Thursday, August 15, 2013

minister island

Minister Island
The ocean. And land mass. I visited this island: Minister Island near to St. Andrews by the Sea in New Brunswick, Canada this summer. But I didn't get on a boat. Or swim ... quite a distance in freezing North Atlantic water. But how did I get there?

In a few hour's time after taking the picture, when the tide lowered, a path appeared and as the pamphlet described, I was able to drive across the ocean's floor.

the path is revealed at low tide
According to the information in a local tourist pamphlet, the island has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. First by the Passamaquoddy people and then Loyalists to the Crown. The island gets its name from the Rev. Samuel Andrews who built a stone house on the island in 1790. Later, Sir William van Horne, an American from Joliet, IL who moved to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railroad, built a summer home on the island.

The cottage, or in my estimation ... house, was not noteworthy and has seen better days, but the island itself is really rather spectacular. Sir van Horne had extensive plantings, farms, and livestock on the island. It was a true cottage industry. He and his family spent most summers on the island. And when back in town, fresh butter, milk, and vegetables were sent from the island. As an amateur painter, he had the beauty of the environs as inspiration certainly.

the bath house and studio
A small walk from the house leads to an outer building that Sir van Horne used as a studio. It looks out over the sea, and a winding staircase inside, then out, takes one at low tide to a lovely rocky shore that he preserved as as intertidal coastline. Stone, cut out of the beach, was used in the home, quite spectacularly as a fire place in one of the rooms. The cut in the beach made for a unique salt water swimming pool for the family.

the barn
The Van Horne's had two children and it is the daughter who took control of the estate when her father passed. She did not marry, so when she died, her brother's child took over at the helm. I suppose the idea that the island is only accessible for some of the time wasn't as appealing to all. The house has fallen through several owners since, and is now in now membership-owned. I had a chat with the docent who gave us a tour of the house, and she explained that they have had a hard time of it. They can't get tourists on the island. And events are tricky as the tide controls the passage to it. Now the house is in such a state that whoever were to take it on would have quite a project. Like she said, 'it cost a million dollars to build, and it will take a billion to restore.'

I wondered at this point. I understand preserving the past, but are the efforts worthwhile when no one is very interested in it. How many estates or buildings should be saved. As I've said, the cottage/house for me was unremarkable. But the island was magnificent. I wasn't able to go on any of the walking trails given the time, but I would have like to have spent more time there. I think that they should level the house ... save the stone work and fireplaces. And then build cottages for vacationers. Some may not like the idea of being 'stranded' on an island, but I rather think it romantic. It would be a wonderful place to visit and stay. What could be more relaxing than a hike through the forest, the views of the sea, some rock hunting, and dinner next to a fire. It would by idyllic. I would beg the tide to come so that I could stay.

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