Tour this huge, vacant summerhouse, built by a railroad baron William Van Horne on Minister’s Island – a short day trip from St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.
Sir William Van Horne, a railroad baron who was President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, built an ambitiously scaled summerhouse on Minister’s Island in the 1890s. Constructing the 50-room summerhouse, plus a bathhouse, multiple barns, windmill, and tide-filled swimming pool took years.
These original structures remain today and, just as in Van Hornes time, visitors reach the summerhouse by crossing a sandbar accessible only at low tide and passing through green livestock pasture.
Getting to Covenhoven and Minister’s Island
Bared at low tide, Bar Road provides access from St. Andrews to Minister’s Island. The road is scattered with rocks, so drivers must carefully pick a route across the sandbar. An alternative is to park on the shore and catch the island shuttle across.
On the island, gravel roads lead through livestock pastures to the barns, the island’s original cottage built in 1790 by Reverend Samuel Andrews, and the sprawling summerhouse built by William Van Horne.
Tours of the Summerhouse, Covenhoven
Visitors to the Covenhoven summerhouse can either take a scheduled guided tour of the house, or wander through the rooms independently. To hear a full history of the mansion, which is a provincial historic site, join the tour. The tale of the island includes Van Horne’s ambition in building the house, how the estate was a working farm, and how, over the generations, the house has deteriorated from its one-time splendor.
A walk through the lower floors will take you to a few simple displays and interpretive panels, which also highlight the history of the Passamaquoddy First Nation, who first lived on the island. The upper rooms are sparsely furnished, if at all. Exploring the ghostly feeling halls allows visitors to step into some of the 11 bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as the nursery built for Van Horne’s only grandson.
Things to Do on Minister’s Island
The best features of Minister’s Island lie on the estates expansive grounds. Around the estate find livestock grazing in stone-walled pastures, lawns shaded by fruit orchards, and buildings that helped make the farm self-sufficient, such as the shed where carbide gas was produced or the windmill.
In addition to to touring the barns and summerhouse while on the island, visitors can:
Dig clams along Bar Road
Admire the view of Passamaquoddy Bay from the round bathhouse.
Swim in the tide-filled swimming pool
Picnic on the lush lawns
Walk the shoreline, trails, and woods
Ride horses at the stable
See Van Horne’s prize ribbons in the huge, double-silo barn
Peek inside the original cottage, built in 1790 by Reverend Samuel Andrews
See and pet the farm animals
Plan a Visit to Ministers Island
Access to Covenhoven and Ministers Island is restricted by the tides. Check with the Ministers Island Provincial Historic Site website to find a current schedule and hours, or call at 1-877-386-3922.