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.

Our house sit allows us to enjoy a cup of coffee while looking out over deer doing their best to keep the front lawn trimmed. There is something intrinsically relaxing about watching a group of deer peacefully wandering in the yard. Fortunately the garden is such that they don’t feel the need to destroy the flowers and shrubs.
Our exploring has been very close to home for the first week which has allowed us to check out St. Andrews and St. Stephen. The waterfront path in St. Stephen is lovely.

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 first thing you have to do when planning a trip to Ministers Island is pay attention to the information provided. The only access to the island occurs at low tide along this roadway that appears as the water recedes. Because of the legendary tides that happen in the Bay of Fundy this roadway is concealed by 3 – 4 metres of water at high tide. We planned our trip based on weather and tides which meant that our day started at 8:30 and we had to be off the island by 1:00pm.
Once you get on the island and clear the ticket booth ($17/person + tax), operated by a very friendly and helpful lady, you will come upon The Barn. Wow, is the best first description. It is huge and apparently at one time it was the largest freestanding wooden structure in Canada.

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.

The residence on the island was Covenhoven. A building with indoor plumbing and ensuite washrooms. We chose to walk around the island and as we came out of the tree lined pathway onto the fields leading to Covenhoven I had a reminisce of walking around the grounds of Windsor Castle. Though nowhere near as pristine or well kept, the spirit and attention to detail shown through for me.
As I looked at the back of Covenhoven and could see the kitchen on the left with the staff quarters above I once again had flashes of Downton Abbey. The stories of the head cook chasing the gardener out of the kitchen and the butler watching over the dinner table from peepholes in the pantry door brought the place to life.. For me I was in awe of the things like running water and functioning fire hydrants around the house supplied by a pressurized buried train car in the grounds. Bear in mind this property was built in the early 1890’s.
This shed behind the house is known as the Gas House. Here, carbide pellets were dropped into water and the carbide gas was piped into the house to fuel the gas lanterns throughout the house.
Of course what summer estate would be complete without a swimming pool. This sandstone building was built with stones cut out of the shoreline right in front of it. The resulting hole was used as a saltwater pool that was refreshed and topped up with every high tide. The guests could change in the locker room in the lower level.
Or relax sheltered from the elements and enjoy the view from the upper level.
We finished off our view of the island by looping around the backside of the island along some of the 20km of paths on the island.

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.

Welcome to our travel blog. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to say, "I'm out of here?" Well we did, and in 2013 we made it a reality. We sold or gave away all of our possessions other than what fit in our luggage and we set off on an endless adventure. Part of our goal is to share our experiences with others and hopefully provide some information, motivation, or just a moments escape. The general idea was to look for a place that would be ideal to settle down in. However in the meantime it is about experiencing life in different countries amongst different cultures and learning how to understand and appreciate each other. A large part of our time is spent housesitting which provides an excellent opportunity to experience more of the "normal" neighbourhoods as opposed to the tourist locales. Though we make sure to enjoy those as well. So through plenty of photographs and a running commentary come and share with us our life on the road.

0 comments on “Ministers Island

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: