Beaconsfield

Year Built:
James & Edith Peake purchased the property from merchant J.S. Carvell on 9 August 1875 for $11,700. The price reflected inflated property values just before the economic crash of 1878. Construction probably began in 1876, but the house was not completed until sometime between August and November 1877.

Owners:
James Peake Jr. (1840-1895) of Peake Bros. & Co., wealthy Charlottetown shipowner and merchant, and Edith Haviland. His father, James Sr., had amassed a considerable fortune as a ship broker after emigrating from Plymouth, England and married into the local elite. Her father was T.H. Haviland Jr., lawyer, Tory politician, Father of Confederation (named Lt. Governor in 1879).

Peake Bros. owned three large wharves on the Charlottetown waterfront. Their ships were built at Mt. Stewart. The community of Peakes is named for them.

Architect:
William C. Harris, probably the Island's most famous architect. It was one of the first houses he designed.

Builder:
John Lewis. Local tradition maintains that the plasterwork was done by John Johnston.

Site:
The site on West Street (the most westerly on the original town grid) had long been touted as possessing the most beautiful view in the city. Moreover, West St. was emerging as Charlottetown's first true "residential" street. Edith Peake's grandfather, T.H. Haviland Sr. has rented West End House for a time in the 1860s, so the site may have had some sentimental value.

Style:
The house was a blend of the Italianate and Mansard (or Second Empire) styles, both very trendy in the 1870s. The wide eaves with heavy brackets and round dormers are Italianate (for example), as is the belvedere. It was meant to give you a view -- and it does. Beaconsfield has a mansard roof: steep sides and a flat top, giving a great deal of room in the attic storey.

By the Way:
There was a large home already on the property, West End House, constructed in 1839-40. The Peakes simply moved it across the street to make room for their new house; it's still there. Like a number of other houses on West St., Beaconsfield actually fronts on the harbour, though the main entrance is on the Kent St, side.

Name:
Beaconsfield, probably named for Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, who was created Earl of Beaconsfield at around the same time. The Peakes appear to have been admirers; their business diary notes Disraeli's death.

Cost:
According to Henry Cundall, $30,000-35,000 ($11,700 for the property, the rest for the house). In 1999 dollars, perhaps $1-1.5 million. A good yearly wage in the 1870s was about $300. One estimate filed in bankruptcy court put the cost of the house, grounds and buildings at "at least" $50,000. A comfortable, middle-class home could be built for $1000 or so. A mansion here almost certainly cost less than $10,000. (For example, the Glenaladale home on the way to Blooming Point, a large brick house with many modern conveniences, was built from the finest available materials in 1983 for about $10,000).

Overall:
25-room mansion that Henry Cundall repeatedly described as the most luxurious and expensive private residence on the Island (except for the Bishop's Palace).

Researched by Morgan Hennessey