The Prince Edward Island Legislature first met in private homes and taverns and, as a door keeper to the legislature remarked, this made for 'a damn queer Parliament'. In 1837 the lieutenant governor, Sir John Harvey, made plain to the legislature his alarm at the colony having no building for the safe custody of its public recorde. No one could disagree, and there was warm support for a vote of £5,000 to provide a legislative building to house the two branches of the legislature, as well as colonial offices.
Delayed by slow British confirmation of this proposal, action began in 1839 with a public design competition. The additional need for accomodation for the Supreme Court further delayed matters until the legislature voted another £5,000 in 1842.
The competition was won by the leading Island architect/builder, Issac Smith, who had been responsible for most of the Island's existing public buildings. Although Smith had no formal architectural training, his work stands the test of time and comparison.
Issac Smith's plans were for a three-storey stone strucutre of classic proportions and detail with a central portico and substantial columns. This was in keeping with 19th century interest in Greek and Roman styles for public buildings and was thought particularly suitable for a legislature.
When tenders for trades were accepted, it was found necessary to leave the Island only for stone, which was brought from Nova Scotia. Stone-masonry, brick-laying, carpentry, joinery, plastering, slating, painting, glazing, sheet metal working and excavating were all done by Islanders, proud that the new Colonial Building was indeed a local accomplishment.
The cornerstone was laid in May, 1843 - a band, parade, and a speech by the lieutenant governor were some of the events marking the occasion.
The first session of the Prince Edward Island Legislature, held in the new Colonial Building in January 1847, marked the official opening of the structure. The small Prince Edward Island community had designed, built and furnished a major public building comparable to those in other British colonies in North America. The Colonial building represented the epitome of Island craftmanship during the mid-19th century, a time of unprecedented prosperity and optimism.
Today, Province House is the seat of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island and is a National Historic Site. Guided tours, displays and a multimedia presentation are available to visitors.
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For More Information
165 Richmond Street
Telephone: (902) 566-7626
Website: Province House Website