Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, the personal representative in the Province of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen of Canada.
Government House serves as the home of the Lieutenant Governor and spouse and has the offices of the administrative staff required to support the official duties and activities associated with the Vice Regal function.
The House also serves as a centre of official hospitality in the Province and many distinguished visitors to Prince Edward Island are entertained at Government House each year.
As it is a private residence, the House is not open to the general public except for July and August when guided tours are conducted from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. Other occasions when the public may visit are either by private invitation or on the occasion of the annual New Year's Levee when, by long-standing tradition, citizens may pay their respects to the Sovereign's representative.
Government House and its beautiful grounds are an attractive and enduring reminder of our historic past, and a continuing symbol of our allegiance to the Crown.
History and Structural Detail
Government House was built in 1834 with funds advanced through an issue of Treasury Notes to be repaid with monies raised for the purpose by an Assessment on Land. It cost, in the currency of the day, £3142.17.3, and was intended to serve as a Vice-Regal residence for the Lieutenant Governors of the then British colony of Prince Edward Island.
Government House is located on a parcel of land set aside by Governor Edmund Fanning in 1789 as Crown land, with the specific stipulation that it be used as the site for a residence for the Lieutenant Governor. The original parcel, known as Fanning Bank or Fanning's Bank, contained approximately 100 acres, and included farm land for the use of the incumbent. However, in 1876, part of the Government House property was given to the City of Charlottetown and is now known as Victoria Park. The remaining parcel of approximately 10 acres was retained for Government House and its grounds, and the property has been known more recently as Fanningbank. Upon completion of the building the Lieutenant Governor of the day, Sir Aretas W. Young, became its first occupant.
The architectural design of the house is Georgian with obvious echoes of the Palladian tradition, and is the work of Isaac Smith. The wooden building was constructed by the architect in association with Henry Smith and Nathan Wright, a firm of local builders. The main structure is 95 feet long by 65 feet wide with two wings at the rear of the residence measuring 28 feet long by 25 feet wide, under which was placed a full Island sandstone foundation, most of which still supports the residence. The sills are 15 inches square and the floor joists are 4 inches by 11 inches and are laid 18 inches from centre to centre.
After the First World War, the House and grounds were offered to the Federal Government for use as a convalescent home for veterans. Since its origin, Government House, despite considerable remodelling, has remained basically the same structure designed and built by Isaac Smith.
The main hall features an impressive stairway leading to a landing below a Palladian window. Eight Doric columns, 15 feet in height, support the gallery.
The residence contains several fireplaces, many of which are functional and used frequently.
The room to the right of the main entrance, originally the Lieutenant Governor's office, is now a sitting room. To the left of the entry is the drawing room where Their Honours receive visitors on formal occasions.
The focal point of the dining room is a mahogany table that seats 24. It is thought to be part of the original 1834 inventory which was purchased in London.
The second floor contains the apartments for official visitors and includes the rooms used by The Queen and Prince Philip in 1959, along with other members of the Royal Family. In addition, the private living quarters of Their Honours are located on this floor.