In February 1884, a fire destroyed not only Victoria Row, the main business district of the day, but the new Post Office across the street on Queen Square.
“The great difficulty the firemen had to encounter was the absence of water” declared the Charlottetown Herald, on 20 February 1884.
The combination of wooden buildings and lack of water meant that fire insurance rates were set to increase dramatically. Insurance rate increases were the motivating factor required to find a cost effective way to implement a water system in the City.
About five o’clock in the morning when the people were looking sadly at the ruins, smoke was seen issuing from the new Post Office over the way, and it was at once realised that the finest building in Charlottetown was on fire. A spark had been blown across the square and had evidently fallen on the roof which is shingled and not slated as was the original intention.
It was a pity to see the flames devouring the noble building, and the firemen having to stand almost idly by for lack of water.
20 February 1884
The Charlottetown Water Works Company, a private company, was formed in the wake of the 1884 Victoria Row fire when insurance rates were set to skyrocket. The company included businessmen, James Peake Jr., W.E. Dawson and John Ings. The group failed to obtain the necessary financing and the City had decided through researching other municipalities throughout North America that a public system was preferred. Ultimately the Citizenry decided to endorse a public water system based on models used in Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario.