Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Williams House - Part 1

I have written in the past that the Sinclair Inn has had perhaps the most complicated evolution of any building in Annapolis Royal. While other structures have been moved by oxen, floated down the Annapolis Basin or partially destroyed and rebuilt, the only building whose complexity truly competes with the Sinclair Inn is the Williams House on St. Anthony Street. Unfortunately, many of our readers, even local residents, will not know this house by name. This is the simple, white, two-storey house which stands across from the Annapolis Royal Liquor Store. This charming Neo-Classical structure is maintained as a private residence with little fanfare about its long and interesting history.

The house itself was built circa 1715. This was a turbulent period in Annapolis Royal's history. The siege which had finally given the British possession of Nova Scotia happened a mere five years earlier. After the siege it took until the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to settle the ownership of Nova Scotia. By 1715 there would have been an uneasy truce between the Acadian residents of the banlieu (about a three mile radius around the fort) and the British military and merchants who also inhabited the town. Neither side trusted the other and the British were especially wary of the Mi'kmaq who lived in the area.

The Williams House originally stood at the current intersection of St. George and Victoria Street. Like the Sinclair Inn, the wall construction of this building was wattle and daub or, what the Acadians call torchis. This house is one of a handful of Canadian buildings which survive with remnants of this style of clay and salt marsh hay wall infill. Local archaeological work has shown that this sort of construction was common in an Acadian context. There are also pockets around New England where this sort of house was built. During a renovation in the 1980s, some of the clay infill was removed from the house. A section which was saved is now on display at the Sinclair Inn.

Significant changes happened to the Williams House in 1874. To make way for the new Union Bank (now the Royal Bank of Canada), the Williams House was lifted and broken into a number of sections. There are as many as three houses in Annapolis Royal which may have sections of the Williams House. In addition to house on St. Anthony Street, the ell of the Lewis House on Chapel Street and a section of the Gertrude Ritchie House on St. James Street may have once been parts of the Williams House.

I have just come to the realization that this story is too long for a single post. At some point in the coming week I will make a post about the most illustrious resident of the Williams House, Sir William Fenwick Williams of Kars.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to Part II of this post as I once lived in Gertrude's house on St. James Street!