This Week in History



For the week of Monday September 22, 2008

On September 25, 1833, Alexander McDonald was born in Forres, Morayshire, Scotland. He was a prosperous businessman who built a summer home named Dalvay-by-the-Sea, on Prince Edward Island. This house is recognized for its Queen Anne Revival Style, of which it is one of the main architectural examples in Canada.

Alexander McDonald
© Dalvay-by-the-Sea, ca.1903

Alexander McDonald immigrated to the United States in 1851 and made his fortune in the oil industry. In 1895, while on summer vacation on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, he decided to buy land in the area. In 1896, built a grand summer home for himself and his family. He named the house Dalvay-by-the-Sea in memory of his childhood home in Scotland and his permanent home in Cincinnati, Ohio, which were both called Dalvay. McDonald died in 1910 and left the house to his two granddaughters, Helena and Laura. Following a number of bad investments that left them impoverished, Laura decided to sell the house. Dalvay-by-the-Sea then passed through a number of hands, including those of Captain Edward Dicks, a rum runner who turned the house into a hotel in 1932 to conceal his smuggling activities. However, due to some financial troubles, one of his creditors, P.E.I. lieutenant-governor George De Blois, took possession of the hotel. In 1937, De Blois sold Dalvay-by-the-Sea to the federal government so that it could be made part of the region’s new national park. Since then it has been owned by the Parks Canada Agency, which rents it to the hotel’s caretakers.

© David Thompson, 2001

Dalvay-by-the-Sea is a wonderful example of the Queen Anne Revival Style that has survived the test of time. It has a number of bays, dormers and gables of contrasting colours and textures, and was built of wood and stucco on a stone foundation. The hotel is also a good example of the large summer homes built in Canada at the time by wealthy Americans. The structure was expanded to accommodate a larger number of visitors, but these renovations blend well with the original design.

Dalvay-by-the-Sea was used as the White Sands Hotel in Sullivan Entertainment’s TV series Road to Avonlea and movie Anne of Green Gables. Dalvay-by-the-Sea was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990.

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