Pro­lific de­signer

Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery ex­hi­bi­tion sheds light on the ex­ten­sive work of ar­chi­tect Charles Ben­jamin Chap­pell

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE

On Prince Ed­ward Is­land, where great value is placed on the work of Wil­liam Critchlow Har­ris, it’s easy for other ar­chi­tects to fade from view.

“One of the rea­sons we know so much about Har­ris is through the work of (the late) Canon Robert Tuck, who was very good at dra­ma­tiz­ing his work,” says Harry Hol­man, for­mer pro­vin­cial ar­chiv­ist, his­to­rian and her­itage blog­ger.

“As a re­sult, a lot of peo­ple are un­der the im­pres­sion that Har­ris was the only ar­chi­tect in Char­lot­te­town.”

That per­cep­tion is about to change be­cause Hol­man is shed­ding light on the con­tri­bu­tion of Is­land ar­chi­tect Charles Ben­jamin Chap­pell in a new ex­hi­bi­tion.

Chap­pell was born in Char­lot­te­town on Oct. 10, 1857, to Wil­liam Chap­pell and Mary Ann Turner. Start­ing his ca­reer as a builder, he trained with ar­chi­tect Le­muel Phillips, be­com­ing his part­ner. In 1884, the suc­cess of the part­ner­ship led to Char­lot­te­town City Hall. Chap­pell went on to de­sign houses on Prince Ed­ward Is­land and through­out the Mar­itimes. He also cre­ated de­signs for hospi­tals, churches and com­mer­cial build­ings.

“The work of C.B. Chap­pell is all around us and has made a huge im­pact on the look of Char­lot­te­town . . . . He was pro­lific,” says Hol­man, cu­ra­tor of From House­builder to Ar­chi­tect: Charles B. Chap­pell’s Char­lot­te­town, cur­rently on view at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery in Char­lot­te­town.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings, water­colour and ink draw­ings and pho­to­graphs, as well as a col­lec­tion of tinted post­cards of Chap­pell’s work.

“This is a small sam­ple,” says Hol­man, point­ing to the ar­ti­facts on the gallery walls.

“Be­side th­ese there are thou­sands of sheets of plans from Chap­pell and his var­i­ous part­ners at the pub­lic ar­chives of­fice.”

For any­one want­ing to take it out­doors, all they have to do is stand out­side the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts to see the in­flu­ence/im­pact of his ar­chi­tect’s pen.

“More than half the build­ings on Vic­to­ria Row were de­signed by Chap­pell. He de­signed four or five build­ings on Queen Street, fac­ing on Queen Square. He also de­signed most of the build­ings on the Grafton Street side of Queen Square.”

Other sur­viv­ing struc­tures in­clude Zion Pres­by­te­rian Church, St. Paul’s Angli­can Church Hall and the old Prince Ed­ward Is­land Hos­pi­tal on Kens­ing­ton Road.

Also, in cer­tain neigh­bour­hoods, like Brighton, there are two or three Chap­pell Houses on one block.

“In fact, there is prob­a­bly not a street in Char­lot­te­town that doesn’t have at least one Chap­pell house on it. He de­signed over 150 houses.”

Gallery di­rec­tor Kevin Rice likes the ar­ti­facts he sees.

“It’s al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing to see the plans for build­ings that we rec­og­nize in the streetscape, such as the ex­ten­sion to City Hall, and to see the de­tails in the draw­ings and just how skill­fully they are ren­dered and en­vi­sioned by the ar­chi­tect.”

While Chap­pell was pro­lific, he wasn’t good at mar­ket­ing him­self. And, for that rea­son, per­haps, he’s fallen un­der the radar.

“While Har­ris did th­ese won­der­ful pre­sen­ta­tion draw­ings, ap­par­ently Chap­pell didn’t,” says Hol­man. “He just got to the work­ing draw­ings. He was very much an ar­chi­tect for builders. I think he con­sid­ered him­self more of a tech­ni­cian than an artist.”

In his draw­ings, Har­ris was very much an artist.

“He de­vel­oped his own style. Har­ris build­ings are quite un­mis­tak­able. They have trun­cated gables and false wooden but­tresses.”

In con­trast, Chap­pell was much more ver­sa­tile.

“He de­signed, us­ing many con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­tural styles, from Ro­manesque to bun­ga­low. So you have houses like Eden­Hurst on West Street, which is in the Queen Anne style, or Pa­ton House on Prince Street, which is Ro­manesque style.

“And all through the city we have th­ese won­der­ful houses.”


Cu­ra­tor Harry Hol­man shows some of the ar­ti­facts that il­lus­trate Charles Ben­jamin Chap­pell’s de­signs. They are in­cluded in From House­builder to Ar­chi­tect: Charles B. Chap­pell’s Char­lot­te­town. The ex­hi­bi­tion is on view at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery in Char­lot­te­town.


Chap­pell Pic­ture, a paint­ing by David Thauberger, de­picts the Gil­lis House, found at 48 Great Ge­orge St., Char­lot­te­town. Part of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery col­lec­tion, this work is fea­tured in the ex­hi­bi­tion From House­builder to Ar­chi­tect: Charles B. Chap­pell’s Char­lot­te­town.


Charles B. Chap­pell de­signed th­ese shops along Vic­to­ria Row in Char­lot­te­town.


Zion Pres­by­te­rian Church is one of the Is­land churches de­signed by Charles B. Chap­pell.


This draw­ing shows the ex­ten­sion of City Hall. Charles Ben­jamin Chap­pell’s de­sign was moved and ac­cepted by the Char­lot­te­town coun­cil in 1916. How­ever, the res­o­lu­tion wasn’t acted upon un­til 1931.

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