Extra Research for Season 6 – Episode 9 – The Dinner Party
To get to Minister’s Island in Passamaquoddy Bay near St. Andrews, New Brunswick you have to take a short, one-kilometer drive or walk across a stretch of ocean floor that’s exposed for just a few hours every day at low tide. A national historical site, the 490-acre island is best known as the summer home of Sir William Van Horne, the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and features stunning ocean views and 21 kilometers of walking trails.
The island itself has quite a long and sacred history. About 2500 years before Van Horne called it home, it was used as a summer camp for the Passamaquoddy First Nation. In fact, St. Andrews, then known as Qonasqamkuk, was an important meeting place for the Passamaquoody. The First Nation often held ceremonies there and relied on the abundance of fish, particularly pollock, found in the bay, earning them the name Peskotomuhkati – ‘Fishers of Pollock.’
A charming host
Born in 1843 Sir William Van Horne spent most of his life working for railway companies and developing a flair for rebuilding or starting fruitful rail systems that supported communities across North America. In September 1885, Van Horne became Canadian Pacific Railway Vice-President and within four years became President. Under his direction, the CPR was completed five-years faster than the government contract required.
But, he was more than just a railway man – he was known to be flamboyant and sophisticated. He loved to paint, dabbled in architecture and was known for throwing lavish parties at his summer home on Minister’s Island. His parties were so popular, many of his wealthy friends bought land in St. Andrews and also summered in the region, sprouting economic growth and helped turn the town into what it is today.
The summer home, known as Covenhoven, boasts 50 rooms with walls constructed from sandstone taken directly from the shore, a carriage house, a windmill, a garage, a circular bath house and various farm buildings. The agricultural buildings feature a huge two-story timber livestock barn. Topped with its hipped-gable roof, the barn was home to Van Horne’s thoroughbred horses and prized herd of Dutch belted cattle.
– Jane Caulfield