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HERITAGE WEEK 2020: The Holman Homestead

Holman Homestead - Culture Summerside
Holman Homestead - MacNaught History Centre & Archives

The handsome historic house at 286 Fitzroy Street became the home of Robert T. Holman, the “Merchant Prince of Summerside,” in 1870. He purchased it from Rev. James MacDonald, the Catholic clergyman for this geographic area, who had built it just before 1860. It stood beside the original St. Paul’s Church, which was a small wooden building on the southwest corner of Fitzroy and Summer Streets.

Five years after his purchase of the parochial house, Mr. Holman bought the corner property and, after removing the chapel, transformed the land into an English garden. The garden and the Georgian style house still exist although various changes have taken place over many years.

Gladys and Carrie Holman, the daughters of R. T. and Ellen Holman inherited their childhood home, and continued to live in it throughout their adult lives. Both women contributed greatly to the social welfare of Summerside. In 1972 Gladys gifted the house to the PEI Heritage Foundation, which undertook an extensive restoration and opened it as an elegant women’s boarding house in 1975.

Another change came in 1984, when the Heritage Foundation, with restriction covenants in place, transferred the property to The International Hall of Fame Foxes Inc. The home was used for various business and organizational purposes while serving as the office of the Fox Breeders Association and in 1988 the home of the International Fox Museum.

In 2000, once again with restriction covenants in place, the building was sold to Heritage Holdings Inc. Kay and Russell Rogers opened the Homestead Gift Shop, which proved a popular shopping centre for locals and visitors. The Rogers gave the Fox Museum five years free rent in the Holman Homestead, before its removal to the 1911 Armoury.

After an extensive period of trying to sell the building, the Rogers, in 2015, applied to the city for a demolition permit, which was granted. An outcry was heard from the heritage community and after the Heritage Foundation became involved the Rogers pulled their demolition permit application.

Ken and Jenny Meister put in an offer to purchase the house with a plan to repurpose it as an old-fashioned ice cream parlour and soda shop. The PEI Heritage Foundation came onside and, thanks to the Meisters, the 4,000-square-foot house on a half-acre of land in the heart of the city was given new life.

The Meister family toiled long hours to preserve the integrity of the house while converting it into Holman’s Ice Cream Parlour and Heritage Suites. In addition to the ice cream, which is made and served on the premises, the upper level of the house offers three suites for visitors. The atmosphere of the house and garden is as pleasing as the ice cream. Local residents, as well as visitors, love Holman’s Ice Cream Parlour and are grateful for the 2020 vision of the Meisters in bringing the past into the future.

Written by Marlene Campbell. Researched by Jean MacKay

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