By Kendall Taylor
The Green Gables Visitors Centre is situated on 16 acres of rural land in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island that was the setting for the highly successful 1908 novel ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The property includes several locations familiar to readers: the main Green Gables house, the Haunted Wood trail and Lovers Lane. The property was acquired by Parks Canada in the 1930s and has become an extremely popular tourist destination for PEI.
A 2015 survey determined that the existing facilities were in need of renovation and expansion to accommodate a growing number of visitors from Canada and around the world. Parks Canada reacted by creating an extensive program which would be constructed in three distinct phases. Phase I was completed in the spring of 2017. Phase II, consisting of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Exhibition space, a main lobby atrium, a gift shop, and public washrooms, was completed in the spring of 2019. Phase III was to decommission the temporary gift shop in Phase I and transform it into a new cafe and commercial kitchen.
The Visitors Centre acts as the main arrival point, connecting the property through a circulation axis that also frames views to the original farmhouse. A campus approach has been taken to help distribute visitors (who may number as many as 1100 at a time) across the site. Parking has been reorganized to separate bus, RV and car traffic from those who arrive by bicycle or on foot.
Parks Canada wanted a structure that would be respectful of the historic house and the vernacular buildings of the region, yet provide highly functional modern visitor facilities. Heritage restrictions apply to the Green Gables House and courtyard, but in the areas where the Visitor Centre is located are much more relaxed. This offered the opportunity to reinterpret the wood building tradition of PEI in a contemporary way.