Homes once occupied by prominent citizens of Prince Albert, including doctors, lawyers, church ministers, business leaders, and perhaps even ladies of the night, are ready to change hands once again.
At least three renovated heritage properties in the West and East Hill are back on the market, awaiting the next group of owners who have a yearning for the aesthetics and tradition only such architectural gems can provide.
“You don’t see houses built like the old houses were,” local historian Fred Payton, who has a passion for the city’s residential past, told paNOW. “In particular it’s the interiors with the trim that sets the rooms aside; they’re so intricately done.”
And Payton is delighted there is such a drive by people to fix up Prince Albert’s heritage and older homes, and to appreciate the city’s history.
“I’m amazed at how people nowadays are harkening back so much to the past, “Payton said. “I find during my talks through the Historical Society and downtown walking tours, so many people have such a solid interest in our past that for the first 60 years of my life I never saw.”
paNOW reached out to Payton and the Prince Albert Historical Society for a fascinating glimpse into the past of the three homes currently up for sale.
The ‘turret’ house that may also have been a house of disrepute
Classic elegance with a touch of modern flare is how realtor Adam Schmalz describes 1919 Central Avenue, the early-century, Victorian-style home near the Court of Queen's Bench on the West Hill. It has original hardwood floors and of course, that front turret that offers panoramic views.
According to Payton, it was likely built by James Wright in 1919 or before, and a Reverend Fernie was an early owner. It was then sold to the Pearce family in 1923, who called it home for 17 years. Then things got colourful. A Mrs. Greta McPherson purchased it and during her ten-year tenure, the home earned a reputation as being a brothel, although not surprisingly, there is no written documentation to corroborate that. As Payton reflects, "it's quite amusing to think it was once owned by a man of the cloth and then later was perhaps a brothel.”
Various families owned the property until the mid-1970s when it became apartments, and then in 1981, it was acquired by the Salvation Army as a halfway house under contract with the Correctional Service of Canada. Interestingly, Payton was the area director of the parole office at that time so he became well-acquainted with the house. Through the following years owners included a former P.A. librarian, a family of doctors, and it was also a coffee shop at one stage.
One of the 1912 boom properties that became a convent.
The home at 42 20th Street East is described by Realtor Michael Lypchuk as having loads of historical charm in its original form, including an ornate staircase and wrap-around veranda.
“The beauty of these old character homes is second to none,” Lypchuk told paNOW. “You get the square footage, the amazing windows, high ceilings, and mature foliage on the street. They need a little upkeep from time to time but there’s certainly a crowd out there who is passionate and wants to make sure these homes stay alive.”
This home was built in 1912, along with many others on the brow of the East Hill during a boom in Prince Albert. Two years later, the Mclellan family sold it to J.H.Sanderson, the owner of the lumber mill on River Street, the father of J.W. Sanderson who at one time lived in the Diefenbaker House. J.W. later built the third of the heritage homes currently up for sale. Among other owners were Ralph Miller, who ran a menswear store downtown, and then a Dr. McBrien, before it was taken over by the Sisters of Child Jesus Convent in 1959. Twenty-five years later it was once again in private hands and has been until today.
A home for lawyers and doctors
The classic West Hill character property at 2037 3rd Avenue West is adorned with an oak staircase, built-in cabinets, door frames and mouldings according to realtors Royal LePage.
It hosted further generations of the Sanderson family and was built by J.W. in 1924 before his son J.W.H Sanderson took ownership. He was a lawyer and passed away in recent years well into his 90s. It also housed a Dr.Menard, and then a Dr. Just, a local veterinarian, before his daughter moved in.
Ever-changing ownership but maintaining the past
For Payton, the importance of keeping Prince Albert’s heritage houses vibrant is crucial.
“It’s such solid construction that has lasted and will continue to last,” he said. “And looking at the people who came here in the early years and what they left for us is so important. It’s essential in helping us see where we came from and where we’re going into the future.”
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