For more historical detail, please see “The Remarkable Esther Lowden.”

Club sketch

Sketch at the time of US Consul

The story of the Haviland Cub begins with the great fire of 1866, which ravaged the south west portion of Charlottetown and consumed the Water Street home of Esther Lowden. Mrs. Lowden was the widow of George Fish (or Fesch) Crow Lowden, a prominent Island businessman, who had passed away suddenly in 1864 at 40 years of age. His middle names were family surnames.

Through the newly available Island Newspapers site from the Robertson Library, we’ve learned that George F. C. Lowden was one of eight community leaders who founded the Union Bank in 1863. The Union Bank building, which was constructed to house the bank, is the lovely Italianate building at the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets, now home to Elections PEI.

According to Club records, the Lowdens were ship builders, building ships “on the harbour shores in front of the house”. Shipbuilding had been a significant industry on the Island – more than 3,000 ships were constructed through the 1800’s, from sloops to the 1,800 ton Ethel, launched in 1853 by Andrew & James Duncan (courtesy Shipbuilding was an important contributor to the abundance of the “booming sixties” in Prince Edward Island (no doubt one of the reasons Maritime Leaders came to Charlottetown in 1867 to discuss Maritime union – and Canadian confederation).

To rebuild after the fire, Esther acquired a lot in a pre-eminent position, at the foot of Charlottetown harbour, looking directly out the gap to the Northumberland Strait.

The south-west corner of Charlottetown had been the site of a fortification known as George’s Battery since 1776. In 1863 the area was sold to the colonial government, then subdivided and offered for sale. The area became known as the Dundas Esplanade, named for the Governor of the day.

The Lowden property was surveyed by Henry Cundall in 1868, and construction began shortly after. By 1869 the building was being described by the local press as an architectural gem. See the Architecture section of this web site for more information.

Mrs. Lowden built a large home in the Italianate style, a home with high ceilings, intricate crown moldings, panelled rooms, and curiously low doorknobs. There are many suggestions why the doorknobs are so low – that they were for the use of her children and grandchildren, or that perhaps for the use of child servants who carried coal from room to room. But the most likely explanation is that Esther Lowden herself was a very small woman, an explanation made more likely by the very low upstairs bannister, which, for safety reasons, has since been raised to a more appropriate, modern height. However, there is a curious, original low doorway between the most south-western of the rooms, likely Mrs. Lowden’s private sitting room (and now the upstairs board room) and a small, adjoining unheated space, suggesting that perhaps access for children, for play or work, may have been a purpose. Another point of interest is that access to the rooftop belvedere appears to be from inside Mrs. Lowden’s private suite, suggesting that access to the belvedere was primarily for herself. Did she still have interests in her husband’s shipping company? After all, she chose a location directly in line with the Charlottetown Harbour channel and added a belvedere – all that was needed to watch the harbour for first glimpse of a returning ship.

Esther Lowden lived in the house with her children until her death in 1896. After her death, son-in-law LL Beer applied for authority to administer the estate. The house stayed in the Lowden and Beer families and was soon leased to the United States Consul for Prince Edward Island. The Consul’s name was Delmer J. Vail.

At one time the American flag was likely the first one seen upon entering the harbour; it flew from a thirty-foot flagpole set atop the peak of the belvedere. A sketch of the house at the time shows the American flag flying proudly. The sketch, and the photograph from which it was drawn, also show a “widow’s walk”, an external walkway and balcony, since removed. As well, it shows a long stretch of wrought iron fencing along Haviland Street.

The photograph, from the Provincial Archives, includes an interesting reference to the name ‘Farringford’, a reference at this time not seen anywhere else and not familiar even to the oldest Club members. Given the timing, it appears that the building was so named by Mr. Vail during his time as Consul. Although the reason the Club was given this name is not known, it may be that Consul Vail named his home after the family home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson, born in Somersby, England in 1809, moved to Farringford House in 1853. During his time there her wrote many of his most famous works, including , “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

In 1919, the Charlottetown Guardian reported an auction of “rare old Mahogany furniture, for the Lowden Estate at the old American Consulate Corner Water and Haviland streets, on September 2. The auction included a quantity of household furniturem including some rare pieces of mahogany, superior piano, mantle mirror, carpets, etc.” (Discovered via Island Newspapers site from the Robertson Library.) Whether these were items from the building or from the estate but located elsewhere is not yet clear.

Following the closure of the Consulate, the building was rented by various tenants, including the Drew family.

In 1932, an invitation was extended by the Commanding Officer or the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve to the officers of the local Military Units to meet and discuss forming a club for Officers of the various units of the British Empire Forces within the province (this and the following sections on the USOC courtesy of I. Kerry). A meeting was held on March 7, 1932, at which was born the Army and Navy Club of Prince Edward Island (RNCVR), with 31 active members. The first President was Lieut. Col. G. E. Full.

The Army and Navy Club of PEI rented Lowden House from 1942 to 1944 for $25 per month, then purchased the building in 1944 for $4,000. Soon after, the Club changed its name to the Army, Navy, Air Force Officers’ Club. In 1947 it changed its name again to the United Services Officers Club of Charlottetown (the U.S.O.C. still displayed on the Haviland Club sign), which had expanded to include officers from the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and which continued largely unchanged for more than fifty years.

The late, and much-missed Ivan Kerry related his early experience of the Club (recorded in approximately 2008):

“I came to this club in January 1949 while travelling the Maritimes for a company in Ontario. I was living in Moncton at the time and an Air Force buddy who worked for the Canadian National Railway and came to PEI to audit the books at the Charlottetown Hotel (then part of the Canadian National Railway) advised me to join the Officer’s Club as it was the best in the country.

After the Second World War, over sixty years ago, most companies put salesmen on the road to build new business. There were hundreds of travelling salesmen in the Maritimes, especially in Moncton, Amherst and Truro. Many of these men were ex-military men who enjoyed a drink after work. The country was still in prohibition and the only place to drink was military messes or clubs such as the Legion and a few others. Many of these ex-servie men joined their local military messes which made them eligible to visit our club.”

This Club evolved with the times. In 1947 the United Services Officers Club had 233 members; seven were civilians. In 1965, to help maintain the membership, one “social member” (civilian) was permitted for every active member of the Club. Social members could not vote or hold office. The first civilian was elected to the position of President in 1996.

The first women members were accepted in 1983, likely due to increasing numbers of female officers in the services – although the Club was not otherwise welcoming to women. Women who played a leadership role in the city thirty years ago sometimes visit the Club and remind the members of the days, in the 1980s and earlier, when they were refused service. But times and practices change: as the years went by an increasing number of non-military members were accepted, who became indistinguishable from the commissioned military members and enjoyed the same benefits and responsibilities.

Finally, in 1997 the United Services Officers Club became the Haviland Club, a social club for men and women of diverse education and backgrounds. Today the Club’s military background is an important and respected element of who we are. Military members are most welcome, but they constitute a small part of the Club’s overall membership.

One of the changes is a great reduction in the quantity and significance of alcohol consumed at the Club. There is still a bar, or taproom, and it remains perhaps the heart of the Club, but times have changed, and the amount consumed is a fraction of what it was. The Club also now stocks non-alcoholic beer and wine, as well as gluten-free beer and, of course, a full range of coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks.

Over the years a remarkable range of events have taken place at the Club. There have been dances and balls; jazz, blues and rock music; mystery nights; lobster nights; whole roast pigs and sides of beef on a spit; Victoria Day Events; Christmas Eve and New Years’ Eve parties; and so much more. The Roadkill Dinner of a few years ago is an event people still talk about. Ivan Kerry told of Grey Cup bashes in which members supporting the losing team picked up the bar tab for the winners – champagne, no less – and for fifty members or more! To finish off, here’s a great story from Ivan about the good old days:

“Over the years we have had some very satisfactory festivities. One I am personally proud of is the great roast pig do’s. It started on the Saturday Breakfast Club (a long time Club activity) the day after my turning the gavel over to the new president, Walthen Gaudet. I invited all members to 50 pounds of meat and a barrel of liquor for the 12:30 Breakfast Club. I think they expected hamburger.

On Sat. morning I covered a couple of long tables with green cloths, brought in my 10 gallon punch keg, mixed Nova Scotia hard cider, rum, cherry herring, brandy, seven-up, food colouring and ice.

Somerled Trainor arrived and was surprised and suggested that I was serious and that some members should be phoned. At 12:30 my roast pig arrived on an oval platter I had Chandler Bros. make. The pig was stuffed. An apple it its mouth, a red ribbon on its tail. This first pig was stuffed and roasted by the present Tommy Davies’ mother. Over fifty members enjoyed the first pig.”

We will continue to add to this page as more historical information is discovered or received. Who we are, after all, is an outgrowth of who we were.