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The “Island Way of Life” is deeply rooted in traditional livelihoods that gradually expanded and evolved to become the major industries that exist today. Early European settlement, pioneer life, fishing, farming, shipbuilding, the railway, rural schools; Prince Edward Island life revolved around these institutions during the 1800s. This heritage is kept alive in many historic buildings and museums across the province.

The Sea
Surrounded by water, Islander’s livelihoods have been greatly influenced by the sea. The Basin Basin HeadHead Fisheries Museum depicts the way of life for Islanders engaged in the inshore fishery. Featuring, salt water aquariums, traditional fishing gear, photographs, and dioramas illustrating fishing methods and coastal ecology. Another aspect of fishing is presented for our educational and gastronomic enjoyment at the Irish Moss Interpretive Centre and the Seaweed Pie Café in Miminegash.

Prince Edward Island’s first lighthouse was built in 1846 at Point Prim, the Eastern entrance to Hillsborough Bay and Charlottetown Harbour from the Northumberland Strait. The Point Prim Lighthouse is one of the many that are open to visitors during the summer months. The lighthouses at East Point and at West Point are among the few remaining manned lighthouses on Prince Edward Island.

During the 19th century, the shipbuilding industry brought great prosperity and created an international reputation for the Island as our forest cover was cut to build wooden ships for the British Navy. Green Park Shipbuilding Museum and Yeo House trace the history of shipbuilding in the 1800s and feature the restored home of Port Hill shipbuilding magnate James Yeo. In Charlottetown, Beaconsfield Historic House, (1877) was the home of James Peake, Jr., another wealthy shipbuilder. Today, Beaconsfield hosts lectures and special events throughout the year and houses the headquarters of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation. Its rooms and furnishings are restored to the Victorian style with a veranda and garden overlooking the Charlottetown Harbour.

Farming and Community Life
Potato MuseumSince the 1770s, the overwhelming majority of Islanders have been engaged in farm-related activity, with oats and potatoes constituting the Island’s primary export products. Today, agriculture remains Prince Edward Island’s most important industry. In O’Leary, Prince Edward Island’s primary agricultural export is given a place of honour at the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum. This facility, which is Canada’s only potato museum, displays artifacts, photographs, a collection of farm equipment and an interpretive display on the potato industry in Prince Edward Island.

The role of the fox-farming industry brought a short-lived but significant period of prosperity to Prince Edward Island’s economy between the 1870s and the 1920s. The International Fox Museum and Hall of Fame Inc., located in the historic Holman homestead in Summerside, recounts the story of these silver fox years.

South Rustico’s Farmer’s Bank Museum was the site of one of the first people’s banks in Canada. A precursor to the Credit Union movement, the bank provided cheap credit, enabling the largely Acadian community of farmers and fisherman, to achieve economical independence.

The province’s rural, agricultural heritage is recreated in two historical villages. One, the Orwell Corner Historic Village features an 1864 farmstead and community buildings. At this historic village late nineteenth century farm practices and community festivities are revived throughout the planting and harvest seasons. Two, the Acadian Pioneer Village, in Mont Carmel, reproduces an Acadian settlement of the 1820s, complete with log homes, a church, workshops, and a school.
Acadian Museum
The Acadians’ 300-year history is further represented at the Acadian Museum in Miscouche. The museum features permanent and temporary exhibits, audio visual displays, and genealogy resources. The collection portrays the history, culture, and development of the Island’s Acadian population through many setbacks and obstacles.

Prince Edward Island’s heritage of one-room schoolhouses is commemorated in the Skinner’s Pond Schoolhouse and Union Corner School House Museum, which was originally built in 1794. Historic Fanning School at Cabot Beach is exceptional in that it was a two-storey building.

Several localities across Prince Edward Island have established museums that depict rural Island life during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They tell the story of the Mi’kmaq, early pioneers, farming, fishing, and family life. Some of these museums include: the Alberton Museum, the Keir Memorial Museum in Malpeque, Montague’s Garden of the Gulf Museum, and Murray Harbour’s Log Cabin Museum.

The Railway
The colony of Prince Edward Island began construction of a 147-mile railway system uniting communities from Elmira, near the eastern-most tip of the Island, Train Stationthrough Kensington, all the way to Alberton in the west. Kensington’s was one of the few stone stations built in Prince Edward Island. Now a national historic site it has been restored to its original splendour and contains historical displays reviving our Island railway heritage. The Elmira Railway Station museum displays a map of the rail system, a re-created station-master’s office and a ladies’ waiting room.

Heritage Sites

National Park | Historic Sites | Scenic Heritage Roads |
Historic Buildings and Churches | Monuments to Our Past