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Breaking:: Students Prepared to Aid in Mitigating Climate Change’s Impact on P.E.I.’s Historic Homes


They can’t do much about the ghosts, but a new partnership between Holland College and the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation should help preserve some of the island’s historic homes for years to come.

Josh Silver, lead learning manager for the university’s heritage modernization woodworking program, said the association will give its students special access to attics, basements and other areas of historic homes that are typically off-limits to the public.

In exchange, the students offered to do some repairs, using the building as a “living laboratory.”

Silver said a historic home is like a “living, breathing organism” that needs routine maintenance and checkups.

“He is like an older person. They need a little more care, they need a little more specialized care, that kind of thing,” she said.

Yeo House does not have electricity to keep the air circulating in the main areas of the building. Mold was discovered on the wallpaper. (Peter Young/PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation)

Matthew McRae, executive director of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, said staying on top of maintenance is becoming more important as extreme changes in weather cause more problems for buildings.

Yeo House in Green Park, which was built in 1865, was briefly closed last week due to mold caused by unusually high humidity in July.

When people think of climate change, they may think of big storms like Fiona. But things like that humidity… can pose problems for historic houses.—Matthew McRae

High humidity has also caused some delays this summer with work on the 146-year-old Historic Beaconsfield House, as new plaster on the walls takes longer than normal to dry.

“People when they think about climate change may think of big storms like Fiona … or heat waves,” McRae said.

“But things like that humidity… can pose problems for historic homes, especially where sometimes the circulation isn’t as good or there’s not great ventilation, so you really need to be aware of that.”

Exterior view of the historic Beaconsfield house.
High humidity caused some delays this summer with work on the 146-year-old Beaconsfield Historic House. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Staff worked overtime to remove mold from Yeo House and ventilate it to make it safe for employees and the public.

McRae said it was important to reopen the tourist attraction as soon as possible.

“It’s over 150 years old and of course it’s reportedly haunted. So it’s got a lot of years and a lot of stories in the house and it’s just an amazing sight to visit.”

Silver said he’s excited to use the heritage homes as a teaching tool and get a “behind the scenes” look at how they were built, taking the time to see what went right and wrong.

Of course, they will fix what they can.

“Relationships with PEI’s heritage museums are really important because they recognize the value of that education,” Silver said.

“They’re willing to take a little step back and allow us to slow down a bit knowing that in the long run, we’re feeding the general population a lot of high-quality carpenters who can do this kind of work.”

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