The Legacy of Wanda Wyatt
Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt was born on May 24th, 1895, to her parents, Cecelia Lefurgey and James Edward Wyatt. She was born in the cherished family home at 85 Spring Street. Her older sister, Dorothy Randall Wyatt was born in 1893. Her brother Ivan Edward Wyatt was born in 1896. He died at the age of two.
The family was involved in the commercial, professional, political and social life of the town and province.
Wanda received her early education in Summerside, before attending Edgehill School for Girls in Windsor, Nova Scotia, from 1908 to 1913. She advanced to McGill University in Montreal, and in 1917 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and the intent to study law. Her father was able to influence a change in Prince Edward Island law to permit women to enter the profession, making Wanda the first female to do so. She worked with her father, but never wrote the bar exam, most likely because of her mother’s ill health and a sense of obligation to be with her. Wanda assisted her father in administering the private mortgages the family held throughout Prince County. She was an astute business woman, and following her father’s death, she took over the mortgage business, as well as investing in the stock market. She was highly successful.
Wanda was a well rounded individual. She purposely chose not to marry so that she could grow in her own way. She enjoyed sports, music, dance, theatre/film, art, and travel. She lived a life filled with family, pets, friends, community, business, and causes. She was a charter member of the IODE, founding member of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, and heavily involved in the Red Cross. In the last decade of her life she received many honours as a result of her commitment and dedication to the Island, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Prince Edward Island in 1992.
The Wyatt Foundation, which she established in 1966, proved beneficial to many causes and organizations such as: the Harbourfront Theatre, the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts, University of Prince Edward Island, Prince Edward Island Humane Society, and the Canadian Red Cross, among others.
In January of 1998, at the age of 102 years, Wanda died in her lifelong home at 85 Spring Street. Her dream of the house becoming a museum was fulfilled. To discover the complete story of Wanda Wyatt read, A Century on Spring Street, Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt of Summerside Prince Edward Island, 1895 - 1998, written by Deirdre Kessler.
History of the Wyatts
Constructed in 1867, the year of Canadian Confederation, this outstanding old house was the family home of the late Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt until her death in 1998 at the age of 102. It is a remarkable heritage building that has been faithfully restored to its Edwardian beauty and authenticity.
Robert Alder Strong, a local merchant, had the house constructed and lived in it until 1876 when he and his family moved to Charlottetown where he took the post of Assistant Commissioner of Public Lands. It is believed that his brother Charles, the Summerside Customs House agent, then took occupancy. In 1887 when the house went up for auction as part of the “Allison Estate,” the resident was Mrs. J. C. Pope, widow of a former Prince Edward Island premier. The Allison in whose name the property was registered because of a mortgage was the late Milcah Allison, widow of the Hon. Charles Frederick Allison, the founder of Mount Allison University. Milcah had been a sister to Mrs. Robert Strong (nee Sarah Trueman).
The highest bidder for the house was the Hon. John E. Lefurgey, the purchase securing him the whole block around his fine residence next door at the corner of Prince and Granville. One of his daughters, Cecelia, married a young lawyer from Charlottetown named James Edward “Ned” Wyatt and the house was conveyed to the young couple in 1893. Mr. Wyatt served two terms in the provincial legislature as a Conservative MLA, and was Speaker of the House from 1912-1916. The couple had three children but the youngest, Ivan, died at the age of two in 1898. Their daughters, Dorothy (b.1893) and Wanda (b.1895), never married and spent their whole lives in the house of their birth.
The house was very plain in its early years and was embellished by the Wyatts. The Palladian windows in the attic facing east and west, the side entry porch and the classically inspired front porch are early twentieth century additions. Miss Wyatt wrote about her home in a 1973 issue of the I.O.D.E. (Imperial Order Daughter of the Empire) magazine Echoes: “It is a rambling house with many little things to attest to its age. The stone foundation, the steps that carry you from one level to another, the floors, with hard pine boards from ships masts, are interesting. The furnishings are mostly antique and the house itself has an atmosphere of the past. Many outstanding and famous people have been entertained under its roof, among them three Prime Ministers of Canada (Robert L. Borden, Arthur Meighen, and R. B. Bennett). There are many memories over a hundred years.”
The Wyatt Historic House at 85 Spring Street is a Designated Heritage Building, 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.