Walking along Summerside’s past

Colin MacLean colin.maclean@tc.tc
Published on June 5, 2014

Laying the Keel: The Enterprising Spirit of 1864 was unveiled Thursday afternoon in Summerside. The project consists of various interpretive panels that have been attached to lampposts downtown along Water Street. From left are Lori Ellis, Culture Summerside, Mayor Basil Stewart, Wanda Noonan, with P.E.I. 2014 community advisory committee and local MLA Gerard Greenan. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE – Born in Wales in 1829, David Rogers and his family immigrated to P.E.I. and steadily rose in popularity over the years to the point where he was elected the community’s first mayor.

Unless they’re a student of local history, chances are people aren’t going to know much about this enterprising man who helped lay the bedrock of this community.

But a new initiative by Wyatt Heritage Properties Inc. and the City of Summerside is trying to raise awareness of some of Summerside’s founding fathers and mothers, including Rogers.

It’s called Laying the Keel: The Enterprising Spirit of 1864 and it is meant to be a self-guided tour along Summerside’s Water Street.

Money for the project has come from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund.

As of Thursday 26 interpretive panels have been attached to lampposts along Water Street, between Centre and Granville Streets, each one introducing a different business person from around 1864 and corresponding to that person’s business that was housed on the street at that time.

That area has been the backbone of the business community for more than 100 years, and it’s important to remember how important it was in founding of Summerside, said Lori Ellis, manager of heritage and cultural properties for the city.

“It’s important history – so it’s important to get it out there and get it on the streets so people can enjoy,” said Ellis.

“These were some very industrious people who led the way to the businesses we see here today,” she added.

The city intends to leave the panels up until November. Ellis said it hasn’t been decided yet if the same panels will go up again next year or if new ones covering a different subject will be mounted on the braces.

Much of the work for this year’s project was done by Jean MacKay, a historian and archivist with the Macnaught History Centre, and Kathleen MacIsaac.

They compiled the histories and biographies of the men and women featured on the panels over the course of about two months.