Spencer Wyatt House | Charlottetown, PEI
While no specific plaque exists yet on the house, the heritage value of the Spencer Wyatt House lies in its association with the Spencer and Wyatt families, its interesting saltbox architectural style, and its role in supporting the Hillsborough and Dorchester Street streetscapes.
Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt was a philanthropist whose donations have contributed to the arts, culture and education of the Province. A native of the City of Summerside, she was the first female law student in the Province and became an astute businessperson. In 1966, she contributed funds to begin the Wyatt Foundation to support non-profit organizations across Prince Edward Island.
The first house at 42-44 Hillsborough Street was located on its site as early as 1833 when George Wright surveyed Charlottetown. It is believed that the home was built as early as the late 1700s. Originally constructed as a storey and a half log cabin, the home was renovated in the early 1800s. At this point, two rooms were added on to the back and the roof was extended giving the building its saltbox shape. Saltbox houses were named for their resemblance to a wooden box used to store salt in Colonial times. A brick chimney and stone firebox were added at this time as well. The house was renovated again between 1825 and 1840, and another section was added, as well as a central dormer. It is apparent that efforts had been made to maintain symmetry on the facade. Beaded trim, mouldings and cladding common to the early 1800s were installed.
Local butcher, James Spencer, was the first documented owner of 42-44 Hillsborough. Unfortunately, he died intestate in 1839, which made the ownership of the home unclear for the next twenty years. In 1841, a newspaper advertisement offered the home to let stating that Mrs. Spencer had most recently lived there. The ad noted that the home featured a stable, outhouses, fruit trees and a garden.
A short-term tenant of the home was a Mr. Ridge. The local newspaper, the Royal Gazette, carried an auction notice in June 1842 that indicated Ridge’s belongings would be auctioned off at 42-44 Hillsborough Street. Another tenant of the home was Samuel Gurney, the operator of the first fulling mill on Prince Edward Island. The actual mill was located outside of Charlottetown but according to an advertisement in the 23 August 1842 edition of the Royal Gazette, vats had been installed in the home for the dyeing of all varieties of materials. Fulling mills were places where wool was cleaned of oils, dirt, and other impurities in the process of cloth making.
By 1858, the Spencer estate had been settled to the point that the property could be divided. James Spencer’s daughter, Randal and her husband, shoemaker, William Wyatt took possession of the home. In a recent renovation, the current owner found small nails used for shoemaking, as well as old newspapers, bones, shoes, coins, bottles and even old beaded rosaries under the windows.
In approximately 1870, Randal and William built a new Mansard roofed home nearby that still stands to this day. The Spencer Wyatt House continued to be part of the Wyatt family for a number of years until 1946, when William and Randal’s granddaughter, Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt (1895-1998) sold the home and all of its contents, as well as the Mansard roofed home next door, to Mary B. Trainor at a public auction.
Today, this old home continues to support the Hillsborough and Dorchester streetscapes. Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2