Saving an old house covered in vegetation is no small feat.
Just ask Phillip Gallant, his construction company and his daughter, Juliana, who have been hard at work for the past year restoring a 19th-century Gothic Revival-style farmhouse in Sea View, which had become a mere shell of its former self and was barely visible from the road.
“I’ve always had an admiration for the house," said Gallant.
"Every time I would drive by I would feel bad about it falling down, so I contacted the last owner (Joe Schurman) and purchased the property from him, but the original owners were the Sutherlands that came here from Scotland in the 1840s.”
Sutherland House, originally named Melrose Cottage, was built by John Sinclair Sutherland and his wife, Marion Miller, who moved to P.E.I. from Scotland in 1842.
Five generations of Sutherlands lived in the home. Barbara Sutherland was the last to leave after the home became unsafe to live in.
“As far as I can understand, the construction of the house started in the 1850s, with possibly two add-ons done later from looking at the structure. But the property is pictured on an 1860s historical province map, so it’s been around for at least that amount of time,” said Gallant.
Gallant, with more than 40 years of construction experience under his belt, set to work restoring the farmhouse where Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery spent time visiting her uncle, Robert Sutherland.
“It definitely takes a certain person to look beyond the mess and see the potential, and we are happy to say the house is saved." - Phillip Gallant
“In December 2017, we purchased the house and completely stripped the rotting interior, which is now ready for phase two, and we will leave this for the next lucky owner. The outside has been secured, roof sealed, grading done to keep the water away from the foundation, fixed the windows, new veranda, leveled the basement with concrete,” he said.
Original features have been restored, including the exterior white tear-drop trim and inside the hardwood floors, grand staircase upon entry, hand-blown and handmade glass windows, as well as salvaging furniture and more personal items.
“We found some old books, chewed up letters, and the remnants of an old violin that I assume are from the original owner. We’re keeping all these items that were discovered in the home safe for the new buyer,” said Gallant, who plans on putting the property on the market this spring.
“I would say this is definitely one of the finer country homes on the Island. The original owners seemed to have a lot of enterprising things going on such as carriage making (and) a blacksmith shop and they ran a big farm.”
Visual photographer Michele Lawlor has evoked a great deal of emotion on social media with her images of the decaying farmhouse, taken in 2015.
“It was a sad, lonely abandoned old home four years ago,” Lawlor said.
“It was a victim of the ravages of time, hidden by vegetation with memories lingering in its walls. And to think it was once someone’s pride and joy.”
Lawlor said she was pleased to see the "impressive transformation" as of late.
"I wish more heritage homes across the province could be saved like this one.”
The property, located on Route 103, is tucked away on two-acres of land and overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the distance.
“This house was at the edge of demolition and decay, but we saw the structure was still sound so there was something to work with, although not everyone would agree,” said Gallant.
“It definitely takes a certain person to look beyond the mess and see the potential, and we are happy to say the house is saved.”