With our six week house sit in rural New Brunswick we were looking forward to peace and quiet, and it has delivered. What a beautiful corner of Canada.
However, it was about time to do a serious bit of sight seeing and check out Ministers Island which is located on the outskirts of St. Andrews. Before we arrived here I had never heard of Ministers Island and knew only the bare minimum about the owner who made it a place to be visited. Though I vaguely remember being taught a bit about Sir William Van Horne in school, I am probably in the majority when it comes to retaining very little about Canadian history as it was doled out in those lessons. As always, actually going, seeing and walking around history is, for me, the ultimate way of learning. And what a lot to learn.
The volunteers inside The Barn were the first to start to draw back the curtain on William Cornelius Van Horne. Ministers Island was named after the Anglican minister who built his home on the island in 1791. However the island blossomed when Van Horne purchased it in 1891 with part of his bonus money for completing the Canadian Pacific Railway under budget and in less than half the time allotted for the construction. He lived with his family in Montreal and desired a summer estate on the water. What he created was a totally self-sufficient hobby farm with ingenuity at every corner.
As we wandered through the barn I started to get a feel for some of the scenes in the television series Downton Abbey. The stories of the staff working in the barn being required to wear white lab coats and Van Horne popping in at all hours to check on his cows or the operation of one of his engineering contraptions.
To say I was impressed by the summer estate of Sir William Van Horne would be an understatement. The man was a visionary, an artist, an inventor, and a problem solver. A trip through the island is well worth the price of admission and if you are interested, brings together large sections of Canadian history and development.