Photo by Natalie Munn Photo by Barb Morgan Photo by Barb Morgan PEI PARO Acc2301/51
2 Kent Street
Cundall Home (c.1935)
James Peake House
Y.W.C.A. (Young Womens Christian Association)
Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation
Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation
Beaconsfield Historic House
DESIGNATED - MUNICIPAL
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Original Construction Time
Much of the history of this block has been recorded in a delightful book called "West Street Revisited" by Ruth Heartz MacKenzie, a resident of the street for almost ninety years. It is one of Charlottetown's most gracious blocks. Three Lieutenant-Governors and one Chief Justice of Canada called it home at various times.
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The heritage value of Beaconsfield lies in its association with various Charlottetown residents, its grand architecture and its role in supporting the Kent and West Street streetscapes.
Successful ship merchant, James Peake Jr. (1842-1895) and his wife, Edith Haviland (1847-1931), see image above, lived in the family home on Water Street until the mid 1870s, when they decided to move to the more fashionable, west end of Charlottetown. For his new house, Peake chose a design by talented architect, William Critchlow Harris. He hired John Lewis to build the magnificent structure and it is commonly accepted that plasterer, John Johnston fashioned the interior cornices. Before Peake could build on his chosen location however, the mansion known as West End House was sold and moved off the site across the street. Peake called his home "Beaconsfield" in honour of Britain's Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the first Earl of Beaconsfield.
Beaconsfield was the most modern residence in Charlottetown featuring gas lighting, central heating, a water closet, and running water. The luxurious home had twenty-five rooms, imported tile, eight fireplaces and a beautiful stained glass window above the staircase that featured Peake's initials. All of these luxuries and modern conveniences cost a great deal and the house was reportedly worth 50 000 dollars at a time when the average wage was 300 dollars per year.
During the Peake's time at Beaconsfield, the home was the site of a number of grand parties. Probably the most notable dinner party guests were the Governor General of Canada and Marquis of Lorne, John Campbell (1845-1914) and his wife, the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Louise (1848-1939), the daughter of Queen Victoria.
Unfortunately, Peake, like many others involved in shipbuilding, suffered from the decline of the industry and was forced to sell his new home. It proved difficult to sell such an elaborate and expensive house in Charlottetown and no one came forth to purchase it. Finally, Land Surveyor and Estate Agent, Henry Jones Cundall (1833-1916) and his sisters, Penelope (1836-1915) and Millicent (1834-1888), who held the mortgage on the property, moved into Beaconsfield. All three lived out their lives in the home and never married. Henry Cundall, who was a philanthropist, ultimately willed that the mansion be used as a residence for young women who came from the country to work or study in Charlottetown. The house would be used as a YWCA and later, a nurses' residence for the Prince Edward Island Hospital.
In 1973, Prince Edward Island's Centennial year, Beaconsfield was restored and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II as the headquarters of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation. A large collection of genealogical resources was housed on the main floor of the house until late 1992, when they were transferred to the Public Archives and Records Office. In 1993, the house's first and second floor were then converted to a museum, with the top floor serving as office space. The carriage house has also been converted to host interpretive programming and community events.
Beaconsfield is set on a large plot of land at the entrance to Victoria Park and faces the mouth of the Charlottetown Harbour. The grounds of Beaconsfield compliment the home and feature a large curved driveway, a former carriage house, huge trees and a beautiful Victorian garden. In an area that features a number of impressive heritage homes, Beaconsfield supports the Kent and West Street streetscapes.
The house is beautifully and substantially built. From its cupola overlooking Charlottetown Harbour to its intricate fretwork around the large verandah, it is a house to be admired. 
|Occupant||Peake, James Junior||1877||1883|
|Occupant||Cundall, William and family||1883||1917|
|Occupant||Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation||1973|
|Owner||Peake, James Junior||1877||1883|
|Structural Building Material:
Harris, William Critchlow
SECOND EMPIRE/MANSARD STYLE (1860-1890)
Johnston, John (plasterer) -
Rogers, Irene; Hennessey, Catherine
|1||Irene Rogers, Charlottetown: The Life in its Buildings, pp. 145,146|