Are you visiting Prince Edward Island? Put this place on your list, if you haven’t done so already.
Orwell Corner Historical Village was admittedly a last minute choice for us on our recent visit to the Island. We had an unplanned day and wanted to explore the Eastern side of the Island. A quick internet search revealed Orwell and we thought we would check it out. If we didn’t like it, we figured we would just walk through it quickly and move along.
We worried needlessly about wasting time. It wasn’t wasted at all! This ended up being one of the highlights of our trip to Prince Edward Island! We say that primarily because of the people who work there and who are clearly passionate about their work which we’ll explain more about below.
We arrived shortly after the village opened and discovered ourselves the sole visitors, minus one busload of school children. Truthfully this might be why we enjoyed the visit so much, because we had more exclusive attention as a result. (It pays to visit the Island prior to the height of tourist season. Just sayin’.)
Orwell Corner Historical Village was named after Britain’s Minister of Plantations, Sir Francis Orwell, in 1766. It was settled in the early 19th century by the Irish, Scottish Highlanders, and American Loyalists. It remained an operational village until the the late 1990’s when the last resident died. Now the village is protected and operated as a historical park, if you will, full of original buildings and costumed guides who are there to inform a modern audience how the village would have looked and operated in the year 1895.
You might recognize a few of the following scenes if you are a fan of the Road to Avonlea television series. Many scenes were shot at Orwell which added some excitement to our outing. The church that you see above (est. 1861) is original and the outside of which is seen in the show. Unfortunately there are some structural integrity issues present and so we were unable to tour the inside of it. We were made to understand that they will be making the necessary repairs to preserve and re-open it which is great news indeed!
There are 14 buildings onsite to explore, the schoolhouse being one of them. Below you’ll see the inside of the original schoolhouse, built in 1895. The only building which is not original is the village Community Hall which was destroyed by fire in the 1950’s. It was rebuilt during the 1970’s. Fans of Anne might recognize it from the Anne of Avonlea movie.
We began to become really excited about the village when we arrived at the barns and met the village farmer. There are three acres of land which is actively farmed with completely operational 1895 tools. The farmer has worked at Orwell for decades and clearly loves his work. He told us about the village horses, some stories of different tourist experiences, and about the wagons located in the Carriage House.
From the barn, we went to the General Store which was so much fun that we barely have words to describe it.
When we walked in we were greeted by a young man who asked if we’d like to hear about the items in the store. We replied in the affirmative and proceeded to receive a fabulous tour of the shop and the house connected to it. He was extremely knowledgeable about antiquities and the history of the occupants of the home. We, quite simply, loved every moment spent in his company. We stayed in this location for well over an hour, talking with him about the village, history, politics and life in general. He loves what he does and it shows. Never have we enjoyed a living history lesson more than the one we received at the General Store. (Shout out to Luke: “THANK YOU!”)
After visiting the general store we were invited over to the Blacksmith shop where the local blacksmith made us a hook (which we now have hanging in our home). We really loved talking to him also because he too enjoys his work. His back story as to how he came to be the blacksmith at Orwell is quite fascinating and we could tell that he is happy about the change in his life which has brought him here. We are people who love and enjoy being around people who love what they do. Bored workers who are merely passing time can make history feel dead but the folks at Orwell brought it to life in amazing ways! Bonus: we learned about blacksmith operations in 1895!
In all, we probably spent about 3 hours at the village, taking the time to talk to whoever was available to talk to us at any given moment. We lingered in the buildings and just enjoyed our time immensely. Again, this is due in great part to the fact that the people who work at Orwell Corner Historical Village clearly enjoy their work. This place is full of people who are a good reminder to anyone to find what you love to do and then do it. When you do that which you love it shows and makes other people excited and passionate about your subject of interest as well.
We do recognize that our experience was rather unique as the village was rather quiet when we went. This is a fact that the introverted side of ourselves were admittedly grateful for and we took great delight in. However, we would absolutely want to share our experience with others and encourage them to go, with children in tow or no. It’s a worthwhile stop and we’re glad to say that we’ve been.