Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Gavaza House

By all accounts, the name Gavaza is not one which is common to Annapolis Royal. In fact, When he came to Annapolis Royal in the early 1800s Antonio Gavaza may have been the town's entire Italian community.

According to historical accounts, Antonio Gavaza was a native of Chava, Italy (note the name of the community on his tombstone). While the name of this community is provided, in many ways he is a man with a mysterious background. A search of modern Italian communities will not produce a Chava. This may be the name of a community which has changed through the years. Maybe it was a name in one dialect which was not carried forth into modern Italian.

I have spoken to various descendants of this family who have visited Annapolis Royal. One family story says that he was given land in Annapolis Royal as part of a personal vote of thanks from the British Monarchy for some service he provided. I am not sure what circumstances would be in place to have the British granting land in Nova Scotia to an Italian but it is an interesting story. Certainly there was some interaction between the British and communities on the Italian peninsula as the British attempted to control shipping in the Mediterranean during the early 1800s. Perhaps he was a refugee from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies who had done something for the British Navy. While he does not appear among the ranks of the disbanded war of 1812 soldiers perhaps this is why he was given land. For better or worse, when there is a mystery you can sometimes fill in your own details.

What we do know is that Antonio Gavaza purchased the Sinclair Inn (now the Sinclair Inn Museum) in 1818 for 350 pounds. Once again we do not know if Gavaza or his sons ever took a direct hand in operating the inn. There is evidence from later in the family's ownership that they leased the opeation of the inn to other people.

In 1825 Antonio Gavaza purchased the property beside the Sinclair Inn and built the house which is shown in the image at the top of this post. This is an interesting structure which incorporates a Georgian massing with an Italianate turret and Victorian bay windows. This house was torn down in the 1970s and, as the final image shows, is now home to a parking lot. As for Antonio Gavaza, he died in 1848 and is buried at the Garrison Cemetery in Annapolis Royal. His stone, the largest in the cemetery, is a granite obelisk.

All for now,
RGS

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