Only accessible by a sand bar that appears during low tide, Minister’s Island is near the picturesque town of Saint-Andrews-By-The-Sea. The island is full of history, innovation and beauty which makes it a great place to visit and explore.
I first remember visiting Minister’s Island when I was about 15 and ever since then I’ve always wanted to live there. I was really excited to get the opportunity this summer to visit again with my family.
The 500-acre island is a protected historic site and houses 20 kms worth of trails, the Van Horne Estate, the small Minister’s house and it is the site of a Passamaquoddy First Nations settlement that dates back 2500 years! There is so much history held with in this island.
In order to access the island, you must do so by crossing the sand bar that appears at low tide. At high tide, 14 feet of swift moving water covers the sand bar and cuts access to the island.
The first stop on our self-guided tour was the barn. The magnificent two storey timber barn (these timbers are HUGE) housed horses (mostly Clydesdales) and Van Horne’s herd of Dutch belted cattle.
The barn has been beaten up by the hard winters of the past few years and the twin silos are starting to collapse. So, the first restoration phase is to repair and restore both silos. Next will be foundation and window repairs, followed by the final phase to fix site drainage and replace the roof and siding to the original cedar shingles. The total cost of this restoration over the next 5 years is close to $1.2 million. If you’d like to donate visit this link.
Minister’s Island History
400 AD – Consquamcook/Quanoscumcook Island – Passamaquoddy First Nations Settlement, archaeological exploration in 1970’s revealed sites of the First Nations on the island.
1779 – 1785 – Chamcook Island – John Hanson and Elizabeth Clark were the first European’s on the island.
1785 – 1788– Captain Samuel Osburn of the warship Arethusa was granted the island, with some controversy, by King George III for services during the American War of Independence.
1788 – 1841– Minister’s Island – Reverend Samuel Andrews paid 250 pounds for the island and build his house sometime between 1788 and 1791.
1891 – Edwin Andrews sold part of the island to Sir William Cornelius Van Horne who built his summer “cottage” Covenhoven, greenhouses, the barn, creamery, carriage house, garage and bathhouse. The Van Horne’s continued to purchase parcels of land until 1915.
1958 – Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada refused the island as a historic site and the 50-room cottage on 500-acres was put up for sale for $80,000.
1960 – after attempts to keep the island in local hands, an Ohio syndicate purchased the island as a semi-private club.
1967 – the island was sold to another American, Norman Langdon, after another attempt to keep the island local.
1971 – the island could have been purchased, intact, for $400,000 by the Province of NB.
1977 – Langdon auctioned off all of the furnishings in the house and attempted to auction the island. The Province stepped in and declared the island a protected site and purchased the island for $855,000, minus the furnishings which were sold at auction.
1978 – Parks Canada National Historic Sites and Monuments Board recognized the importance of the island to First Nations history. The island was closed to visitors.
1983 – The island was opened and limited tours were allowed of the island.
1996 – Parks Canada National Historic Sites and Monuments Board designated the island a National Historic Site.
2008 – the Province signed a long-term lease with the current operators The Van Horne Estate on Ministers Island Inc. (VHEMI) which is a volunteer, not-for-profit charitable body representing the local communities who believe strongly in the provincial and national importance of the island!
2015 – 14,000 people visited the island!
View the pictures below of Minister’s Island and Covenhoven from the Library and Archives Canada!
We then went over to the creamery which is right next to the barn. As you can see, the creamery has had the cedar shingles replaced and it looks wonderful! The barn will look fantastic with cedar as well once the project is finished.
Next to the creamery is Parson Andrews’ house which served as the house for the farm manager’s after Parson Andrews’ departed the island. The house is in rough shape, but with some TLC the little house will look spectacular. It also has an amazing view of the sand bar. I can just imagine curling up next to a fire in the winter and looking out over the bar during a storm.
We then moved over to the Van Horne’s estate, Covenhoven, and stopped past the field with horses which is a lovely sight in the large pasture.
Covenhoven started as a small cottage, but soon became a large 50-room house which is so much fun to explore. A lot of the rooms and floors were painted when that kind of thing was in style, but I imagine the blue billiard room will return to it’s rich mahogany walls and that the pillars at the front fire place will once again both be true gold leaf.
At one point, the previous owners (who somehow attempted to have a hunting lodge on the island with no wildlife) put in a bar in the front room, so hopefully that will be restored as well. Some of the rooms haven’t been touched (which is likely a blessing) and need some TLC, but as more visitors come and explore the estate, the more funds can be put back into the house!
We then explored the rest of the grounds which includes the carriage house (complete with an apartment above the barn), the windmill, the garage and gardener’s cottage and greenhouse (no pictures of greenhouse). Some of the greenhouses an other structures built by the Van Horne’s have been demolished, but much of it remains.
While I love everything about the island, my favourite place is the bathhouse and the remnants of the 8 foot deep ocean filled pool! The pool is really neat because it was carved out of the stone shoreline and every day the pool would fill with new water at high tide. At low tide the Van Horne’s had an ocean water pool. Right now, the pool is filled with sand, but hopefully one day it will be cleaned out and open to island visitors.
Entrance is $10 per person (well worth it!) and you have nearly 8 hours on the island.
Bring a picnic and dine out on the front lawn of Covenhoven, grab your walking shoes (or bike) and explore the trails, bring your lawn bowling or a washer toss game and have some fun with friends and family after you explore the island!
Remember to check the tides unless you want to be stuck for 6-8 hours, although I couldn’t imagine a better place to be “stuck”!