Award-winning heritage renovations turn heads in Charlottetown

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 21, 2012
Paul Smith, left, and Mike Murphy received a heritage award Tuesday for renovations to this building on Hillsborough Street and a second heritage property on Dorchester Street. The pair also received the Catherine Hennessey Award for their contribution to the Inns on Great George.
Guardian photo

Well-preserved heritage, Michael Murphy was pleased to discover years ago, can make many people gush.

When he and partner Paul Smith returned to P.E.I. in 2000, they immersed themselves into the operation of the Inns of Great George in Charlottetown.

Visitors were simply blown away with the attractive, historic look of the place.

Staff were trained to know the history of the buildings, from a long ago candle maker shop to a past bootlegger establishment.

The most consistent comment heard from guests, says Murphy, was "just how downtown was so historic, so magical.''

He is thrilled with how far the downtown core has come in the dozen years since he and Smith have been back on Prince Edward Island.

On Tuesday - Heritage Day - the pair was recognized for doing more than their part to preserve and advance the heritage look and feel of the capital city.

In presenting Murphy and Smith with the Catherine Hennessey Award, Mayor Clifford Lee lauded their level of service and respect for an important collection of buildings that "brought hospitality to a whole new level.''

Over a 10-year stretch, noted Lee, the pair added other buildings and refined them architecturally and added beautiful green spaces. Along the way, they have influenced others to invest in heritage properties nearby.

"Their impact on our community is certainly worthy of this recognition today,'' said Lee.

The Catherine Hennessey Award, created by the mayor last year, is given to someone or some group whose efforts to increase the appreciation of Charlottetown have stimulated love for community, or with bigger views have helped shape the capital city.

Murphy and Smith also received one of five Heritage Awards handed out Tuesday for their work in restoring two Charlottetown properties located at 55-59 Hillsborough St. and 187 Dorchester St. respectively.

Murphy says the work involved in renovating one of the buildings, the 1900 Wellner Terrace project on Hillsborough Street, was considerable.

He was on sight almost every day working with contractors over an 11-month period spent to transform "slum apartments'' back into the original three houses designed by William Harris.

"It was a major project,'' he said.

Murphy and Smith are living in the Dorchester Street home - the pre-1833 Nelson Barrow House -- that they also renovated.

City councilor Rob Lantz, chairman of Charlottetown's heritage committee, gave out the Heritage Awards to Murphy and Smith as well as to the following:

• Bonnie and Peter MacDonald for undertaking a "sensitive renovation'' of one of Charlottetown's most significant buildings, the 1840's building by shipbuilder Andrew Duncan, later known as the Lennox Hotel, located at 140 Water St.

• Ann Sherman for completely renovating the exterior of one of the city's older row houses located at 180 Sydney St. Built in the 1880's on the north end of Pidwell Lane, the building forms one part of a bookend to an 1840's brick double tenement house.

• Christopher Gillis and Craig Dauphinee for giving "new life'' to the simple front end gable house at 292 Fitzroy St. that dates back to circa 1880. "It is always gratifying when we see vinyl siding being stripped from a building and the original shingles, clapboard, and architectural elements replaced and repaired, which is exactly what was done with this property,'' noted Lantz.

• Architect Chris Tweel for tackling the 1927 building designed by architect James Harris that is located at 56 University Ave. and is now home to Starbucks Coffee. Lantz says the building is an example of a property that, while never really neglected, has recently received "that extra special attention to detail that makes a dramatic difference in appearance."