PEI

How the sign from an iconic Charlottetown restaurant came back to family

A sign from the iconic Peter Pan Restaurant in Charlottetown is back is the hands of the co-founder's family.

Proceeds of the sale went to a good cause

The iconic Peter Pan restaurant sign is back in the Hill family's hands. Matthew, Emma and Cameron Hill show off the sign with Willa, Mia, Freya, Olivia, Sadie, Isabella and Coby. (Submitted by Matthew Hill)

The Peter Pan restaurant stood at the north end of Charlottetown from 1958 to 2012. It was such a landmark that the corner it sat on is still called by that name.

The burger restaurant closed in 2013 and was torn down in 2020.

The original wooden sign went to Holland College for restoration by heritage carpentry students. The fate of the illuminated sign was unknown until recently.

Roger Wells, a Summerside real estate agent who collects vintage signs, came across the sign in a vintage picker sale.

It was part of a larger lot and he ended up taking it all to get the sign. He put it up for sale in a Facebook post.

"And within, I would say, 30 minutes … I actually took it down because the phone was ringing off the hook. It was amazing. I've never had so much of a response," he said.

Many of the calls came from people who used to work at the restaurant, or whose children had worked there — It was a source of student summer and part-time jobs for decades — but there was one call in particular that intrigued him.

That was from Matthew Hill, grandson of Peter Pan co-founder Doug Hill.

An ad for the original Peter Pan restaurant. (CBC)

Hill said he started getting calls and messages from friends as soon as the post went up and he called Wells right away.

"I loved listening to stories about back when he was building these restaurants and his vision behind it," he said. "It was always kind of inspiring."

The family already has some of the elder Hill's harness racing memorabilia, and he wanted to add the sign to the collection.

Roger Wells is shown in his garage with some of the things he's acquired. (Submitted by Roger Wells)

People were starting to bid over the asking price for the sign. One offered more than twice the $1,000 he had tagged it for, but Wells liked Hill's story.

"When you're a picker and you know it's going to the right spot, sometimes it's not always about money," said Wells.

He sold it to Hill for the original $1,000 asking price, then turned around and donated the money for the ongoing restoration of the original sign.

The current owners of the old restaurant property said in 2013 they planned to build a mall there, but the site remains vacant.

 

With files from Island Morning

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