A popular Prince Edward Island landmark and historic post office that pays homage to the home of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery has been damaged by a fire.
New Glasgow Fire Chief Jason Peters said firefighters were quickly able to contain the Monday afternoon fire at the Green Gables post office in Cavendish, but there was some damage to the roof.
The building was modelled after Montgomery’s white house with green trim and a red door, and contains a small museum that details her time as an assistant postmaster in the area.
“When we arrived, there were flames coming off the roof of the post office,” said Peters, adding that building’s facade was not damaged.
The site also houses a Canada Post office that operates from May to October.
Bianca Gendreau, manager of the research division at the Canadian Museum of History, said Montgomery’s work in the post office is not widely known, but it ultimately helped spark her illustrious career.
“She used a lot of letterheads, official documents that you use in a post office, she used those to write her stories and novels,” said Gendreau from Gatineau, Que.
“It was while working that she could send her manuscripts over to different editors without the village knowing about it. It was so important to her to retain her privacy... Until she was accepted as a published author, she did not want to let all the village know that this was her goal, her dream.”
Montgomery’s writing was a secret she guarded very closely — something the author discussed in her diaries, said Gendreau.
“In those days, Cavendish was a small town and the post office was a place to meet, exchange news, share information and where you received information about government services,” said Gendreau, adding that Montgomery started working at the post office in 1898.
“In seeing all this ongoing activity at the post office, maybe it inspired some of her characters.”
Gendreau said the post office was located in the house where Montgomery lived with her grandparents.
The original house had been destroyed, so a similar house was moved in the 1970s from elsewhere in Cavendish to the site of the historic post office. It was eventually renovated to serve as a post office and museum.
Cavendish Mayor Matthew Jelley said the property is one of several popular Anne of Green Gables tourist sites in the area, including the cemetery where she is buried and the farm that inspired the story.
The site is often frequented by Japanese tourists, as her 1908 novel and other Anne stories are also famous in that country.
“In 1952, the book was part of their program of studies, and then the television show was translated and presented there,” said Gendreau. “So generations of Japanese learned about Lucy Maud Montgomery and read her books.”
Peters said two Canada Post employees were inside the building at the time of the fire, but were not injured.
“From what I can see, I’m sure everything inside can be fixed up,” he said.
Gendreau said the museum contains post office furniture that was used on P.E.I. during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Canada Post said it was assessing the damage.
“We are grateful that our employees and customers are safe and that the fire department responded quickly to limit the damage to the post office, which is historically significant,” said spokeswoman Hayley Magermans in an e-mail.
The cause is under investigation.
Montgomery was born in Clifton, P.E.I., in 1874 and died at age 67 in Toronto. All but one of her 20 books are set on Prince Edward Island, according to the L. M. Montgomery Institute.