Some houses are not meant to be lived in. Take the six-gabled house in Cap-Egmont P.E.I., for example. It doesn’t have heat or running water or any other facilities for that matter. But then again, it wasn’t designed to be occupied.
The house is made entirely of bottles and, not surprisingly, has become a popular stopping point for curious summertime travellers in the southwest part of the province. The whimsical structure was built by Édouard Arsenault, a fisherman, former lighthouse keeper and Second World War veteran who in 1979 was inspired by a postcard from his daughter of a glass castle on Vancouver Island.
After collecting bottles from friends, relatives and local businesses, he spent innumerable hours cleaning each one and removing the labels before erecting the house. It measures 20 feet x 14 feet and was made with 12,000 bottles held together with cement. Visitors encouraged Arsenault to advertise it as a tourist attraction, which he did in 1981.
Buoyed by his success, he built two more in the next few years, including a hexagonal structure that originally housed souvenirs and handicrafts made by his wife Rosina. It now contains a large selection of bottles with special features that Arsenault thought worthy of display. (This building was rebuilt in 1993 after it was damaged during a particularly severe winter.)
The third and final building is a chapel, complete with pews and an altar, that was constructed with 10,000 bottles and finished in 1983, a year before Arsenault’s sudden death at age 70. Many visitors comment on a feeling of tranquility the building exudes, as well as its artful design, particularly when light streams in from behind the altar.
Together the three structures are constructed using a total of 25,000 bottles of various shapes, sizes and colours. Now in its 35th season, the Bottle Houses attraction is now owned and operated by Arsenault’s two elder children, Yvette and Réjeanne, and is one of the longest-running tourism attractions on Prince Edward Island (open from May 15 to Oct. 3).
Another dwelling made entirely of bottles can be found in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region. Along with being a tourist attraction in itself, it serves as a visitor centre.
Located in Saint-Jean-de-Dieu, population 1,663 (who said small towns are boring?), the eye-catching structure resembles a castle and is made with 27,927 bottles.
Conceived by Chanel Rousseau as a recycling project, it took volunteers 4,000 hours to complete. Inside is information on the village, which is in the heart of the Basques region, on the banks of the Boisbouscache River.
There’s a golf course here and access to the National Hiking Trail. The visitor centre is open 10 am to 6 pm from June 24 (Saint-Jean Baptiste Day) to Labour Day, though at other times of year it can be appreciated from the outside.