Culture Summerside, a division of the City of Summerside, operates with the mandate of promoting, preserving, and celebrating the city’s rich culture. Summerside’s cultural mandate began with Wyatt Heritage Properties and since 2000 has grown to include additional sites, partnerships, and the development of year-round public programming. In 2012, the name Culture Summerside was adopted to recognize, manage, and celebrate the diversity and scope of the work undertaken by the cultural division.
Wyatt Heritage Properties
Wyatt Heritage Properties began with the vision and generosity of Doctor Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt, a long time supporter of arts, heritage, and culture. Miss Wyatt had a profound desire to “settle on” how her home at 85 Spring Street and her grandparents’ home at 205 Prince Street would be used after her death. Her vision was that the Lefurgey house would continue as a local arts and cultural centre and that the Wyatt house would be preserved as a museum.
She had acquired the former Lefurgey property in 1966, thus “bringing it back into the family,” and in the same year established the Wyatt Foundation to manage her philanthropic interests, which were varied. The foundation provided financial support for the arts and the on-going maintenance of the Prince Street house, which in 1973 became known as the Lefurgey Cultural Centre. She recruited four trusted friends and long-time advisors to form the management board of the foundation. These were Alan Scales, Q.C., Michael Schurman, Bill Brennan, and the Hon. Justice Alex. B. Campbell.
When Miss Wyatt passed away in January 1998, discussions soon commenced between the Foundation and the City of Summerside regarding how her wishes might be fulfilled. The Foundation had recently acquired a neighbouring property at 75 Spring Street, the former home of J. Watson MacNaught, a local lawyer and politician who had served in Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s Cabinet.
In the summer of 1999, the City commissioned a study and business plan to determine the development of the properties as part of its heritage initiative. As a result of the report written by consultant Allan Savidant, FCGA, an agreement was reached to transfer the three properties to the City of Summerside. The contents of the Wyatt and Lefurgey houses were included in the arrangement. A capital renovation and start-up payment together with an endowment trust fund was conservatively estimated at $2.2 million. An annual operation subsidy would be drawn from the trust fund.
The City began to actively manage the properties in January 2000. The original staff consisted of Allan Rankin as Director, Susan Rodgers as Curator, Faye Pound as Archivist, and Linda Andry as cataloguer. The restoration of the houses began and the MacNaught History Centre and Archives was opened in October of 2000, followed by the Wyatt House Museum on 11 June 2001. The Lefurgey House underwent a restoration made very lengthy because of extensive damage caused by a fire in March 2004. The grand opening of that building, the largest of the historic homes, took place in August 2005.