New photo book captures many changes in Charlottetown

Scott MacDonald's new book, Then and Now, serves as a tribute to his father's keen interest in Charlottetown's changing landscape

Jim Day
Published on July 22, 2014

Scott MacDonald's new book, Then and Now, serves as a fitting tribute to his father's keen interest in the changing landscape of Charlottetown which is detailed in photos spanning more than 50 years.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

They paved much of Government Pond and put up a parking lot.

The dramatic change is just one of many sites in the capital city that have been considerably altered over the years.

A new book called Charlottetown Then and Now by Scott MacDonald captures a host of those changes in photos spanning more than half a century.

The retired accountant wanted to preserve and enhance the undertaking of his father, W. Blair MacDonald, who in 1958 began taking pictures with his camera using slide film of buildings that were to be demolished, renovated or set to change ownership.

Scott spent “easily 500 hours’’ over the past two years putting together the book that is being launched Saturday, July 26.

He stood where his father did years ago to snap photographs from the same vantage point to illustrate the largely concrete metamorphosis.

After doing some research, Scott added some photos of the same areas taken years before his father took his photos, with some older history of Charlottetown added for flavour. The result is a fascinating snapshot of the transformation of individual properties as well as portions of one block or another.

Long-time residents of the city in particular should enjoy seeing long-gone buildings and businesses that once shaped Charlottetown, giving the place its character of the day, running next to photos of what stands there today.

“The big thing is the cleanup on the was junky down there,’’ Scott says when asked how the city most notably looks better today.

He does, however, lament the loss of some beautiful buildings like the First Baptist Church that once stood on the southeast corner of Prince and Fitzroy Streets where Prince Street Condominiums and The Salvation Army now stand.

“You can’t preserve it all,’’ he adds. “You’ve got to have progress.’’

Scott frequently visited Robertson Library and the Public Archives to research history on the city’s current and former buildings that appear in the 94-page book.

The book also includes a selection of ads from the day in hopes of conjuring up even more memories for people who pick up the book.

The launch of the book, published by Acorn Press with support from the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown. The book can also be purchased at Indigo, online at or by calling the author at 393-4999.

Scott would welcome someone in 20 years or so grabbing a camera and capturing the changes in the city over that period.

“Fill your boots,’’ he says.