Bishop Machine Shop Museum
101 Water Street, Summerside
10 am to 5 pm
Guided tour, walk-ins welcome.
Monday to Saturday
Open June 27 to September 1st
Closed during the off-season.
Bishop’s Machine Shop is an intact old-fashioned machine shop that boasts an amazing collection of lathes and machining tools and gadgets of unending fascination to machinists and ‘do-it-yourself folk’ of all ages. The building and its contents serve as a rare tangible reminder of early industrial Summerside, a significant part of our service-based history. Entrepreneurs like the Bishops were inventive and closely connected to the farming and fishing communities.
Located at 101 Water Street the small shop is the only remaining evidence of the foundry complex that stood between Autumn and King Streets. When Ralph Bishop, the last practitioner in a line of four generations of foundry and metal workers closed the doors in the mid 1980s, this space looked much as it had generations earlier.
The stewardship of the City of Summerside has ensured that it remains ‘a step back in time’
to this day.
History of the Bishop Machine Shop
The small, shingled structure at 101 Water Street on the corner with Autumn Street is the only reminder of the foundry complex that once stood on the surrounding property. The foundry business began when George Bishop purchased the land in 1873 and shortly thereafter constructed the buildings to house his machinery, tools and supplies. A local newspaper reported in April 1877 that the foundry was in “full blast” and about 100 ploughs were being manufactured for the spring.
Paul Vreeland Photography
George Bishop was trained as a blacksmith by his father, Elias, who operated a shop on Spring Street on the property that, coincidentally, is the location of the MacNaught History Centre and Archives. By the turn of the twentieth century he had been joined in the business by his two oldest sons and was describing himself on the company’s letterhead as a “Manufacturer of Agricultural Implements and Mill Supplies.”
Around 1908 George Bishop retired and several years later he deeded the property to his sons Thomas and Elias. The two of them worked together until 1935 when a decision was made to separate the business. Elias assumed ownership of the foundry and Thomas took charge of the machine shop.
Thomas Bishop continued with the machine shop, training his son Ralph in the trade. Upon his discharge from the army in 1946, Ralph Bishop was thirty-six years of age and resumed work with his father. Thomas H. Bishop & Son considered their principal service to be repairs on motorboat equipment and farm machinery. The tags used to identify a customer’s ownership of a piece of metal or equipment listed mill works, motor boat(s) & equipment, agricultural implements, saw mandrels, propel jacks and special machinery.
The shop remained closed during the last decade of Ralph Bishop’s life. After his demise in 1996 his estate was passed to his niece, Anne Jamfrey, who approached city officials about the future of the historic building that had belonged to one of the oldest Summerside firms. The property was consequently purchased and the textual materials from the company’s office were moved to the MacNaught History Centre and Archives. The building was opened as a museum in the summer of 2006.
Bishop’s Machine Shop is a registered historic place of significance, protected by the municipality and included in the provincial and national registers of historic places. It is the recipient of a PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation architectural preservation award.
Paul Vreeland Photography