We actually set an alarm this morning. We had tickets to go to Minister’s Island at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, which is just over an hour west of St. John across the bay from Maine.
Around the turn of the 20th century St. Andrews flourished as Canada’s first seaside resort town. More than 250 homes in the historic district are 100 or more years old. We stayed in St. Andrews on our first drive across Canada in 2014 and loved it.
Minister’s Island is a 500-acre tidal island, only accessible for 6 hours a day during low tide, so the opening and closing time to visit changes throughout the tourist season. Today it was open from 8:30 to 1:30 and we did not want to arrive too late to be able to take our time so we were on the road by 8 and arrived about 930. The drive was a little slower than we planned because a fog bank rolled into St. John last night and did not lift.
The island was a summer hunting ground for the First Nation Passamaquoddy dating back thousands of years. First settled by a couple of United Empire Loyalists in 1777 who were seeking a new beginning after the American Revolution, the island was later sold to Rev. Samuel Andrews in 1790. He was an Anglican minister and bought the island for £250 sterling. He built his house on the island which I thought very strange as it would make it very difficult to go see his parishoner’s and to the church office in town since the bar that provides access is submerged under 14-17 feet of water at high tide. It has been called Minister’s Island ever since then, and, except for a brief interlude, remained the sole property of the Andrews family until 1891 when a large plot was sold to Sir William Van Horne. His daughter bought the final part of the island in 1926. Today, after changing hands several times, being neglected and falling into disrepair, the now National and Provincial designated park is leased and managed by a local, non-profit charitable group and has been undergoing significant restoration and development as a leading tourist destination in New Brunswick.
After Van Horne bought the land, he had an architect draw up plans for a modest summer home; but over the years the house was remodeled and enlarged several times until it became a 50-room mansion. There are 17 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.
It was still quite foggy when we arrived, but you literally drive across the ocean floor to get to the island. When we arrived at the mainland side parking lot a young man came up to the truck and asked if we had a tow rope. He was driving across the bar and went to the left where it is sandy and got stuck. (Many people leave their cars on the mainland and walk because they are afraid of straying off the harder gravel part of the bar and getting stuck.) We do have a tow rope so we pulled him out on our way across. He was so thankful. It would have cost $200 to get a tow truck from St. Andrews and it literally took John five minutes.
Up the hill from the ticket booth on the island you arrive at a massive building which turns out to be the barn.
Van Horne bred prize winning Clydesdale horses, cows, sheep and pigs. The men caring for the livestock stayed all year, but all the servants and the family only came to the island for the summer or sometimes as long as May to October. The butler, cook and 6 staff from their Montreal house would arrive two weeks before the family to get the house ready and then stay after the family returned to Montreal and closed the house up again until the next spring.
The windmill over the well which provided running water to the house and the gas shack where acetylene gas was made to power the lights.
The side of the house and the carriage porch.
The front of the house faces Passamaquoddy Bay, not that you could see it when we arrived.
The house had been sold several times after Van Horne’s great-niece inherited it and sold it and in 1973 the owners were struggling financially and held an auction of the furnishings and contents of the house. Over 95% were sold. Over the years several items have been donated back but the majority of the age-appropriate furnishings are not original. All of the items have been donated though. The large carpet came from the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews. You walk directly into this room from the covered porch.
The pillars flanking the fireplace were gold painted mahogany. At one time someone painted them white. It look a year to remove the paint from the one of the right and restore it. The one on the left is just painted to match.
This huge painting hangs on the left wall as you enter the sitting room. This is a very familiar image to us. This is a painting of the driving of the ceremonial last spike that connected the Canadian Pacific Railway from coast to coast across Canada. The original photo was taken at Craigellachie, British Columbia, at 9:22 am on November 7, 1885. The man driving is company director Donald Smith, Lort Strathcona. The man to his left in the top hat is general manager Sir William Van Horne. CPR had a 10-year timeline to complete the railway. Under Van Horne’s direction it was done in 6 years and under budget. He was given a one million dollar bonus – equal to $29 million today. The man with the white beard also wearing a top hat is Sanford Fleming, who created Standard Time and all the world’s time zones.
A model of a 64-gun galleon.
Van Horne was a self-taught artist and many of his paintings and sketches adorn the walls of the house.
All of the items in the nursery are original to the house.
The plans for the original house. On this wall also were detailed blueprints of the various additions.
The fog had lifted by the time we finished looking at all 50 rooms and we walked down to the bath house.
When they quarried out the sandstone to make the bath house it created a large rectangular depression in the rock. This became the swimming pool. The tide would fill it every day, the sun would warm it and the tide would clean out again in the evening.
By the time we got back to the truck it was after 12 so we headed back to the barn and down the hill to cross the bar to the mainland.
Rev. Samuel Andrews house from 1791. It is being restored.
You can just make out three cars driving back across the bar to the mainland and if you look closely at the treeline on the left you can see cars parked that belong to the people that walked over.
We had our lunch at the mainland parking lot and then decided to drive into St. Andrews and visit Kingsbrae Gardens again. We went there in 2014, but it was pretty and we felf it was a nice day to wander among flowers.
The Algonquin Hotel encompasses both sides of the street going into St. Andrews.
There are some very nice homes in St. Andrews.
Kingsbrae Gardens. Just a bunch of pretty flower photos.
The meditation circle.
There were two Monarch butterflies flitting through the milkweed, but they were too fast for me to catch in a photo.
They seemed to really like Astilbe this year. There was not nearly as much of it in 2014.
Catalpa tree. My Uncle Hjalmar had one and he would regularly write in his diary how many blossoms were on it each spring.
The former house at Kingsbrae, now the adminstraion building and the restaurant.
We drove north again, following the western road of the spit that St. Andrews sit at the end of, and made a quick stop at the St. Croix Island National Historic Site. There only a few sign boards telling about St. Croix Island as the island sits on the Canada/US border in the bay between New Brunswick and Maine. There are no visitors allowed on the island and it is administered by the US National Park Service.
We arrived back in St. John at 4 and rest our weary feet until dinner. According to John’s counter we did 6836 steps today.