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Not once, but twice, fire laid claim to the wooden structures that housed the Summerside Journal newspaper office. Owner and publisher W.A. Brennan decided after the second fire on March 30th, 1895 to rebuild with brick and stone. Day after day stone masons and bricklayers toiled on the building at the corner of Queen and Water Streets. Passersby marvelled at the elegance of the structure being built with brick manufactured on the shore of Bedeque by F.W. Strong & Co.
The new Journal building was described as “one of the handsomest brick and stone blocks on the Island.” The spacious basement housed the latest technology in printing equipment. The first floor housed offices and the stock room with cutting machines. The second floor held the “most comfortable and best outfitted newsroom” in eastern Canada, as well as editorial rooms and a book binding section. The third floor was finished for the Foresters Court Chautauqua Lodge. The Summerside Bank moved into the corner area of the building and had one of the largest and best vaults in PEI.
The building was equipped with the recent technologies of hot water heating and electricity. The southern section of the building was finished inside by July, 1897 when the “handsomely” finished law office of A. B. Warburton opened, along with another club room on the upper floor.
Over the years a number of legal offices, banks, and small businesses such as dressmakers and tailors, and government offices (Unemployment Insurance and RCAF Recruiting) came and went in the Journal Building.
Fire gutted the main part of the structure in April 1947 causing $45,000 in damage and necessary repairs followed. A two-storey expansion on the western side took place in 1966 and a further section was added in 1985 to house Williams and Crue Printing, which had moved to the Journal Building in 1959.
The newspaper and printing business faced significant changes over the years. The Pioneer amalgamated with the Journal in 1951 and later was bought by and resold to larger newspaper chains. The second last owner, Transcontinental Media Inc., sold the Journal Building to Vista Properties Inc. in 2004. The developers removed the additions and hired Coles Associates to design a new four-storey section connected to the original building.
Bayside Builders completed construction in 2006 of eleven condo units known as Harbour Terrace Condominiums. Transcontinental leased part of the office and retail space but, as technology continues to change, the square footage now occupied by the current newspaper owner, Saltwire Network Inc., is smaller. One of the best-known tenants is the upscale cafe, Samuel’s Coffee Shop, where customers can be seated in the bank vault.
The conversion of the building to accommodate condo units saw additional floors added to the west and south of the structure, yet the historical look was preserved. The 125-year-old Journal Building holds its place as a landmark in the downtown streetscape.
Written by Marlene Campbell. Researched by Jean MacKay