Buildings of the Van Horne Estate
Covenhoven - The Mansion
In 1891 construction began on the house named for Sir William Van Horne's father, Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne. What started as a somewhat modest summer cottage, after as many as seven modifications, became the 50 room residence you see today. This is where Van Horne threw off the vexing cares of business & pursued his diverse interests from art to zoology. His imaginative approach to everything he touched is evident in the buildings & beauty he created on Ministers Island. To see a floor plan of Covenhoven Click Here.
Begun in 1911, completed in 1912, the bathhouse is built from red sandstone blasted from the beach below. The upper floor featured open windows & a drain hole to let out rain-water. The lower floor contains change rooms and a circular walkway leading to the outdoor salt-water pool. The panoramic view from the bathhouse inspired many of Sir William Van Horne's paintings.
Designed by Edward Maxwell, the barn was constructed by unemployed shipwrights in 1898 at a cost of $20,000. To build the 3-storey structure, complete with freight elevator & remarkable interior framing required an estimated 50 train loads of rough lumber. The extensive use of well-positioned windows provided for maximum light & ventilation. The barn housed prize winning horses, cows & pigs. Two silos, each 16 feet in diameter, could hold 110 tons of fodder.
The Gardener's Cottage
The cottage was built in 1893, providing year-round housing for the gardener & his family. Generations of this family worked the gardens. The gardens were a horticulturalist's dream, with acres of orchards, vegetable & flower gardens supplying the house daily. Groundskeeping was intensive with miles of borders to be cut along the paths. Huge lawns required cutting twice a week using a horse-drawn mower. Thirty miles of walking was required for one complete cut.
Reverend Samuel Andrews House
In 1790 Reverend Andrews built this house on the island which he purchased for 250 pounds sterling. Thereafter it became known as "Ministers Island". With the bar under water for a large part of the day, visiting parishioners & getting into town for church services was not easy. Except for a brief interlude Ministers Island remained entirely in the Andrews family until 1891, when a large parcel was sold to Sir William Van Horne.
The Icehouse and Creamery
Milk produced by the Dutch Belted cattle was piped from the barn to this building. The deep stone walls, glazed tile interior & whitewashed coffered ceiling were designed to keep the interior cool for the preparation of milk, cream & butter. Excess raw milk was sold to local dairies. When the Van Horne family were not on the island dairy products from the creamery were shipped by train from the Bar Road Station to Montreal for their enjoyment.
The Carriage House
This was built in 1892 as a combination barn & carriage house. The stable had room for seven horses with a hay loft above. Upstairs, above the carriage house was a two room apartment for the stable keeper. The carriage on display here is original & would have carried visitors from the Bar Road Station across the bar & up the enchanting cedar lane to the house. There are numerous accounts of accidents on the bar, involving horses & carriages, caused by the swiftly moving tides.
Under Benny Van Horne's direction, this two car garage was built in 1917 to house the vehicles he had purchased. Upstairs was a chauffeur's apartment. Addie Van Horne's Model T Ford was redesigned with a larger door to accommodate her girth, allowing her to get in & out with greater ease.
The Windmill and Gas House
Until electricity came to the island in the 1960s carbide gas, made in the gas house, was pumped to the main house to provide lighting. This was a difficult operation & if not done properly belched oily soot. The windmill provided water until the well dried up & had to be relocated deep in the woods where fresh water was abundant. If the inventive Sir William was alive today he would surely be using solar & wind turbine power.
In 1908 construction began on the greenhouses, the largest of their kind in Canada. Grapes, cucumbers, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums & cherries grew in abundance. The Van Hornes were lavish entertainers & visitors to the island enjoyed the bounty. The locals were welcome to tour the greenhouses & grounds on Sundays. The greenhouses also provided a steady stream of produce in the winter months which was sent via train to the Montreal estate.