Ministers Island is an enchanting place to experience. Lying just off the shore near St. Andrews, this 500-acre island is only a part-time island. You reach it by driving over the seafloor approximately 1 kilometer (1/2 mile).
Once there, you are immersed in an experience from the late 19th and early 20th century— the summer estate of Sir William Van Horne, the first president of and the driving force behind the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Sir William’s vast house, his equally large barn and his bathhouse / artist’s hideaway are on view, as are the beautiful carriage lanes through woods and fields.
Many stories exist about how title to Ministers Island was attained, but in any event around the year 1890 Van Horne became owner and proceeded to construct a summer getaway in Passamaquoddy Bay. Having been the driving force in the construction of the railway from sea to sea, Van Horne’s pockets were bulging and what better place to splurge than on his favourite island?
Van Horne named his grand house Covenhoven after his father. It was a huge home with walls constructed from sandstone cut from the shore. It contained some fifty rooms, seventeen of which were bedrooms, and a grand drawing room as large as many of today’s homes. Of course, there were servants’ quarters and a huge dining room as well as a billiard room where his ornate six by twelve table still stands today.
Also constructed from the quarried beach stone is the circular bathhouse where Sir William would spend hours enjoying his hobby of drawing and painting. Indeed, he became quite an accomplished painter and a number of his works are in the collection of artifacts held by the Province of New Brunswick. As well, several are on display at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa.
Perhaps the loyalist Anglican minister, Parson Andrews, whose old stone house (c. 1790) still stands and for whom the island was named, felt the same magic that Sir William felt one hundred years later.
Click on a thumbnail to see more photos of Ministers Island.
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