Notable Architecture of PEI

Prince Edward Island architecture is something to behold simply because it springs from that perfect zone where utility meets elegance. In modern times we find beauty in things like lighthouses, old cottages, and good, old-fashioned traditional city planning (read: winding roads.) A good rule of thumb is that wherever you find folk tales or ghost stories (link to ghost story blog,) you’ll find interesting architectural design.

Without further ado, here is a selection of some Prince Edward Island architecture:

Province House

Province House is one of the most well-known structures in all of Prince Edward Island, akin to the premiere government building in any other province. It is the birthplace of Confederation and the seat of Prince Edward Island’s Provincial Legislature (Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island) since 1847. Designated a National Historic Site in 1966, it is still in operation to this day and is Canada’s second-oldest seat of government.

Province House (or, the Leg, as it is referred to on the Island) was designed by Isaac Smith, a self-trained architect from Yorkshire, England. It was built by Island craftsmen during a time of prosperity for the then-British colony. Its architectural lines include Greek and Roman influences, common to public buildings in North America built during this era.

West Point Lighthouse

Also home to some Island ghost stories, the Westpoint Lighthouse also happens to be a very interestingly designed structure, and the tallest lighthouse in PEI. If you’re interested in lighthouses and the maritime history of PEI, this is one of the first places you should go.

West Point Lighthouse, a large square tower with horizontal black stripes, was built in 1875 by the federal Department of Marine, and first lit on May 21, 1876. It is currently the tallest lighthouse on PEI.

While the lighthouse is still in operation – controlled by the West Point Development Corporation – the traditional living quarters have been converted to a museum and inn.

Bottle Houses

Now let’s dabble in the strange.

The title says at all: these are houses made of bottles. Created by Édouard T. Arsenault , the “bottle houses” are a series of structures totalling roughly 25,000 recycled and de-labelled glass bottles. They are cemented together in walls, columns, and surfaces within the structures. The bottles were collected personally from people within the community, including restaurants, friends, and bars.

They are located in Cap-Egmont, Prince Edward Island.

Inspired by a letter from his daughter detailing a glass castle while travelling in British Columbia, Édouard began this project in 1979. Since his death, the weather and associated elements have taken their toll on the structures (who would have guess recycled glass couldn’t cut it during Canadian winters?) so they had to be rebuilt over the years. The current incarnations are the revised versions, and they are likely to continue on in this fashion due to their acknowledgement as a tourist attraction.

Confederation Bridge

It would be very easy to pick architecture that is pretty, ornamental, or historical, since these sorts of things inspire peoples’ imaginations, which does a lot of the legwork when it comes to beauty. I believe there is a place for utility in this discussion; structures that are exclusively made to serve a purpose. We touched on this with light houses, but bridges are often overlooked despite the technological marvels that are involved with getting them built.

The Confederation Bridge (Pont de la Confédération) is a two lane, 12.9 KM long toll bridge spanning the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait, linking Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick, Canada. To Prince Edward Islanders, it is known as the “Fixed Link” or just “The Link.” Construction began in 1993 and completed in 1997. The total cost of the structure was over one billion dollars.

It sits 40 meters above water and permits ship traffic beneath it. It is a beam-bridge, suspended by 62 vertical piers. Driving the legal speed limit, it would take you roughly 12 minutes to drive the length of the bridge. It took over 5000 workers to get the whole project done, which can give you a sense of the scope of the thing.

It’s a beautiful structure in the sense that it was designed by many for many. So often a beautiful piece of architecture, like most great art, is designed by and for the individual. You could imagine, however, a distant future where this is treated with the same regard as other ancient architecture. People forget the amount of guts it takes to get something like this made, especially since economic projects are always contested from both sides.

So concludes our brief introduction to the architecture of PEI. We’re just scratching the surface with this topic.  There are a few books available detailing the architecture of the province.

If you have any suggestions for notable Prince Edward Island architecture, leave a comment below.

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