Climate change is affecting some of P.E.I.'s most historic homes. Students are ready to help
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Climate change is affecting some of P.E.I.'s most historic homes. Students are ready to help

Jul 07, 2023

They can't do much about the ghosts, but a new partnership between Holland College and the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation should help keep some of the Island's historic homes preserved for years to come.

Josh Silver, lead learning manager for the college's heritage retrofit carpentry program, said the partnership will give his students special access to attics, basements and other areas of historic homes that are generally off-limits to the public.

In return, the students would offer to make some repairs, using the building as a "living laboratory."

Silver said a historic home is like a "living, breathing organism" that needs routine maintenance and checkups.

"It's just like a senior citizen. They need a little bit more care, they need a little bit more specialized care — that sort of thing," he said.

Matthew McRae, executive director of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, said staying on top of maintenance is becoming increasingly more important as extreme changes in weather cause more issues for the buildings.

Yeo House in Green Park — which was built in 1865 — was closed briefly last week due to mould caused by the unusually high humidity in July.

High humidity has also caused some delays this summer with work at the 146-year-old Beaconsfield Historic House, as new plaster on the walls takes longer than usual to dry.

"People when they think of climate change might think of big storms like Fiona … or they think of heat waves," McRae said.

"But things like that humidity … can pose problems for historic houses, especially where sometimes circulation isn't that great or there's not excellent ventilation and so you really need to be on top of that."

Staff worked overtime to remove the mould from Yeo House and air it out to make it safe for employees and the public.

McRae said it was important to get the tourist attraction reopened as soon as possible.

"It's well over 150 years old and, of course, reportedly haunted. So it's got a lot of age and a lot of stories in the house and it's just an amazing sight to go and visit."

Silver said he's excited to use the heritage homes as a teaching tool and get a "behind-the-scenes" look at how they were built, taking the time to see what was done right and what was done wrong.

Of course, they'll fix whatever they can.

"Relationships like with P.E.I. heritage museums is really important because they recognize the value of that education," Silver said.

"They're willing to take a little step back and let us be a little bit slower knowing that in the long run we're feeding the general population a lot of high-quality carpenters that can do this type of work."


Shane Ross is a journalist with CBC News on Prince Edward Island. Previously, he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. You can reach him at [email protected].

With files from Angela Walker