CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A restored Province House may include more of P.E.I. than planners originally hoped for.
During a presentation Monday night, Greg Shaw, the Parks Canada project leader for the major restoration, said a stone conservator was previously unable to find a reliable source of Island sandstone for the interior of the National Historic Site.
While plans were made to use stone from New Brunswick, as well as a shipment ordered from the U.K., Shaw said provincial road engineers later found a quarry in Kelly’s Cross with hard sandstone.
“They were amazed at the stone they found out there. We don’t have all of the tests back… but it’s looking promising,” Shaw told a crowd during a project update at Beaconsfield Carriage House. “We’ll know more by mid-month, but right now it’s looking very, very promising that we’ll be able to use interior Island stone.”
The Province House update was the first of four presentations in the Institute for Architectural Studies and Conservation’s annual January lecture series.
Kristina Pompura, an architect and project manager with Parks Canada based out of Montreal, said staff searched all over Canada for stones with similar hardness and absorption characteristics of P.E.I. sandstone but could never find a match.
“Then this occurred, and it would be wonderful (if it works) because it will be completely compatible,” she said. “We’re hoping the remaining sandstone will be locally sourced.”
Fast facts on Province House
- Designated as a National Historic Site in 1966
- Holds a dual role as a historic site and the seat of the P.E.I. legislature
- Site of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference
- An example of the neoclassical architectural style
Reinstating the interior is part of the massive project’s Phase 3, which is currently in the planning stage. Shaw said the design of Phase 3 is expected to be complete by this fall, with work commencing in the winter. The cost for the project up to this point remains at about $61 million for the first two phases but is expected to go up once the planning for Phase 3 is determined.
The end of Phase 3, expected to be sometime in 2021, will also mark the completion of the project.
Pompura is in the province this week for masonry mock-ups as part of Phase 2, which includes exterior improvements.
Pompura said the mason has to provide a series of mock-ups for the work they’ll be doing, such as laser cleaning, dismantling and reinstalling the stone.
“It’s almost like a series of tests and it’s going to happen over the next couple of weeks,” she said.
Phase 2 will continue into 2020. The earlier Phase 1, which included site stabilization and preparation, was completed in April 2018.
Other news since the project’s last major update in June included awarding the roof stripping, roof truss and masonry contracts. A temporary waterproof membrane has been placed over the roof for the winter, while modifications were also made to the large, temporary exoskeleton that has helped stabilize the building and provide contractors with a work platform.
Shaw said finding a local source of sandstone was one of several “good news” pieces that have been found throughout the project. In fact, when Parks Canada began the project it was expected the entire building would have to be dis-assembled and put back together.
“We found that was not the case and we were able to do ‘in situ’ repairs,” said Shaw. “When you start investigating, sometimes you find good things and not just bad things.”
Pompura also said the “ship has turned around considerably” in regard to initial expectations of what the project would require.
She said the quality of the work done by the original masons who built Province House means contractors can now replace and repair where required, which means minimum intervention and preserving more of the building’s heritage.
“We’re actually all quite relieved we don’t have to do ‘open-heart surgery,’ we’re simply going to ‘assist the patient’ in moving forward,” she said.