About one month ago I undertook to re-write the notes the guides use as reference at Government House during public visits. The notes cover briefly the history of the Residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of PEI and its contents.
As a docent at Fanningbank, I looked at the notes I was given and in touring the house on my own I discovered discrepancies. So I endeavoured to re-write them after reading an excellent book by Reg Porter on the Official Residence published just a few years ago. I had to do a lot of research on the paintings, the oriental Persian carpets, the furniture and the Governors etc. In the process I discovered many things about the history of the Island, the first families and the various governors in the last 250 years. It’s a fascinating story and much fun to research.
The house has had a varied existence, first thought of in 1795 construction does not actually start until 1832. Then in 1917 at the height of the First World War the Lieutenant Governor vacates the place and it is turned into a convalescing hospital for veterans returning from Europe. By 1922 no one seems to know what to do with the place and the Government of the time looks at options for the building, one being demolition. In 1930 a program of renovations is undertaken and the Lieutenant-Governor returns to live. In 1970 the house comes under a Government Committee to oversee it’s management. It is declared a National Historic site in 1977.
The house is the home of the Lieutenant-Governor and is used daily for functions related to the Office of the Lieutenant-Governor, who receives distinguished guests. The Royal Family also uses it when in PEI, their Pied-à-terre as they say. There are 10 acres of gardens all around and the house looks out on the Hillsborough River where it opens unto the Straits of Northumberland and the mainland. Originally there was 100 acres of land since a farm was also attached to the property. Today this is part of Victoria Park and is open to the public a beautiful spot for a walk.