Was “Elmwood” the house called “Beechwood” belonging to Diana Barry’s Aunt Josephine  in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic book “Anne of Green Gables?”

There is good reason to believe that Elmwood was the inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s description of the house called “Beechwood” located in Charlottetown. She wrote in the first decade of the 20th century and that was when this house was at its most celebrated. Two of the major researchers in the Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute offered their opinions that there was good justification for linking “Elmwood” with Lucy Maud’s writing. The original owners of Elmwood, Arthur and Jane Peters were prominent politically and socially in the Province. Arthur was a lawyer and had been in politics since the 1890s and became Premier in 1901. Arthur’s father was Supreme Court Justice, his brother was Premier from 1891 to 1898 and his grandfather was the very wealthy industrialist, Sir Samuel Cunard.

“It was almost noon when they reached town and found their way to “Beechwood”.  It was quite a fine old mansion, set back from the street in a seclusion of green elms and branching beeches ”.  - Anne of Green Gables, page 296.  First Canadian Edition 1942, Reprinted 1955.

There is no record of any property in Charlottetown ever going by the name of Beechwood so Lucy Maud’s literary license allowed her to visualize another house and style it to fit her book’s needs.  Two existing houses might be considered contenders to have been the home of Anne Shirley’s best friend’s, (Diana Barry) Aunt Josephine.  These two are “Elmwood” and “Birchwood”.  “Birchwood” due to the similarity of the name, has occasionally by some been considered the model for “Beechwood”.  It was on the St Peters Road with a circular driveway in the front lawn, on the then fringes of the city to the East.

“. . . Miss Barry was pleased, and she stood on her veranda and watched the buggy out of sight”. – Anne of Green Gables , page 301

The major drawbacks to Birchwood being Beechwood is the absence of a veranda, there was never a seclusion of elms or any other trees, and that “Birchwood” didn’t have a private drive from the road; it was set back only about 75 feet from the street. Also sadly, today, Birchwood has lost all its grandeur. It was turned into a funeral home and an addition connected to it is in the 1980′s “ponderosa” style between a Junior High School and apartment complex.

Elmwood however still has that long lane for the buggy ride up to the door. Seventy elm trees were planted by Arthur Peters in the years before he built the home to augment plantings along North River Road from the 1860′s. It also is located on what was then the major road leading out of town and would have been on Lucy Maud’s route into and out of the city heading west where she lived. It has the extra advantage of having featured so prominently in the social life of Charlottetown’s rich and famous of the day. It was a spectacular home then as it is today and certainly would have been one of the highest profile residences for Lucy Maud to have considered as her inspiration.

If correct, you could be staying in a part of Anne of Green Gables’ history.

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