Exhibition explores legacy of Charles Benjamin Chappell

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Chappell Picture,a painting by David Thauberger, depicts the Gillis House, found at 48 Great George Street in Charlottetown. It is featured in the new exhibition From Housebuilder to Architect: Charles B. Chappell’s Charlottetown, opening Jan. 23 in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

In the late 19th century, the profession of architect was emerging on Prince Edward Island.

Most private buildings and many public structures were designed by men whose training was in practical experience as housebuilders.

Now, a new exhibition is shedding light on one of the most impactful yet sometimes overlooked architects in Island history who is credited with designs for more than 100 buildings in Charlottetown.

From Housebuilder to Architect: Charles B. Chappell's Charlottetown opens Jan. 23 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

"The work of C.B. Chappell is all around us and has made a huge impact on the look of Charlottetown," says curator Harry Holman, a former provincial archivist, historian and heritage blogger.

"This exhibit gives a glimpse into the world of this important figure in the City's history."

Chappell trained with Lemuel Phillips, becoming his partner and, at the age of 30, was credited with more than 30 buildings, several of which helped define the Victorian streetscape facing Charlottetown's Queen Square. In 1884, the success of the partnership led to Romanesque Charlottetown City Hall, perhaps his most noteworthy structure.

Unlike his contemporary, William Critchlow Harris, Chappell did not develop a distinctive architectural style. His designs span a range from vernacular through Romanesque, Queen Anne, and bungalow, deftly responding to the changes in architectural fashion and the whims of his clients. His output is noteworthy not only for design, but also for the range of structures to his credit. His drawing board was open to clients with requests for modest double tenements, but also for ornate houses for the city's elite.

Working in the city for a span of 50 years, Chappell and his partners have left a mark that is not always recognized. A dozen of the buildings facing Queen Square are the work of Chappell as are single and double residences throughout the city, especially in the neighbourhoods that developed in the period from 1890 to 1920 such as Brighton and Upper Prince Street.

Chappell's surviving structures such as Zion Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's Anglican Church Hall, the old Prince Edward Island Hospital on Kensington Road, several stores on Victoria Row. These, as well as scores of residences, attest to the fact that Chappell has been responsible for more buildings in Charlottetown than any other architect in the city's history and has helped define the look of the capital.

With a shared interest in promoting Charlottetown’s rich architectural heritage, the City of Charlottetown is sponsoring this exhibition.

From Housebuilder to Architect: Charles B. Chappell's Charlottetown opens January 23 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. For more, please visit confederationcentre.com.


Organizations: Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Zion Presbyterian Church, Anglican Church Hall Prince Edward Island Hospital

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Queen Square Brighton Upper Prince Street St. Paul Kensington Road

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