John E. Lefurgey was a leading Summerside shipbuilder, produce dealer and politician who bought the large residence at the corner of Granville and Prince Streets in 1871. He was a Conservative Member of the Legislature who helped steer Prince Edward Island towards the construction of a railway and in 1873 to join Confederation.
The house was originally built for William Tuplin in 1867 shortly after he came to Summerside from Margate, PEI. He was one of the foremost carriage builders of his day and employed many workers at his busy factory on Water Street. His newly constructed home was described in a December 1867 newspaper article as “one of the largest in the Town and has a very nice verandah all around it, and a cupola on the top from which a very fine view may be had of the harbor and surrounding country.”
John Lefurgey enlarged and embellished the original 2-½-storey house to an ornate Gothic Revival style. The pediment entry of the front verandah is surmounted with a lovely curved bay window with a small balcony above it. A delicate flowing line of bargeboard trim edges the centre gable that points to the original crowning feature, the octagonal cupola.
The twenty-three-room house had a grand scale that suited a man of social prominence with five daughters and five sons. The house remained in the family until 1924 when the youngest of the Lefurgey sons, Alfred, sold it to J. E. Dalton, a prominent druggist who for many years was the owner of the Clifton Hotel. Mr. Dalton raised the house by five feet and in the war years rented out several rooms in the house to airmen who worked at RCAF Station Summerside. In 1966, when Mrs. Dalton put the house up for sale, Wanda Wyatt bought the property, thus reclaiming her grandparents’ home and subsequently the entire block.
That same year she provided living and teaching space on the first floor for artist Ardis Desborough. Renovations were gradually made and the house was officially opened in July 1971 as a “Handcrafts Centre.” In 1973, the building began to be known as the Lefurgey Cultural Centre when a project under the national Opportunities for Youth program made it possible for four local students to spend the summer promoting the work of artists and craft persons in the town and at the same time to give tours of the historical home of John Lefurgey.
Over the years, some of the courses included glass blowing, weaving, painting, silk screening, copper enameling, quilting, and woodturning. On a seasonal basis, a pottery studio has been located in the basement. The facility has housed exhibits of paintings, photographs, and crafts and has provided retail space for local artists. For a number of years the Malpak Arts Council utilized space in the centre. The building has also been used for classes as diverse as yoga, and canning, as well as for lectures, films, music lessons, and small community gatherings or meetings. For a number of years local musicians gathered for a weekly folk club.
Ownership of the facility was assumed by the City of Summerside in 1998 and in 2003 the restoration of the historic residence was initiated. After many months of careful restorative work, tragedy struck in March 2004 in the form of a fire that gutted most of the eastern side of the building. Measures began in July to rebuild and the facility was re-opened in August the following year. For more about the fire and the extensive amount of work to repair the building visit the page titled Restoration.
During the long span of time involved with the initial restoration and then the one following the fire, the users of the building found other accommodation. Adequate space was rented for some of the WHP staff in the lower level of Trinity United Church and Maurice Bernard, the artist who has used the Lefurgey House as a studio and classroom for many years, moved to a temporary location. The two apartments in the building, one on the third floor and the other in the back section of the second level, were vacated before any work began.
After the official re-opening of the Lefurgey Cultural Centre in the summer of 2005 staff moved back into the rooms of the second level, Maurice Bernard settled into a large studio and teaching area on the second floor of the kitchen wing, and Suzie Cameron, a long-term user of the basement for her pottery studio, reclaimed her work space. The members of the Lady Slipper rug-hooking group, who temporarily gathered in the sewing room of the Wyatt House, were able to reconvene on a weekly basis in the spacious drawing room, named the Lefurgey Room in honour of the family. The former front parlor, now the gift shop/reception area is named the Tuplin Room and the dining room of the house is named the Dalton Room.
A wide variety of activities and gatherings take place in the building. The main level space is available for rent and is especially conducive to small celebratory occasions.
For rental information click here.
For details about the restoration of the house in 2000 click here.
The Lefurgey Cultural Centre at 205 Prince Street is a Designated Heritage Building, protected by the municipality and included in the provincial and national registers of historic places www.historicplaces.ca and www.peihistoricplaces.ca. It is the recipient of a PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation architectural preservation award.
For additional information about this building and others of heritage value in Summerside go to www.peiancestry.com and browse the Heritage Properties.