Replicas and Gardens

Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada

August 19th, 2001

Our arrival to the next Province was over a massive bridge, called the Confederation Bridge which took us to Prince Edward Island. This is probably one of the most enjoyable islands that we would travel. A land of soft rolling hills, farms, and small villages. It is beautiful. There is nothing on the island farther than a days drive, and with at least a dozen good things to see, not including the festivals and musical gatherings that occur on a daily basis, we were to have our hands full. There was the estate of Woodleigh; here we found a fascinating story about a young soldier in World War I, who hailed from the Island, and found himself in England for a time. As he wandered the countryside, he marveled at the ancient architecture of the buildings and the splendor of the formal English gardens. He would survive the war and return to his beloved Prince Edward Island to find that he missed the beauty and splendor of the English structures, he had so frequently enjoyed while abroad. There is little in print on the driving force which caused him to launch an endeavor that would rival the dedication of most other men. Being a romantic at heart, I like to think that architecture accomplishments by a single person are driven by the loss of a woman. Such examples as the Mystery Castle of Phoenix or Coral Castle of Homestead Florida, stand as examples of dying love never to be forgotten. This however was apparently not the case with Woodleigh. Ernest Johnston, from all accounts was a happily married man with a wife and 3 kids. Upon his return, Ernest would acquire a large plot of land which he would christen Woodleigh after his ancestral home in Scotland. Year after year he would plow, plant and construct a beautiful garden area. War would return and Ernest would return to England as a Lt. Col. along with his oldest son Archie. They would fight for freedom and walk the great architectural wonders of the country together before returning to PEI to continue what would become a 50 year endeavor. The two, with others sometime helping, began to build replicas of the famous buildings of England. Year after year, building after building the work would go on. Cold winters and hot summers made no difference. He built a dozen, two dozen, and on to three dozen stone replicas. Each structure meticulous fashioned to match the original in miniature. Some no more than a doll house, others gigantic, capable of walking through and enjoying the secrets inside. It wasn't long before visitors began gathering. As history would record, the land was opened to all those who would gasp at the efforts of a few people toward a seemly unobtainable goal. Today the lands are owned by the Steele family who have turned the efforts of a few into a full fledged tourist attraction. Upon arriving, the first thing that caught my eye was an expansive structure off to the right. The scale model of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, commonly known as York Minster which is 26 feet long and 12 feet across and was one of the first built by Ernest and took over 5 years to construct. Considering that PEI is mostly limestone, stone had to be brought from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and then floated across to the Island, shaped and placed into a pattern specifically designed by Ernest to exactly match the exterior of the original. With Archie in England gathering measurements and recording details, progress was slow and deliberate. The reduction would require 145 windows and thousands of panes of colored glass. Further to the right we found an old English Nobleman's pleasure and source of amusement. An English maze, this one made of cedar saplings. With only a front and rear entrance, we marched down dozens of twists and turns, only to find a dead end and the inevitable requirement to retrace our steps only to be stopped again and again by a solid wall. The walls were not the trimmed immaculate sides as seen in Stephen King's "The Shining" but I couldn't help thinking about the chase scene. After a few minutes wandering around, there is a certain panic feeling that creeps up unannounced. Having exited by the same point that we entered, we continued on

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