Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Grange

I am still on the topic of old Annapolis Royal schools today. As the season changes and all of my summer staff have gone back to school, perhaps I am feeling a bit nostalgic for my own school days. I think that it is more than likely the romantic concept of learning that I am nostalgic about rather than sitting in class. My attention span is gone after two hours in a meeting so I can not imagine sitting in class all day.

Today's school, the Grange, is the direct predecessor of the County Academy. Unlike the County Academy, this building was never designed to be a school. The Grange was actually built as a residence by Judge Thomas Ritchie in 1810. For those who care to keep track of the various generations of Judge Ritchies, Thomas was the father of William Johnstone Ritchie who acted as the Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court from 1879 to 1892. Another son, John William Ritchie was a Judge on the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and is included in the ranks of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation. The Ritchies were not an underachieving family.

The Grange building itself would have been among the grandest houses in Annapolis Royal at the start of the nineteenth century. The fact that the house sat back from the road on an estate type property helped the grandeur of the structure. The elegant curved front bays are the distinguishing feature on this building. The photograph in this post may hide the fact that this was a very large house. The Grange featured no fewer than 12 bedrooms (one on the ground floor, seven on the second floor and four on the third). One can understand how this building would have been chosen as a school when it was eventually sold by the Ritchie family. The house also featured servants quarters and a kitchen in the basement as well as double parlours and a library on the ground floor. Today, I can only imagine Nova Scotia's elite as they made their way to Annapolis Royal to attend festive balls in the parlour of the Grange.

The building was opened as a school in 1883. With the Age of Sail at its peak, this was a period when the population of Annapolis Royal would have been booming. A large school would suit the community's desire to become a growing centre of commerce. Sadly, like the County Academy it was destined to have a short life as a school. The building was moved to a corner of the property to make way for the construction of the County Academy in 1900. The Grange was finally torn down in 1902.

Now, I will make the same announcement that I have made in the past few posts. The Annapolis Heritage Society now has a twitter account at http://twitter.com/odellmuseum This site will be a clearing house for various heritage notes and notices and thoughts. Let us know what you think.

All for now,
RGS

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