Driving down the red clay lane to Glenaladale House it’s easy for visitors to feel like they’re traveling back in time.
There are no contemporary buildings in view, just open fields of wild flowers, stands of shade trees, as well as the remnants of an old garden and an apple orchard.
But, as the car gets closer to the stately brick house and outbuildings and late model vehicles begin to appear, the time warp ends and thoughts return to the present day.
Built in 1883/84, this mansion has stood the test of time. The property was the historic home of Captain John Macdonald and three generations of his family, including Sir William C. MacDonald.
And this summer, for the very first time, Glenaladale is opening its doors to welcome visitors. (Hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.)
At the site Aggi Rose Reddin and her fellow committee members are thrilled to provide this community service.
“It feels wonderful. With the opening of the house we know (that our) ancestors are looking down on us and cheering us on,” says Reddin, vice chair, Glenaladale Heritage Trust (GHT).
The 529-acre property was acquired by the GHT in 2018 through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and financial assistance from the province. Over the last 15 months, the house has undergone renovations and restoration. Students from the Holland College heritage retrofit carpentry program have restored the top front window. The slate roof has been repaired. And the artifacts in the building have been sorted and catalogued.
Now, with the house open, visitors are leaving their comments in the guest book, in the hallway.
“To see how people are warming up to what we're doing and how excited they are makes all the hard work worth it,” says Reddin.
Inside the house Aidan Campbell, a summer student, welcomes visitors, offering to take them on a tour. It begins in the greeting parlour.
“This is the small sitting room where guests would wait for Mr. MacDonald to greet them, back in the day,” says the Grade 12 Charlottetown Rural student.
Nearby an original dresser opens to reveal a hide-a-bed used by travellers who arrived late at night so they wouldn’t wake up the other people in the house.
From there, visitors are taken to the living room – a large, cheerful area furnished with original pieces and donated couches and chairs. There’s an upright piano and a pump organ that is often played at social events. It connects to the dining room where a large table and chairs welcome visitors. The rooms were heated by a coal/wood stove.
The tour continues to the kitchen area where another summer student, Mia Fradsham, is painting primer on the pantry walls. “This is so much fun,” she says.
Back in the hallway, Aiden heads toward the staircase. With its newel post and bannister, it goes up to the third floor where visitors can get a stunning view of the surrounding area.
“The stairs don’t squeak because the walls are double bricked on each floor,” adds Mary Clare Bradley, a Glenaladale Heritage Trust board member, seconds after joining the tour.
The second floor has seven bedrooms including a master bedroom, with two beds, and a room used by William Christopher MacDonald which has his original bedroom set.
“That’s pretty incredible. What’s also incredible is each room had a bell system to summon the servants, like ‘Downtown Abbey’. And every washstand held a chamber pot at the bottom, ” Bradley adds.
Behind some double doors on the second floor is the head maid’s room, which is not as ornate as the other bedrooms. “There is also a back staircase that took servants back down to the kitchen,” Aidan adds.
The servants’ quarters are on the third floor. They are divided into two sections – half for men, the other half for women. There’s also a sewing room, which is now being used for storage.
Later, downstairs in the living room, Bradley is making plans for the future.
“It’s really exciting to see the house being used. As soon as we our indoor bathroom set up, it will be a wonderful venue for small concerts.”
If you are going
What: Glenaladale house open to visitors.
When and where: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 257 Blooming Point Rd., Tracadie Cross.
Special event: The house will be open today, Saturday, July 6, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., as part of National Trusts, Heritage Places Day.
Sunday afternoon tours: July 14, 28, Aug. 11 and 25. Two time slots are available. To book a tour send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 902-394-6131.