Monday, July 6, 2009

The Adams - Ritchie House

Annapolis Royal has some buildings with very complicated histories. I suppose this is to be expected in a community with 300 year old buildings and a legacy of conflict between European powers trying to control North America. Structures have been built, altered, partially destroyed, moved to different locations and combined with other structures. Among the most complicated structural evolutions was the Adams - Ritchie House on St George Street.

The Adams - Ritchie House may have been built as early as 1713 by a man named John Adams. Adams had been a member of Sir Charles Hobby's regiment during the 1710 attack on Port Royal (renamed Annapolis Royal after the attack). Adams also appears to be a protege and business associate of Hobby as there are a number of rather confusing property transactions which take place before Hobby's death. After the peace which came with the signing of the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Adams left the military and began a career as a merchant in the newly minted Annapolis Royal. During his life he was also a member of the governing council and collector of customs.

Now, this is where the story starts to get complicated. While the property was clearly owned by Adams, our recent round of dendrochronology (tree ring dating) testing has given us a construction date of 1747. In many ways this date makes sense. We already knew that the building had been partially destroyed during one of the French and Mi'Kmaq attacks on the town in the mid 1740s. Previously it was believed that much of the structure had been saved from this destruction. The results of the dendrochronology show that more of the building was destroyed than was previously thought.

By the 1770s the house had passed into the hands of the Ritchie family. It is here that John W. Ritchie, one of the Fathers of Confederation, was born. Additions to the building at the end of the 18th century include adding a second storey, and two wings which can be seen in the top picture.

The building underwent a massive transformation under the ownership of A.M King in the 1870s and 1880s. King, who apprenticed as a tailor in the United States, came back to Annapolis Royal to open the Annapolis Clothing Hall (later the Annapolis Clothing Emporium). From this location King employed a number of employees to produce dungarees as well as other items of clothing. To accommodate his growing business, King added a third floor as well as full Victorian front with two bay windows. This building can be seen as it looked after 1885 in the second photograph.

By the 1980s the Adams -Ritchie House was in a hard state. The building was all but abandoned. A hand written sign in the window read "closed until after the parade" with no mention of what parade or what year that it was written. It is at this point that the Annapolis Development Commission began work on the building. The third storey, Victorian front and wings were removed to show the building in a much earlier form.

Today, the Adams - Ritchie House is still shown in its restored state. The building is home to the very successful Leo's Cafe. Patrons can sit down to a cup of coffee and a sandwich made with bread baked on site. Even better are the selection of desserts which include a raspberry cheescake brownie. This is definitely one of the favorite Annapolis Royal dining locations for visitors and locals alike.

All for now,
RGS

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