Reg Porter provides a hands-on history of Charlottetown

The well-known P.E.I. lecturer produces impressive books on Government House, stained glass windows of Trinity United Church

Elizabeth Cran
Published on January 16, 2016

Everyone who lives in Charlottetown or who visits there for any reason has seen the residence of the lieutenant-governor of the province.

Situated, as it is, near the shores of a beautiful bay, and enhanced by wide lawns, it is both a beautiful and impressive sight. Few people, however, know anything more about it.

Now, Reginald Porter, the well-known lecturer and authority on Island antiquities and architecture, has produced a book entitled "Government House and the Fanningbank Estate: a Guidebook".

While originally produced for the Government House committee of the P.E.I. Museum, and published in a very limited in-house edition, it is now available as a pdf file at both the Government House and Prince Edward Island Museum web sites.

This book is far more interesting than at first it may appear. From it, we may learn not only the history of a building and its surroundings, but also the many changes both went through from when the house was built in 1833-1834 and the present. For instance, the farm disappeared. In 1873 the city obtained half of the estate to form Victoria Park.

And in 1917 the lieutenant-governor offered the property for a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from the Great War. Soon afterwards, it fell on evil days. Some thought it should be pulled down. Others believed it should be made into a tourist home. Fortunately the opinion that prevailed was that it should be restored.

Porter has written an informative book in a literate but easy style that anyone can read. And we hope every Charlottetown resident - and some visitors - will read it too.

Later in 2015, Porter produced another, smaller book which has been most successful. It sold out immediately and is no longer available. It is sponsored by the Trinity Clifton Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada, and has a foreword by the minister, Rev. John Moses. The subject is contained in the title, which is "The Stained Glass Windows at Trinity United Church Charlottetown".

Situated in the middle of the city, interested visitors can easily find it.

The church was built by the Methodists about 20 years before its opaque glass windows began to be exchanged for stained glass ones. This was due to the prohibition against them (and against organs too) being lifted around that time; beauty to the glory of God became the ideal, rather than austerity.

Each colour illustration is accompanied by a page of details. These include size, when installed, religious quotation, donor inscription, and description of window with Biblical references.

Designed primarily as guidebooks and works of reference, rather than narratives, both these books will have other uses and will be appreciated by all lovers of beauty in architecture, stained glass, and the decorative arts.

Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at her new address: 95 Orange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5, or call her at 506-693-5498.