“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables (1908) the old fashion, but beloved children’s novel attracts a worldwide audience to the book’s setting Canadian Maritime Province of Prince Edward Island (PEI). The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 47 languages. It is extremely popular in Japan attracting thousands of tourists to PEI from that country alone. Parks Canada owns and manages the Green Gables Heritage Place, the nineteenth century farmstead that was the inspiration for many of the settings in the original book. Charlottetown, the capitol of PEI, also has wide offerings of Anne experiences – tours, gift shops, teahouses and a long running musical.
The reason people flock to PEI to find Anne of Green Gables is not hard to fathom. Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the book and many other young adult stories, not only tells heartwarming tales of her character’s everyday experiences, but was also a gifted nature writer. Her young heroines animate the rural landscape and nearby seashore with imagination and imagery. Readers make a pilgrimage to the Green Gables site, to walk in the places depicted in her novels as Lover’s Lane, the Haunted Woods and the Balsam Hollow. True confessions: I am one of those Ann of Green Gable fans along with many other woman of my generation. It was charming to venture through these modest, but evocative landscapes.
While much of PEI still retains its agricultural and small town character, the Cavendish Landscape, as the area around the Green Gable site is known, is the most threatened by over development. The historic site is surrounded by a Stanley Thompson designed golf course golf course, which were often a feature in the creation of early Canadian National Parks. Later development includes a small-scale amusement park with water slide, restaurants, tourist cabins and more.
Fortunately in 1994 the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust was established with the mission of preserving 400 acres of the scenic agricultural and coastal region on the north shore of the Cavendish Landscape. To date over half of the land identified as significant has been conserved and will continue in its original agricultural use. Local community members have been instrumental in leading this effort to retain this culturally significant resource. The preserved land links together the Prince Edward Island National Park and the Green Gables Heritage Center the coast and the agricultural interior on the north shore of PEI. Anne fans of today and tomorrow should thank them for their hard work!
“The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only — a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music. The woods are human, but the sea is of the company of the archangels.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams