The City of Charlottetown has developed an exhibit entitled ‘Setting the Scene for the Charlottetown Conference’ that outlines the history of Queen Square and paints a picture of a day-in-the-life in 1864. On February 18, at 12 noon, the City will launch the exhibit when hosting its annual Heritage Day Awards ceremony at a new location, on the second floor of the Confederation Court Mall. Popular historian, author, and Curator of History, PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, Boyde Beck will be speaking on the evolution of Queen Square.
Ask most Islanders about what comes to mind when they think of Queen Square and a variety of answers will come back. Queen Square is the site where the Charlottetown Conference took place; the place where we gather to honour our veterans; the place where the legislature meets; and people go to see a show or borrow a book. It is all these things, however there is much more to Queen Square. Set aside in 1768 when surveyor Charles Morris laid out the streets of Charlottetown, and later named Queen Square by Governor Patterson, the Square would become the centre of the political, social, judicial and religious life of the Cradle of Confederation.
In the early years, Queen Square was not the lush green space that it is today. It was dusty on the sunny days and muddy on the rainy days. On market days people (and their animals) from far and wide entered the square to sell, buy, and socialize leaving the square twice weekly "like a farmyard". Meanwhile the court and the legislature met in small wooden buildings on the square, and once incorporated, the City Council ran the infant city from the site in a converted courthouse/flour and meal market. The town crier rang his bell and roared the day’s news, while hucksters and patrons bickered and bartered, as did the politicians. A pillory was set up behind the courthouse where the guilty stood while the public hurled insults…and sometimes more.
This is the Queen Square that the Fathers of Confederation saw when they came to discuss the union of the Provinces in 1864. A bustling but sparse and treeless space with a wooden round market, a church and a large stone Colonial Building (Province House). The delegates attended the market, partied with the locals all over Charlottetown and ended off their stay at a ball at the Colonial Building (Province House), where the festivities lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
"For this special year, to celebrate 150 years since the Charlottetown Conference, we have decided to move the Heritage Awards off-site so we can reach a larger audience," said Mayor Clifford Lee. "I would encourage everyone to participate in this celebration of our heritage and congratulate the winners and learn about the City’s rich history."
The winners of this year's Heritage Awards include:
- APM's Tim Banks and Ian Harper for their extraordinary refurbishment of 45-49 Queen Street, the Welsh Owen Building (the former Kays Brothers Building).
- The PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada - for their efforts in sharing both the heritage and culture of newcomers and that of the City of Charlottetown. They present the DiverseCity Festival and various programs offering opportunities for citizens and newcomers to learn of others’ heritage and cultures through dance, music, displays and food.
- Carl "Pex" MacKay - for his efforts in sharing the rich history of Parkdale through his blog E.T. Concentrators Car Club (http://www.etconcentrators.blogspot.ca/). Pex has managed to bring forth and make accessible the recent history of the former town-turned-neighbourhood in an engaging and entertaining way.
- The PEI Regiment Museum - for its efforts in collecting, preserving, researching, and exhibiting artifacts related to the Island's military history. The Museum's volunteers and staff have been hard at work for 25 years telling stories of the Island and its capital city's involvement in all wars and conflicts. Charlottetown's role as a military town and administrative center has influenced our population, architectural character and settlement patterns.
The Catherine Hennessey Award, established in 2011, in honour of the City’s long time historian, author, and heritage activist, will be presented to the Benevolent Irish Society. The BIS was incorporated by an Act of the Provincial Legislature in 1882 and is one of the oldest organizations in the province. Its objectives are:
1. To preserve and promote Irish history, culture, and heritage, of the Irish community on Prince Edward Island, and in particular, its Gaelic and Celtic traditions
2. To carry out acts of charity and benevolence
3. To promote friendship and unity among the Irish and their descendants which not constitute thirty percent of the province’s population.
"Heritage Day is a time to honour those that have worked hard to preserve and celebrate the City’s Heritage", says Councillor Rob Lantz, Chair of Planning and Heritage. "We invite everyone to come and help us celebrate these particular individuals for their efforts and enjoy this new display".
Following the ceremony, the new exhibit will be moved downstairs to the main level of the Confederation Court Mall where it will remain until March 18th.
City of Charlottetown