Celebrate Culture

In addition to preserving, conserving and restoring key structures and features of Ministers Island, the Board of VHEMI and its volunteers are committed to celebrating and promoting the cultural, heritage and environmental experiences available on Ministers Island. This is an on-going process and is expected to evolve as more aspects of the history of the island are explored and more individuals and groups from St Andrews and the Charlotte Coastal Region become involved in developing a wider range of tourist experiences on the Island.

|New for Summer 2018 - MUSIC ON MINISTERS |

Cultural Dimensions

In thinking about culture we are thinking of: the way of life; the general customs and beliefs; the art forms; language; education; sciences and activities of the various groups of people that have shaped the history of Ministers Island. At least four different cultural groups are recognized as playing key roles. These include:

  • The Passamaquoddy
  • The Empire Loyalists
  • The Van Horne Family and associates
  • The people of Saint Andrews during the 20th & 21st centuries

This is an ever-changing place where certain things remain the same. Here are just a few examples:

The Arts

Then... For Van Horne art was more than a passion ..it was a necessity. He painted, played the violin collected ceramics and furniture and dabbled in architecture. His homes in Montreal and here on Ministers Island were festooned with a spectacular collection of artworks. There was a grand piano in each location and one can only imagine how music would have filled the air.

And now... The Gardener's Cottage is available for artists in residence. Plein air artists can be spotted just about anywhere on the island. Photographers find this a dream location. Theatre presentations take place in the barn and musical performances from acoustic in the bathhouse to blue grass on the lawn carry on the musical tradition.

Leisure Activities

Then... When not painting, Sir William loved games from cards to billiards. His family walked the trails, fished, bathed in the seaside pool, played cards, read and generally relaxed while here. The Van Horne ladies did needlepoint and sewed curtains and cushions to decorate the house along with making some of their own clothing.

And now... We invite you to walk or bike the trail system where you can discover a comfy chair overlooking the fabulous seascape. Play a game of croquet or washer throw on the lawn. Sit on the veranda, chat with other visitors while you take in the view and imagine another time. Take a book and enjoy a picnic at one of the numerous tables available on the site.


Then... The Passamaquoddy, which means "fishers of Pollock" inhabited the island thousands of years ago. Sir William continued the fishing tradition by locating at least two weirs on the island and constructing, a somewhat disastrous, sardine processing plant in Chamcook.

And now... You'll see evidence of the large aquaculture operations that abound in this region. As you come across the bar from the mainland you're likely to see "clammers" harvesting clams at ebbtide.

Come Explore - Come Imagine

Each era in the history of the Island is different but each builds upon the available resources and demonstrates the ingenuity and inventiveness of its inhabitants.

The centuries old cultural history of the Passamaquoddy is continued today in their artistry in basket making. When Europeans arrived, basketry helped the Peskotomuhkati people maintain cultural continuity, while also providing them with trade goods that European settlers needed. The weavers of today, most of whom reside in Maine are continuing to keep the rich traditions of the Passamaquoddy people alive with this heritage art form. An exhibit of their work is on display at Covenhoven.

Given his particular time, Van Horne faced the challenges of creating and maintaining a self-sufficient life style on an island that was without many of our modern amenities and was cut-off from access to the mainland for a fair part of the day by the tides. Yet through his inventive spirit he was able to use leading edge technology for the time to generate gas for lighting Covenhoven and creating an ambience that supported his entertaining activities. Faced with the need for food, he developed the farm with an exceptional array of livestock; and he used 'solar power' in his greenhouses to produce a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including grapes and nectarines, that were not available anywhere else in the region. We imagine if he were alive today he might well be a leader in the deployment of wind and solar power and a champion of the "Eat Local" food movement.

Today, while we focus on keeping the spirit of the past alive in its buildings, we also look at this fascinating place with a sense of what might it become in our hands.

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