Lately I have been fairly busy on a new project, I find that my retirement is full of such projects, it never stops. I became a member of the Haviland Club some 3 years ago. The Club is housed in what was a private mansion built by a wealthy woman some 150 years ago this July in 1869. It occupies an important corner in Charlottetown, Haviland and Water street. Land that once back in 1789 was military barracks and defensive positions on the harbour of the Capital facing the entrance to the Strait of Northumberland.
The young widow Esther Full Lowden, age 33, a single parent with 3 daughters, had lost her house to the terrible fire of 1866 which destroyed a great part of the old downtown of Charlottetown. She bought this piece of land and built a magnificent Italian style villa with imported Italian Carara marble fireplace and had elaborate decoration throughout the rooms.
She lived in the house until her death in 1896 and the Lowden family owned it until 1944.
It was the USA Consulate in Charlottetown between 1900 to 1927 rented from the Lowden’s.
From 1944 to 1997 it became the United Services Officer’s Mess, the house sits across the street from the Armoury of the PEI Regiment. Since 1997 it is a Social Club opened to all.
A few weeks ago a vacancy appeared on the Board of Directors of the Club and I am now the Fund raising director and also responsible for the Sub-Committee on interior decoration and general renewal in our appearance. There is work to do and my first project was the Library also known as the Historic room. The room had not been renewed since 1962, nothing had been done. The books were ancient some dating from 1900 and in very poor condition. I had to throw out about 27 cases of books because of advance mildew, missing pages and brittle paper. They have been replaced by new books, general titles and various authors, a good selection.
The room also needed repainting, I chose colours which would be accurate for the period and appropriate for a home library. The damage to the walls was extensive simply because they are 150 year old plaster walls and through the years did not always get the required attention. After this project is completed, I will start on another room on the second floor, known as the manager’s room, it was at one time the Office of the Club manager but in the last 3 years it has become somewhat of a siting room, it was originally a bedroom for one of Esther’s daughters, all the bedrooms had a dressing room and a parlour. The widow Lowden had also 6 servants in the house and they all lived in the annex which was connected to the house by a corridor now blocked.
On the South side of the house was Esther Lowden’s suite which also controlled the door to the servants quarters and the two staircase to the attic and at the very top the widow’s walk. Though the attic is not open to Club members and the widow’s walk is off limits, I did go up there last week. The attic is gigantic and looks like a great ship with impressive timber work. The widow’s walk is a big glass room where you can sit and admire the entire panorama of the city and see many kilometres away. It is said that Mrs Lowden would go up to the widow’s walk to see her many ships she owned come in and out of port. They also moored at Paoli’s wharf which is just to the South of the house.
The manager’s room will become something else, re-dedicated to a new purpose, can’t say now what it will be, we are still in preparation phase, but it will be very nice.
The President’s room was formerly the parlour and office of Mrs Lowden, currently displayed the framed photographs of every Club president since 1944. This room has not aged well and looks very sad. A member has stepped up to the plate to undertake a complete renovation of that room and transform it into a nice meeting room.
All this work requires a lot of attention to details and many conversations with members, some of whom have been with the Club for the last 40 to 50 years and have a lot to contribute in terms of knowledge and approach to what we want to do.
The Library or Historic room prior to renovations. Haviland Club, Charlottetown
The Haviland Club, #2 Haviland Street.