by Treva McNally
Not far from Lennox Island, in eastern Prince County, is the Bideford Parsonage Museum. One reason for its historical fame is that Lucy Maude Montgomery lived there in 189495 while at her first teaching post at the Bideford School, but if that was all this beautifully restored home could lay claim to, it is possible that it might not have become a Provincially Designated Historical Home.
Built by Thomas H. Pope in 1878 for his residence, it was later purchased by the local Methodist church for its parsonage and later became the manse for the United Church. This historic home and museum has three focuses: the era of shipbuilding in Bideford (the Green Park Shipbuilding Museum is just down the road); the residency of L.M. Montgomery and her contribution to the recorded history of Bideford and area; and the importance of the church and its parsons to the local community.
It was lovingly restored by the determined members of the West Country Historical Society following an attempt several years ago by a tourist attraction in Cavendish to acquire it and move it. At that time, the home had been the recipient of many well-intentioned “improvements.” A photography display shows the home as it was before the restoration, and a comparison of then to now is impressive. The restoration involved removal of the woodwork, carpet, an enclosed porch, a brick fireplace, the hardwood floors, and the bathroom; closing off of several doorways; stripping off ten layers of wallpaper; the replacement of the windows by the woodworking class at Westisle Composite High School; rebuilding a picket fence along the whole perimeter of the property; and repainting the home inside and out in historic colours.
Great care was taken to return the home to its original state, although the Historical Society made one concession to modernity by building a bathroom in the back porch where the privy had been. Curator Shelley Campbell and summer guide Scott Smith proudly showed me through the home, furnished with donated furniture from the era, including an organ similar to the one Montgomery played with “dismal fear” when she was the substitute organist at the Methodist Church. Upstairs, Scott pointed out the view from the front window which Montgomery wrote about in her diary.
The Parsonage holds “An Evening with L.M. Montgomery” weekly throughout the summer, hosts an Annual Strawberry Social the last Sunday of July and a Victorian Christmas in December. The home is open daily from June till September. For more information, call 902-831-3133.