This section of Grafton Street near Queen Square was referred to as Sunnyside. It is not clear why it was christened in this way, perhaps due to its southern facing exposure or that it was the sunny side of Queen Square. The area was commercial in nature and businesses flocked here very early due to its proximity to the Square that included the colony’s market, legislature, courts and official church. Any number of shops and services could be found here throughout the years including barbers, stables, millinery shops, apothecaries, photographers, cobblers and furniture stores. Like most of the City, the area was made up of all wooden buildings, but as the 19th century closed and the 20th dawned, merchants began to construct larger brick and stone buildings, some of which still exist today.
In the 20th century, the area remained commercial, with the Bank of Nova Scotia building its lovely edifice in 1922. Next door, architect, C.B. Chappell would design two beautiful brick buildings in 1896 and 1897 that went on to house Maritime Electric and LePage’s Shoe Store.
Further west, where the Holman Grand now stands, Holman’s of PEI opened its Charlottetown store in 1924 and it remained one of the finest department stores in which to shop in downtown. With the planned construction of the new and modern styled Confederation Centre, Mr. Alan Holman decided that he would modernize his store by covering the stone façade with black and gray granite at street level with enameled steel panels on the upper stories in 1962. Holman’s would remain in this space until it closed in 1985.
A variety of retail outlets enjoyed the space until 2009 when construction began on the Holman Grand Hotel. The foundation of the original building was used and the steel was removed to reveal the building’s original stone.
The oldest building on Sunnyside is 119 Grafton Street. It was built in 1843 by James MacDonnell, the builder of the first courthouse/legislature building on Queen Square. For a number of years J.F. MacKay operated a jewelry store out of MacDonnell’s 1843 building. MacKay eventually sold his stock to the recently arrived Englishman, G.H. Taylor in 1879. In due course, the building was divided into two units with W.R. Boreman operating a shoe shop in the western portion and Taylor continuing in the eastern part. Taylor’s Jewelers would go on to occupy the site for over 100 years. It has recently received a sympathetic renovation.
Other storefronts along this stretch have grown and changed with the times. The Bank of Montreal underwent a number of renovations but remains on its site. A grocery store, located nearby in the Phillips Building, was operated by the Atkinson Family. Later, Sally Shop, a women’s retail store, opened from the site. It is presently home to Luna and the Island Beach Company.
The other family run department store on Sunnyside, Henderson and Cudmore, opened on this block in 1914 and remained here until 2001 dressing fashionable men and women from all over the Island. Their creative window displays added colour to Grafton Street.
Next door, the gorgeous edifice and National Historic Site known as Apothecaries Hall, was built in 1901 by the DesBrisay family. Prominent architect, William Critchlow Harris designed the building and the Lowe Brothers were hired as the contractors. The impressive structure was built with imported buff pressed brick from Ontario and trimmed with olive colored freestone and mottled brick. The new building replaced a large wooden structure that housed Apothecaries Hall since its opening in 1810.
A prominent feature on the street immediately in front the building is a 19th Century cannon, set upright. Theophilus DesBrisay removed the cannon after it had fallen to the water’s edge at the Charlottetown blockhouse. He had it placed on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets, with the muzzle pointing skyward. A flagstaff was placed in the bore of the gun, and the Union Jack was displayed for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The gun was also used as a hitching post for many years. It remains to this day, a unique commemoration of the first royal visit to PEI and a reminder of Charlottetown’s early military fortifications.