Old St. Andrews



Minister's Island



Of the many famous and wealthy summer sojourners to St. Andrews, beginning with Sir Leonard Tilley in 1871 and extending through to today, none was more famous or perhaps more talented and charismatic than Sir William Van Horne. Forced to leave school at 13 after his father's death, Van Horne started off in the railway business as a telegraph operator and soon worked his way up to General Manager of several American rail lines. It was his success in restoring nearly dead lines to profitability with a year or so that earned him the position of construction boss of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and second President of that Company. But Van Horne was more than a great railroad man. Humorist, amateur geologist and botanist, talented draftsman and painter, collector of art and conoisseur of Oriental pottery, a businessman with feelers in many different areas of industry, inclusing power generation, mining, even underwater sonar signalling, Van Horne was a true Renaissance man. He first came to St. Andrews at shrewd invitation of Frank Cram, whose scheme to create a first-class watering place out of the Town so as to increase railway profitabilty included Van Horne as matter of course. No less a personage than Sir Donald Smith came to St. Andrews at the same time, but Van Horne it was who established a lasting presence here, not only carving out a fabulous summer estate on Minister's Island (now a National Historic Site) but attracting many of his Montreal acquaintances to the Town as well, many of whom built beautiful summer mansions. This story is told in some detail in my book, Minister's Island: Sir William Van Horne's Summer Home in St. Andrews (Pendlebury Press, 2007). Below can be found a much more complete text of the history of Van Horne and his family in St. Andrews, as drawn from the local newspaper. As usual, I put the complete text first, then follow it up with particular areas of interest.