Heritage status for 153-year-old Matthew and McLean building

Posted on April 22, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

Dating back to the 1860s, the Matthew and McLean building has a long history on the east coast of Prince Edward Island. With beginnings as a place of commerce, the historic building is now home to a visitor centre and museum celebrating its contribution to the local community.


Photo of the Matthew and McLean building from the early 1900s (photo credit: Canada’s Historic Places)


Namesake foundation

Uriah Matthew and John McLean were the original owners of the Matthew and McLean building. Both started their professional careers in the 1860s at Heartz and Son, working for well-known businessman Benjamin Heartz. In 1869, they started a business of their own, Matthew and McLean Ltd., and set up shop in Souris, P.E.I. on Main Street.

The building operated as a general store, where patrons could find just about anything from food, clothing, sewing supplies, hardware, anchors and coffins. Over the years, the namesake company branched out into other industries and Matthew and McLean became prominent merchants in the area.

In 1887, Matthew and McLean established a starch factory in Dundas, as well as a second store location (which later moved to Bridgetown). Soon after, they began operating lobster canning facilities, shipping products as far as the United States and West Indies. The business also owned warehouses, farms, fishing boats, wharves and a tin can factory. In the 1920s, Matthew and McLean Ltd. was a major business in the area, with over 200 employees.


Matthew and McLean newspaper ad from 1923 edition of Halifax’s “The Sunday Leader” (photo credit: Carter W. Jeffery)


Passed down the line

Succession of the business began in 1902, when Brenton Matthew took over his father’s place in the partnership. Other members of the Matthew and McLean families also assumed partner roles over the years; the business and building were passed down through generations.

Due to increased competition in the area following World War II, Matthew and McLean Ltd. eventually divested in all other areas of their business until it was just the general store. In 1974, third generation owner Babe Matthew closed the store and Matthew and McLean Ltd. gave up its charter in 1982.


Views of the heritage museum now operating inside the Matthew and McLean building (photo credit: CMA-PEI)


Other retail operations

Following the closure of Matthew and McLean, the Winterhalder family purchased the building and operated a retail business in the space until the mid-1990s. In 2000, the Town of Souris purchased the building from WE Limited (then owned by Paul Winterhalder) and internal refurbishments began soon after.


The Matthew and McLean building in 2006 (photo credit: Canada’s Historic Places).


Heritage status

The Town of Souris maintains ownership of the Matthew and McLean building, which became a designated heritage site in 2006 for its gothic architecture, contribution to the town and its associated economic activity. Today, the building is home to a visitors centre, community space, a café and heritage museum.

Speaking of the building and its history, Charlotte Stewart, heritage officer for the province, said: “The building is amazing for its impressive presence on the Town’s main street, and is remarkably original in its architectural detailing. Many features of its original commercial use are found in its interior. Souris is incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful building as a welcome centre.”

Still standing strong, after 153 years.


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