at the 10th General Hospital near London, England. In 1944 she was transferred to France and then to Antwerp and Bruges, Belgium where she served until the war's end.

Captain Fred T. Peters joined the British Navy in 1905 at the age of 16 and served in both World Wars. He ranks as the most decorated Island veteran and the only native Islander to be awarded the Victoria Cross. His VC was for valour while serving as Captain of the American Coast Guard cutter Wainey (on loan to the British Navy) during the World War II battle of Oran. Peters also received the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Service Cross and Bar, the US Distinguished Service Cross, and an Italian Decoration.

The Merchant Navy suffered heavy loss of life while manning unarmed ships engaged in accompanying supply convoys to Europe. They were at the mercy of German submarines operating in the North Atlantic. The heaviest casualties occurred in 1941 during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Silver Fox

Location: The building on the southeast corner of Water and Queen Streets

Facts: Mural # 6. Measures 8 x 16 feet and is based on a 1930s charcoal drawing of a silver fox by H.R.H. Sellen. Erected Summer 2000 with funding from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP).

Mural Artist: Earle Shepherd

Between 1910 and 1939 Summerside was at the center of an immense worldwide business spawned after Robert Oulton of Alberton first bred silver foxes in captivity in 1895. Oulton, Charles Dalton and their partners subsequently established a monopoly to control the sale of breeding stock.

Frank Tuplin of Summerside broke the monopoly in 1910 when he began selling breeders. The Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association was founded in 1920 with head offices established in Summerside. J. W. Callbeck, a prominent Summerside rancher, was the first President.

During the “Fox Boom” buyers came from around the world in pursuit of the much-prized silver-black fox pelts at a time when breeding pairs were selling for as much as $25,000.

The Dominion Experimental Fox Ranch, constructed at Summerside in 1925, greatly advanced the sophistication of the fox industry. It was staffed by competent agricultural scientists like J. A. Allen, who with W. C. McLure, co-authored the “Theory and Practice on Fox Ranching” which became a standard reference in 1926.

R.T. Holman Ltd

Location: The Holman Centre at 250 Water Street. *Currently removed due to construction, awaiting re-installation*

Facts: Mural # 7. Measures 16 x 20 feet. Erected 2000 with funding from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP).

Mural Artist: John Bradford MacCallum

Robert Tinson Holman was one of the most significant figures in the economic and business history of Prince Edward Island. He opened his first store in 1857 and at the time of his death in 1906 owned the largest retail establishment on the Island. The old family business then passed into the hands of his sons Harry T. and James LeRoy and took on new directions. This mural, based on the 1927 Holman’s catalogue, pays tribute to the vibrant mail order merchandising initiated by the brothers in 1909.

Holman’s catalogue became an institution throughout Prince Edward Island and Eastern Canada, growing from a simple annual publication to a much larger and attractive twice-yearly product. Though never a match for Timothy Eaton, Holman’s catalogue served all of Prince Edward Island, much of the Maritimes and parts of Quebec until well into the 1930s. The Holman brothers continued their father’s policy of an “unconditional guarantee” and promise to supply all the needs of the customer.

This mural is an interpretation the 1927 catalogue cover by John Inglis, who was a professional commercial designer in Holman’s advertising department. This fortieth issue highlights the architectural heritage of the company. The simple wood-frame building depicted is the first Water Street store built in 1857 while the smaller of the brick structures is the 1923 Charlottetown branch. The larger brick building is the Summerside store completed in 1895.

The motto “Older than Confederation” and the sailing vessel reflect R. T. Holman’s vigorous involvement in coastal trading with the United States. On the roof of the 1927 Summerside store can be seen the transmitting mast of the newly established Holman Radio Station. The Station call letters CHGS stood for “Call Holman’s Guaranteed Satisfaction.” By 1927 Holman’s had expanded beyond retail merchandising into the oyster fishery, farm machinery manufacturing and fox ranching and continued to be a major force in Island business until the 1970s.

The Acadians of Summerside and the Queen Hotel

Location: The Summerside Seafood Supreme building on the corner of Queen Street and Harbour Drive

Facts: Mural # 8. Measures 16 x 16 feet. Erected November 2000 with funding from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP).

Mural Artist: Arno Freitag – 2000

From the earliest years of Summerside, many men and women from the outlying Acadian communities came here to find work. They were employed as truckers, seamen, fishermen, farmers, carpenters, coopers, tinsmiths, stonemasons, maids, dressmakers, and washerwomen. Through the years, they advanced to more lucrative and prestigious occupations.

Among Summerside’s first Acadian entrepreneurs were Frank Perry (François Poirier) and his wife Annie Arsenault. In 1899, they opened the popular Queen Hotel that served the community for half a century. This 35-room hotel, described as “one of the most comfortable and homelike hotels in Maritime Canada,” was located south of the Journal-Pioneer next to the railroad track, today the Confederation Trail.

Standing on the Queen Hotel’s steps are Aubin E. Arsenault and Joseph Gaudet. Aubin E. Arsenault (1870-1968) was Summerside’s first Acadian lawyer. He was also the first francophone elected to town council where he sat from 1906 until 1908, the year he was elected to the Legislative Assembly representing 3rd Prince. In 1917, he became Premier of the province and in 1921 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island.

Joseph J. Gaudet (1880-1933), better known as “Joe Bunn”, was born in Summerside. As a young man, he worked as a trucker and then opened a local restaurant business. In 1908, Gaudet operated one of the first movie theatres in Summerside, “The Happyland.” In 1922, “Joe Bunn” Gaudet opened the Capitol Theatre on Central Street.

Today, one third of Summerside’s population claims Acadian ancestry. The most common Acadian names in the city are Arsenault, Bernard, Blacquiere, Blanchard, Cormier, DesRoches, Doucette, Gallant, Gaudet, Perry (Poirier), Peters (Pitre), Richard, Sonier, and Wedge (Aucoin).

James Colledge Pope

Location: Inspire Learning Centre (former Canada Post Office) at the corner of Central and Church Streets

Facts: Mural # 9. Measures 8 x 12 feet. Erected January 2001 with funding from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP).

Mural Artist: David Langley

Described as a man of “great push and energy,” James Colledge Pope was born at Bedeque in 1826. The establishment of Pope’s shipyard shortly after his 1851 arrival in Summerside heralded the solid entry of the community into the shipbuilding industry. By the end of the boom some 30 years later, J. C. Pope had constructed 98 vessels, half the total of all ships constructed by Summerside and Bedeque builders during that era.

In 1872, he built his largest vessel, the “Railway King,” a 789-ton barque launched at Summerside highlighting his commitment to the coming railway. Pope had earlier entered politics and eventually served as Premier three times between 1865 and 1873. The costly and inefficiently planned Prince Edward Island Railway almost cost him his political career when he lost the election of 1872.

Re-elected in April 1873 he negotiated PEI’s union with Canada and secured terms that paid off the crippling railway debt and guaranteed a continuous connection with the mainland. This was a significant bonus for Summerside which was the port connecting the Island by steamship to Pointe du Chene New Brunswick and the railways of continental North America.

Later in 1873 J. C. Pope resigned as Premier and joined the Dominion Cabinet as Minister of Marine and Fisheries under Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald. He held his cabinet post until 1882 when, burdened with illness, he retired to Summerside where he died on May 18, 1885.

Barque Charles E. Lefurgey

Location: The Holland College Marine Training Centre, 100 Water Street (near the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club)

Facts: Mural # 10. Measures 10 x 15 feet. Erected June 2001 with funding from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program (CMPP).

Mural Artist: Greg Garand

Summerside enjoyed a golden age of wooden shipbuilding during the latter half of the 19th century. Producing great personal wealth for a small group of shipbuilder-merchants, it drove the entire town forward economically.

In the late 1880s the construction of wooden ships declined due to the scarcity of local timber, the onset of steam-powered, iron-hulled vessels and the introduction of the railway to Prince Edward Island.

In 1884 the Charles E. Lefurgey, a magnificent 936-ton, 3-masted barque, was built by Donald Ramsay and owned by influential shipbuilder, politician and merchant John E. Lefurgey. It was the last ship to be built from Lefurgey’s “Golden Shipyard” and was named in memory of his son who had died unexpectedly the previous year.

The ship was a solemn tribute to a dead son and its launching turned out to be a benchmark event in Summerside’s history. On its maiden voyage it carried 80,000 bushels of oats – the largest cargo of oats ever shipped from Prince Edward Island up to that time.

In 1904 it was wrecked and condemned in Mobile, Alabama, U.S.A.

This mural is a reminder of Summerside’s great shipbuilding era and the dedication of the craftsmen and entrepreneurial skills of the residents who were involved in it.

For more information about Summerside’s murals, contact:

Lori Ellis
[email protected]
Culture Summerside, 205 Prince Street, Summerside, PE C1N 2Z5

Related City Documents:

City’s Cultural Plan

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