Lindsay Shen has done a great service to all of us in St. Andrews with the recent publication of her book published by the Hong Kong University Press. “Knowledge is Pleasure” is a revealing portrait of the first owner of this house bringing Florence Ayscough (nee: Wheelock) to life as a passionate Sinologist of the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Shen tells us that Florence’s father, Thomas Wheelock, had “made all the money he wants in China” and would now reside in Boston and summer in St. Andrews. We will be adding to this aspect of the story of Kingsbrae Arms over the months ahead beginning here with a transcript of an article published in the town newspaper the “Beacon” October 29, 1896 titled Another Summer Cottage.
Plans have been prepared and initiatory steps have been taken for the erection of a magnificent summer cottage on the property of Mr. Thomas R. Wheelock, of Boston. This property is situated a little to the east of the Algonquin and has a very scenic outlook, commanding the town, Katy’s Cove and the outer bay of St. Andrews. The building will be two stories in height, with a frontage of about 80 feet, running back 36 feet. It will contain eighteen or nineteen rooms, and will be constructed with a view to permanent use if necessary. The structure will be of wood with a large stone foundation. A commodious cellar will be arranged and in a short time work will begin. It is the intention to erect the frame, and close it in until Spring, when the plastering and finishing will be done. The house is to be ready for occupancy next season. It will coast about $5000.
If our inflation calculator is correct, $5000 in 1897 would be worth about $150,000 today. That’s still a great price for a building with features including barn and windmill pump for running water. Work progressed throughout the winter so efficiently by local builders, carpenters, plasterers, painters & plumbers that the town read the following report in the Beacon on June 10, 1897.
The handsome summer cottage of T. R. Wheelock, of Boston will be tenanted this season. This dwelling has just been completed, and is one of the prettiest and most commodious in town, commanding a splendid outlook of Passamaquoddy Bay. The interior appointments are very comfortable. A large well, situated alongside the house, provides the water therefore. The water is raised by means of a “Dandy” windmill. It is as dandy as its name. A large barn is located alongside the house. The cottage is now ready for occupation. The town authorities have graded the roadway in front of the cottage, so that the surroundings harmonize very prettily.
During our extensive restorations we uncovered a paint color that can only be described as China Jade. It was the very first coat of paint in the gracious parlor with its twin fireplaces. We decided not to paint over a small section so that the original color scheme can be seen to this day. The jade color in the parlor was a backdrop for fine Chinese furnishings, screens & cabinetry designed to showcase some of the family’s treasures from Shanghai.
In 1923 Florence donated a lovely teahouse to the Passamaquoddy Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, a Canadian charitable organization. The IODE was founded in 1900 during the Second Boer War in patriotic support of the British Empire. During the Second World War the IODE had 50,000 members and participated in war relief efforts. The teahouse in St. Andrews was a gathering place for family and town celebrations. Florence’s friend and collaborator, Lucille Douglas decorated the interiors with lovely murals that were nearly lost to neglect & disrepair until the St. Andrews Civic Trust rescued them. They are now preserved, as is the teahouse, which has been lovingly restored and is in active use today. The views from the teahouse are some of the finest in our charming town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea.