The theatre was built in 1891 by the Benevolent Irish Society of Souris (BIS) as a meeting and performance venue from the proceeds of a unique fundraiser. It was originally named "St. Patrick's Hall". At some point, it was renamed the "Souris Show Hall."
In 1912 the silent movies came and played 6 nights a week and the building was converted into a movie theatre. Movies, plays and other events were held at the hall until approximately 2000. Over the years it fell into disrepair after years of decay and neglect.
Kier Kenny purchased the building in 2009 and the building underwent a transformation. A new stage was built, the ceiling and walls were repainted and seats were fixed and cleaned.
The first event in the newly resurrected hall was a play "Don't Tell Mama" presented by The Silver Threads Seniors Club to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the town of Souris.
Since then the Souris Show Hall added new upholstered seats donated by the Confederation Centre of the Arts when they replaced their seating and other upgrades were made over time.
The Souris Show Hall Foundation, a not-for-profit charity has continued to present a wide variety of events including: musicians Richard Wood, Gordon Belsher and Brad Fremlin; Haines and Leighton; Matt Minglewood; George Cheverie’s eclectic jam sessions presenting English, Acadian, Celtic and First Nations entertainment; Mi’kmaq Legends; ‘Souris Live’ presented performances; and most recently sell out shows by Lennie Gallant and Buffy Saint Marie.
The Souris Show Hall is a great place for music and the arts. It has become an important element of the community and is currently conducting a Feasibility Study with an eye to the future connecting the Leard Building and the Show Hall into a Cultural Hub.
Leard’s Store was built in 1875 in Souris on Church Avenue. It began as a warehouse for Matthew and McLean Ltd and in 1898 was purchased by Waldron Brewer Leard, a tailor, who moved it to its current location at 80 Main Street, Souris. Due to its architectural, historical and economic association with Souris it was designated a Provincial Registered Heritage Place in 2010.
W. B. Leard, operated Leard’s Mens Wear in the west side of the building. The other side housed the law offices of J.B. Mellish and then Fraser and McQuaid. In 1926 photographer, Morley Acorn, used the second floor as a studio as well as a shop selling tobacco, sundries and pumping gas out front. Matthew and McLean Ltd used the third floor as storage for caskets.
The building earned the nickname the “three suit shop” as you could get a tailor’s suit, a ‘law’ suit and a box suit (casket) in the one establishment. Morley Acorn, served as Mayor of Souris and after his death in 1936, brothers Raymond and George made his many photographs available to the public and the Leard Store served as a local museum, honored by Heritage Canada in 1977.
Leard’s Store is an example of a commercial storefront common in many Island communities, many of which have not been preserved. This building played an important role in the economic, cultural and history of Souris. The Leard Building remained in the family until purchased by Kier Kenny in 2010 after purchasing the Souris Show Hall. The Souris Show Hall Foundation Ltd. had a vision of restoring the Leard Building and the Show Hall and combining them to create a Cultural Community.
Morley Sabine Acorn was born in Lower Montague in 1870 to Charles and Caroline (Sabine) Acorn. His maternal grandmother was Martha Jago, a noted minister, and preacher of the 1830s. Morley's family moved to Souris where he worked at the Klondyke Lumber Mill managed by his brother Herbert, (and known locally as "Acorn's Mill"). Both brothers later served terms as Mayor of Souris. Here Morley spent the rest of his life, marrying Gussie Muttart, daughter of Dr. E.B. Muttart.
Morley was a member of the Souris Citizens' Band and was fond of music. His fine bass voice could be heard in community concerts and at the Souris Methodist Church. It is not known when his interest in photography began, but he opened a photography shop on Main Street in 1914, in the New Mabon Building. When it burned to the ground two years later, all of the glass negatives he had made were destroyed. However, he soon reopened in a new building on the same site, selling prints and postcards of his photographs of Souris and district.
In 1926, Morley moved down Main Street to the W.B. Leard building, where he shared the ground floor. Here he operated a tobacco and sundries shop, had a photography studio in the backroom, and sold gasoline from pumps out front, in later years offering his motorists a choice of Imperial Oil or Irving Oil brands.
We are fortunate that Morley Acorn was in close contact with the Leard's, for on his death in 1936, his photographic work was preserved by the late Ray Leard, who displayed photos of Souris at the family clothing store, Est. W.B. Leard Reg'd.
The Heritage Foundation's collection of glass negatives by Acorn - from which almost all of these pictures were contact-printed by Barb Morgan - was donated by Ray Leard in 1974. His late brother George contributed information to this project through his 1959 article in Men's Wear of Canada ("The Leard's of Souris, P.E.I."), and through various entries in the George Leard Papers at the PAPEI. The prints of Morley Acorn and W.B. Leard's staff were supplied courtesy of Mrs. Ray Leard, Souris.