Just off the shore from St Andrews is the 500 acre island called Minister's Island. So called because in 1790, the new pastor of the Anglican church in St Andrew's decided to build a home on the island. It could only be reached by boat or over the dry bed of the bay at low tide. The reason why he decided to live on a deserted island without the comforts of the town has been lost to history. The house he occupied still stands and is the most significant historical structure in the area. Access has not changed at all from that early period. We crossed at low tide on the sea bottom in a tour bus.
What makes the island a tourist attraction is the summer home of Sir William Van Horn, the Chairman of the Canadian Pacific Railroad from 1899 to 1915. He purchased the island property to build a summer residence consisting of a 50 room home, very large barn and other buildings. He kept the pastor's home, which is now located adjacent to the barn. The island still had no services when he started construction, but he wanted running water in the home so he dug a well and filled an underground tank, which was a buried rail tank car. He then built a pump building to move the water to the home and to fire stations around the house.
The home has a spectacular view of the bay. At the south side of the island he build a tower for viewing the bay, on the lower level is a changing room for the large pool that was dug out of the sandstone bottom of the bay. The pool was designed so that it filled up during the high tide and when the water receded the pool would remain filled with water. At every tide change the water was refreshed. You can still see the shape of the pool, but the hole has been filled in over the years with sediment.
The barn was huge for its time. Three floors and a loft. He kept prize winning cattle and Clydesdale horses. Apparently, he was quite the task master. He visited the barn every day while he was in residence. The story goes that as he approached the barn one day he noticed some of the workers looking out the windows. This meant the workers were not doing what he paid them for. The next day he ordered all the windows to be moved to the second floor. He must have been a hard man to work for!
Our second stop of the day was the county courthouse. It has been in use since 1840 until the present time. Our guide provided a good overview of how the trial system works in Canada.
Next to it is the old gaol, where the only light or air that prisoners could obtain was thru the small slits in the walls. The gaol did not close until the 1980's.