Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter Fun

Well, this seems like an appropriate image for today. I think that these children have the right idea. This is Canada in the winter. We are going to get cold weather and snow. We may as well make the most of it by doing something fun outside. This notion was further etched into my mind when I saw a young group of cadets, with toboggans in hand, heading toward Fort Anne earlier today. I would imagine that they are having a grand time sliding down the hills about now. With a cup of hot chocolate to finish off the trip, I have trouble thinking of a better way to spend a snowy Saturday afternoon. In fact, that may be my plan when I get away from the computer.

This image comes from the Charlotte Perkins scrapbook which I have been featuring lately. It was taken about 1900 on upper St George Street in Annapolis Royal. Unfortunately, the children are unidentified.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sallyport

There is perhaps no single location more associated with the history of Annapolis Royal than Fort Anne. From its early use as a encampment site for the Mi'Kmaq to the French planting wheat here during Champlain's time, there is a long history of human activity at the Fort. There is also a vibrant modern life at Fort Anne. In addition to a museum housed in the old officer's quarters, the Fort is the location for almost every civic holiday in Annapolis Royal. It would be hard to imagine Natal Day weekend without the sunset ceremony and fireworks at the Fort.

Through the years, you could guarantee one thing about the fort. Those who were defending it felt that the earthen walls needed improvement. Whether it was the French or the British, there were ongoing complaints that the walls needed to be rebuilt and reinforced. This is partially due to human nature. If you are assigned to defend something, it is only natural to want the best possible defenses. As the regimes changed, attempts were made to improve the fortifications. Today, the fort, which is operated by Parks Canada, is possibly the best example of Vauban style fortifications in North America.

Now, today's before and after images are of the sallyport at Fort Anne. This is easily one of the most photographed features at the Fort. Countless pictures have been taken with people standing inside the archway of the sallyport. This structure was once thought to have been built by the British during the mid eighteenth century. Current thinking places its construction about 100 years later.

As you can see, there has been some restoration work on the masonry for the sallyport. The walls look more structurally sound today than they do in the image from 1890. The trees found in the two modern images were planted sometime after the fort was decommissioned in 1854. Trees would have not been allowed on the Fort grounds as they would have provided cover for an attacker. Another significant difference can be seen in the bottom image. When the Fort was an active military establishment, it would have never had picnic benches.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What do you do in the Winter?

"What do you do in the Winter?"

Ah, one of my favorite questions. This is a question, usually asked quite innocently, that many people whose jobs seem to be related to summer tourism are asked. Not only asked, but this may be one of the top 10 most frequently asked questions over the course of a summer. In fact, I have been asked so often that I have developed a standard, if somewhat glib response. My winter activities are all of the things which allow the summer to happen.

That said, my winter routine of writing grants, preping and researching exhibits, various bits of building maintenance (I hung a door today), helping researchers, working on projects to bring some money into the Annapolis Heritage Society and meetings, meetings and more meetings is keeping this post fairly short. On a lighter note, the photograph is of a Bohemian Waxwing I saw around the corner from the O'Dell House Museum a couple of days ago.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Barque John Johnson

Today seems like a good day to post a bit of background on one of the artifacts in the Annapolis Heritage Society collection. By mandate, the AHS collects artifacts that have been made or used in the western part of Annapolis County (Annapolis, Granville and Clements townships to be precise). This mandate is a useful thing since it allows us to direct our collecting activities and it puts limits on what we can accept. Like most museums, we simply do not have enough room to store and properly care for all of the items we are offered. Our ability to preserve artifacts and tell the story of Annapolis County is best served if we concentrate on our specific geographic region.

I decided to take a walk through the O'Dell House Museum to see if anything would catch my eye. When I walked into the back parlour of the museum, the large ship portrait with the gilt frame seemed to be calling out for some attention. As I have previously stated, one of my personal interests is Annapolis Royal's during the age of sail in the 19th century. So, I was not all that surprised when this was the artifact catching my eye.

The painting of the Barque John Johnson was done by Heinrich Andreas Sophus Petersen and his father's half brother Peter Christian Holm in 1877. In the lower right corner it is signed "H. Petersen & P.C. Holm". As with all of their paintings, the medium for this one is oil on canvas. Along with his father Lorenz Petersen, Petersen and Holm can be considered among the leading ship portrait artists in Altona (near Hamburg, Germany) in the latter half of the 19th century.

Many of the paintings by Petersen and Holm feature the ship sailing by a prominent headland and this one is no different. In the lower left corner, the red cliffs of Heligoland can be seen. With its long flat tabletop appearance, Heligoland is immediately identifiable. This island lies off the coast of Germany in the southeastern corner of the North Sea. When this painting was completed, Heligoland was a possession of Britain but in 1890 the island was ceded to Germany.

As for the barque itself, the John Johnson was built for the Annapolis Royal firm of Pickels and Mills in 1874. This was the first ship launched by the company which had only been founded the year before. The John Johnson, 750 tons, was built by master shipbuilder Robert H. Young of Belleisle in the company's shipyard beside the Queen's Wharf in Annapolis Royal. The vessel was named for the father in law of both Christopher Pickels and A.D. Mills.

The John Johnson was mainly used to ship lumber. Its usual crossings were between New Brunswick and ports in Great Britain and western Europe. Records show that the vessel made at least one trip to South America. In 1879 the barque was sold to the Troop fleet of St. John, New Brunswick and it was later sold to owners in Norway.

This painting represents a period when the outside world began to open up for Nova Scotia and Annapolis Royal. Vessels from this province found their way to ports across the globe. Our products were brought to an international audience and, in return, ships returned carrying sugar, spices, furniture, porcelain and the occasional ship portrait.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, January 26, 2009

Christchurch Anglican, Karsdale

In Nova Scotia, we have a limited number of existing churches that were built in the 18th century. I feel that we are lucky that four of these churches are in close proximity to Annapolis Royal. The surviving churches are Old Holy Trinity Anglican in Middleton, Old St. Edwards Anglican in Clementsport, Centenary United Church in Upper Granville and Christchurch Anglican in Karsdale. For the most part, these churches tend to be simple yet elegant structures. As we go along, I will try to profile each of these architecturally and historically important buildings. Today, I will begin with Christchurch.

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, many Loyalist families emigrated to the Lower Granville area. Some of these families, (Bogart, Bohaker, Cronin, Roblee, Thorne, etc.) still have descendants who live in this area. As with other Loyalists, many of these people belonged to the Church of England (which is otherwise known as the Anglican or Episcopal Church). Allegiance to the Church of England was often associated with sympathies for the British Crown. As the Reverend Jacob Bailey would discover, life could be very difficult in revolutionary America for those thought to sympathize with Britain. While this was not necessarily their reason for leaving America, membership in the Church of England often played a role.

Once the Loyalists began to settle into their new home, their thoughts turned to establishing a church. In 1791, construction began on a new church in Lower Granville. This church was built according to the specifications of Bishop Charles Inglis who was Nova Scotia's first Bishop. The church was officially consecrated as St. Paul's in 1793. In 1882, both the community and the church were renamed. The church became Christchurch and this section of Lower Granville was named Karsdale in honour of Sir William Fenwick Williams of Kars.

Physically, Christchurch is a fairly plain building built in the New England style. Its main decorative feature are its Gothic style windows; many of which have their original glass panels. The steeple has a slightly bellcast roof and is topped by a weathervane which reads 1791. The building is clad with clapboard and painted white.

There are impressive archival records detailing the construction of this building. These records list the contribution made by each member of the community as well as the cost of goods used in the construction of the church. Perhaps my favorite part of these records is that they actually record the number of bottles of rum used during the construction. Who knew that rum was a building material for the Anglican Church?

Christchurch also has an impressive cemetery surrounding the building. This space is quiet and well maintained. Included in this cemetery are the stones of the many of the Loyalist settlers who built the church.

All for now,
RGS

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hockey Day in Annapolis Royal

Well, if I need to explain how today's images are related to heritage, I will assume you have probably not spent much time in Canada in the winter. Some activities are heritage related by their nature and, in my mind, skating is one of them. There really is nothing to compare to skating outside on a clear, crisp day. The wind and fresh air add a great deal to the experience.

These photographs were taken earlier today on the French Basin in Annapolis Royal. The ice is about nine inches thick today so there is no fear of going for a swim. There is a little bit of crackly ice on the surface so you still need to watch out since your skates may dip a bit as you are going along. On the whole it was good skating and a whole lot of fun. If you have the opportunity, this is a great way to spend an afternoon.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hillsdale House

Lately, I have posted some archival images taken by Charlotte Perkins. Charlotte was a writer of history and an amateur photographer in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is thanks to Miss Perkins, and a handful of other early photographers, that we have such a rich photographic record of Annapolis Royal at the turn of the century. I have mentioned her early life at the Queen Hotel but, I have not really mentioned much about the building she lived in later on, the Hillsdale House. The image in this post was taken about 1880 and features the wedding cake gardens which no longer exist.

The building itself is a two storey timber framed structure that was built in approximately 1860. A few earlier dates have been proposed through the years but these are probably inaccurate. This is due in part to the property's prior use as part of the military exercise grounds for the garrison at Fort Anne. This building is one of the best examples of Italianate architecture in Annapolis Royal.

The Hillsdale House was built for Susan Forbes Foster. At the time of her marriage to Edwin Ryerson, a strict pre-nuptial agreement was signed giving her complete control of the property. When Susan Foster died in 1895, the property was sold to the Perkins family (Charlotte's Parents) who had previously owned the Queen Hotel.

Never a second-class establishment, the Hillsdale House has played host Governors General, Prime Ministers and even royalty. As a young man, Prince George of Wales (later King George V) stayed here. There is even a guest book bearing his signature.

With the exception of the 1970s and part of the 1980s, when the Hillsdale House was a private residence, this building has almost continually been operated as an inn. Today, this is still one of the finest accommodations in Annapolis Royal. In addition to its ongoing use as an inn, the building is used for various community gatherings and receptions. For more information on the inn, you can check their website or their blog. Since this is such a pretty property, I will try to post some pictures when their gardens come into bloom.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Acadia Pier

I am going to begin something new today. As I have previously mentioned, the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives have a vast array of photographs which document different elements of the history of our community. Some of these scenes have not changed too much through the years while others have changed dramatically. Through the years, buildings have been built, torn down or burned, trees have grown and the scenery changes.

I suppose that I will refer to these as the "Before and After" images. What I will do when I post one of these images is to start with an archival image and contrast this with an image taken on the day of the post. Whenever possible, I will try to replicate the perspective of the original photographer as closely as possible. I will start with an image of the Acadia Pier on Annapolis Royal's waterfront since this shows such a dramatic change.

In 1881 a group of local businessmen established the Acadia Steamship Company. Locally, this group was fronted by T.S. Whitman and Laurence Delap, two of the community's business leaders of the time. The group worked toward owning a number of small steam vessels but they also constructed the large pier seen in the top image. This pier extended 300 feet into the Annapolis Basin and, unlike other local wharves, could be accessed at all tides. The T at the end of the wharf provided 30 feet of water even at low tide.

The structure located on top of the pier is particularly interesting. This building was an insulated apple warehouse. Filled with sawdust, the walls kept out the majority of the winter winds and allowed barrels of apples to be stored in a somewhat controlled facility while they waited to be shipped around the world. The warehouse itself was supplied by a spur line of the Dominion and Atlantic Railway which ran right to its door. As you can see in the image taken earlier today, time has not been kind to either the Acadia Pier or its warehouse.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Josephine and Ethel

I am trying to save a bit of time in my writing process today. I need to head to Halifax in a little while so I do not have much time to write. So, I have decided to take a look at the archival images stored on my hard drive to see if there was anything that would jump out at me.

The image of these two young ladies, Josephine Riordan and Ethel ??, has always been one that I have liked. As with some of the other archival images I have posted lately, this one comes from Charlotte Perkins' scrapbook which is kept in the Annapolis Heritage Society's archival collection. It was taken sometime around 1900.What I like about this image is that there are a number of subtle things going on. This is also an image that, for a number of reasons, it would not be possible to take today.

The most obvious element of this picture is the clothing worn by the ladies. This would have been very typical of young women in Annapolis Royal at the turn of the 20th century. These dresses would not have been highly fashionable in Paris, London or New York at the time but they clearly demonstrate what people in Annapolis Royal would have been wearing. Another appealing thing is that this was the sort of clothing worn by working families. People would often put their best clothing on if they were being photographed. This gives us a bit of a warped perspective about the clothing that people wore. This image is a candid shot of two young ladies wearing their everyday clothes.

Now, what are they sitting on? If you take a close look, you can see that these are random bits of scrap wood. These are actually the remnants of the process used to make heads (tops and bottoms) for barrels. In the late 19th century, coopering or barrel making, was the most common trade in Canada. This was also a very common trade in Annapolis County. Barrels would have been used to ship and store all types of merchandise. Everything from rum to dishes, apples to tobacco, and salted meat to coal oil was shipped in barrels. The coopering trade was almost entirely replaced by the introduction of plastic shipping containers in the mid twentieth century. Today, most coopers are found in historic villages like Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, Nova Scotia.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Last Fish Tale

Ok, let's start with a pop quiz. What was the most important American port for Nova Scotia fishermen during the late 19th century? New York? No, you need to think smaller. Boston? Nope, still a smaller community. The answer is the small Cape Ann fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Just take a look at some of the genealogies that are available at the Annapolis Heritage Society Genealogy Center and you will quickly see how many families have members who went to work in Gloucester. In fact, by the end of the 19th century, 80% - 90% of all Captains sailing out of Gloucester were Nova Scotians. It is for this reason, but not this reason alone, that I chose to read and review The Last Fish Tale (ISBN 978-0-345-48727-8).

Gloucester is the topic of Mark Kurlansky's new book The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America's Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town. As with most of Kurlansky's books, he has a very ambitious subtitle. I should state from the outset that I would consider myself a fan of Kurlansky's work. I have previously read and enjoyed his books Cod and Salt. As with these previous titles, I appreciate the author's ability to start with a single topic and develop a sweeping history.

Perhaps it was because I had read two of his earlier titles that I approached this book with a bit of trepidation. Looking at the title, the book looks like it may be a local history. I don't have anything against local history (just the opposite in fact, without local history, I don't have a job) but local history can often be limited in its scope. If you are not intimately involved in the topic, local history can be alienating. I shouldn't have worried.

Kurlansky traces the evolution and development of Gloucester in an easy and sensible narrative. We meet various historic people as well as some of the unique characters who have lived in the community. We also experience some of the triumph and heartache of a community whose livelihood is attached to the sea. Once he has laid the ground work of how this community has developed over the last 400 years, he uses it as a point of comparison to other fishing communities around the world. He also uses Gloucester as a case study for the ongoing failures in the management of fisheries. Throughout all of this, he also manages to weave in appropriate recipes for the topics he is writing about.

One of the elements of the book which I found fascinating was the struggle between fisheries and tourism development. These two uses of the community's ocean resources seem to constantly run into each other. Kurlansky also takes the time to compare Gloucester to similar communities who have wholeheartedly embraced tourism (while it is not mentioned, Annapolis Royal would be one of these communities). It is very interesting to see how this division between new money and traditional ways plays out in another community.

As I mentioned, I would consider myself a fan of Mark Kurlansky's writing. The Last Fish Tale is partially a local history, partially a recipe book, partially a lesson in art history, partially a treatise on management of the fisheries and, above all things, an homage to social diversity and the role that fishermen play in society.

All for now,
RGS

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter at Port Royal

For those of you who are reading this post in warmer climes, Annapolis Royal is in the middle of a cold spell. I realize that cold in Annapolis Royal is not like cold in Winnipeg or Edmonton, but when the temperature hits -20 degrees Celsius, I feel that you can officially refer to the weather as cold.

There is something about this time of year that makes me feel a bit of sympathy for the men who arrived and established the Port Royal Habitation in 1605. A handful of these men had survived the horrific winter of 1604 on Ile St Croix. This site was chosen since the French explorers figured that it would give them protection from potentially hostile native populations. Unfortunately, when the water around them froze and stranded them on the island away from water and food, things got very difficult. Of the 79 men who started the winter on the island, 39 would die from scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) and another 20 would become seriously ill. These men, including Samuel Champlain, would have seen scurvy ravage their fellow inhabitants of the island. A general lethergy would have settled over the victims. Movement would become both difficult and painful. Eventually, their gums would swell and become bloody. Toward the end, teeth would fall out and old wounds such as mended broken bones would open up again. It was a very painful end.

In the Spring, the supply ship from France would have found a very sad group. A handful of the survivors decided to move the habitation to Port Royal. The remainder of the survivors, men who were here on contract, returned to France.

What would the new arrivals from France have thought? These men were also on contract. Would they share the same fate as the men on Ile Ste. Croix? Could they bear the winter in this harsh new land? The simple answer is that many of them would also die from scurvy. It was these painful deaths which caused Champlain to create the Order of Good Cheer in 1606. These elaborate dinner parties managed to increase the nutritional intake of the men and probably saved many lives.

So, while the weather stays cold, my thoughts will occasionally stray back some 400 years ago to a group huddled in Port Royal at l'Habitation. This group, unlike the Mi'Kmaq who had generations to adapt to the rigours of a winter in this part of the world, were totally unprepared for this climate. Cold winds blowing through animal skin windows and imperfectly made walls. The men trading whatever they could to get animal hides from the Mi'Kmaq in an attempt to stay warm. In the end, there was no way to really get warm and there was always the threat of a painful death lurking in the background.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, January 16, 2009

A few more Angel Heads

Last week I posted a bit of background on the angel head designs which are often found on the older tombstones in Annapolis County. Since I have a few more of these images stored in files on my computer, I figured that I should post a few to demonstrate the differences in the carving. Most of these stones date somewhere between 1750 and 1812. All of these stones are located in the western part of Annapolis County.

I am not going to provide the information on who is buried at these stones at this time as it is the stones themselves that I am featuring. Note the differences in composition. Some of the images tend toward the gruesome while others are light and almost happy looking. Despite their differences, all of the images make use of the head with wings motif.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Queen Hotel

About a week ago I posted an archival image that Charlotte Perkins had taken of the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal. Prior to this building on upper St George Street being renamed the Queen Anne Inn in the 1920s, its owners, the McPherson family, had another property called the Queen Hotel. This earlier building, featured in the photograph in this post, was destroyed in Annapolis Royal's great fire in 1921.

In the 1830s, a man named John McLeod built a hotel on St George Street directly across from Fort Anne. This hotel he named the Dunvegan House. In 1873 the property was purchased by the Perkins family (the parents of Charlotte Perkins who took this picture) who operated an inn until they moved up the street to the Hillsdale House in 1895. When the Perkins family sold the hotel, it underwent a series of additions and structural changes. The building we see in this picture has most of these Victorian additions.

By the time this picture was taken, the simple Georgian Inn with the gambrel roof had undergone quite a metamorphosis. To imagine this building as it was built, you first need to start subtracting pieces. The first thing to go is the turret. The original structure would have included only the shuttered window to the right and two windows to the left of the turret. To create the Georgian symmetry of the house, another window would have obviously been where the turret is located. The section with the three small dormers and an entryway for carriages would have been added shortly before this picture was taken. This image, by the way, was taken between 1905 and 1910.

In 1921, Annapolis Royal's great fire started in the livery behind the Queen Hotel. Legend has it that a young stable hand started the fire to see how long it would take to put it out. For the record, it took a long time. While this building was one of the first casualties, it was not alone. Approximately 1/3 of the downtown section of Annapolis Royal was burned. At its peak, houses were dynamited to create a fire break which would protect St Luke's Anglican Church.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fog then Frost

Just a quick post today. When I was driving home from the Annapolis Heritage Society Board meeting on Monday night, I was struck by how thick the fog was on the Annapolis River. I thought that I had seen every type of fog in during my time in Annapolis Royal but this was different. A curve ball from nature if you will. The fog was so thick that I could not see the Annapolis Tidal Generating Project as I crossed the Annapolis River causeway. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, this is a large building right beside the road. You need thick fog to even hide parts of it. In fact, the car in front of me vanished for a short time as well. This made for a bit of stress behind the wheel. The amazing thing is that the fog had vanished by the time I had crossed the causeway and turned into Granville Ferry. This is a distance of less than a quarter of a kilometer. For the rest of my ride home the night was perfectly clear.

When I drove in to Annapolis Royal yesterday morning, all of the fog had turned to a picturesque hoar frost. I could not resist hauling out the camera for a few images of the frosty old town. For some additional images of the frost, check Trish Fry's Gardens Shutterbug blog. If you don't like the weather in Annapolis Royal, just wait five minutes.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Sad Day for the Troop Barn

It is with some sadness that I am making this post today. When I attended the Annapolis County Heritage Advisory Committee meeting yesterday I learned that the Province of Nova Scotia has started the process to deregister the Troop Round Barn in Granville Centre (just east of Annapolis Royal) as a Provincially Registered Heritage Property. If anyone was wondering, the building was designated in 1984. I can understand why this process has started but it makes me sad all the same. No government authority wants to see something dire happen to one of their registered heritage properties under their watch. Without some immediate attention, this property is heading toward something dire.

The Troop Barn is a graceful octagon with a cupola or lantern on top. It is clad in vertical clapboard and painted a now fading shade of red. This barn has been a landmark in Granville Centre since it was built in 1888 and is one of two surving octagonal barns in this province.

Why have we come to this point? The simple (perhaps simplistic) answers are money and purpose. In our modern age, nobody is willing to purchase the Troop property and try to operate a farm. Even on a small scale, farming would not make much sense economically. So, if the barn is not being used for its intended purpose, what can you do with it? I have heard lots of interesting suggestions. With some significant effort and money, it would make an interesting music hall or theatre. It would also make a very good community hall. In a similar way, it would make an interesting artist's studio or art gallery. I have heard people ponder turning it into some sort of learning institute. Of course, it could also be converted into residential or office space.

What keeps any of this from happening is money. The property is available. It could be purchased for $50,000.00 Canadian but, that would just be the start. It would take a great deal of money and effort to stabilize the barn before any other work could take place. Believe me, stabilization is necessary.

To sum the whole situation up, the property is being deregistered because of its condition. Unless something is done quickly, the barn is going to collapse.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Order of Good Cheer

Like many people who work in history, I sometimes have a problem with reading historical fiction. This happens most often when I am reading something on a topic I am familiar with. Bill Gaston's new novel The Order of Good Cheer (ISBN 978-0-88784-200-9) is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Mostly, my problem lies in the fact that if I am already familiar with the subject, I find myself looking for problems rather than enjoying the narrative. It will often take me about 100 pages to get out of the hyper-critical history mind set and remind myself that I am reading fiction.

Don't get me wrong, The Order of Good Cheer is an interesting character sketch which sweeps through 400 years and a full continent. The book traces both the story of Samuel Champlain and the French settlers at Port Royal in 1606-07 (although Gaston has compressed events into one year) and the fictional Andy Winslow in modern day Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Gaston's task in adding some colour to the story of Port Royal is a difficult one. There are few original written sources on the Habitation, and these provide little information as to the character of the men who were there. As such, Gaston has played a game of filling in the historical blanks. This is where my interpretation (and it is just that, interpretation) differs from Gaston. When I close my eyes and think of the life the men were leading at the Habitation I get a different story based on the same events. Due to the lack of documentary evidence, my version isn't correct, neither is his. I do find it interesting to see how he has taken the known sources and created a world that works on many levels.

The other part of the story takes place in modern day Prince Rupert. For some reason, I find this world more understandable despite my closeness to the Port Royal story. This appears to be an easier story for Gaston to tell simply based on the breadth of modern life he has to draw on. This allows his characters to have a few more sides and warts in their personalities. In a character sketch, these warts are refreshing.

Gaston builds a number of interesting parallels into his twin narratives. To begin with both communities share the initials P.R. (pretty deep analysis I know). Both stories have a significant love interest and, of course, there are various levels of complication based on the attainment or fulfillment of this love. Andy's obsessing about the return of his long lost love interest, Laura Shultz, does grow a bit tiresome at points. I must admit, toward the end of one section I found myself wondering aloud if there had been more ink spilled over the second coming of Laura Shultz or Jesus. In the Port Royal story, the French carpenter Lucien has a relationship not separated by time and physical distance but by two clashing cultures.

There is also an interesting interplay with the Native population in both sections of the story. It is interesting to see how events put in play 400 years ago have manifested themselves in the Prince Rupert narrative. On this same level, there is an undercurrent of impending environmental disaster which has been set in place partially because of changes made with the arrival of Europeans. Of course, both stories wind their way toward an Order of Good Cheer dinner which changes things for all involved.

On the whole, this is a very well written and often compelling book. For those of you interested in a hunt, Gaston has included at least two of the best similes that I have ever read (I will leave you to find these for yourself). If you are at all interested, it is worth picking up a copy of The Order of Good Cheer.

All for now,
RGS

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Snowy Sunday Morning

This will be a fairly quick post this morning. I had some errands to run in Annapolis Royal before our current snow storm got too strong (15 -20cm predicted) so, I figured that I should stop at the O'Dell House Museum to make sure things were in shape to weather the storm. When I hopped out of the car, I saw that there was yet another version of the ever changing view of Granville Ferry so I hauled out my camera and snapped a few pictures. Because of the snowfall the definition of the houses on the Granville side of the basin is compromised, but this is what it looks like. You will also see from a couple of these pictures that the tide is very high this morning. This is usually the case due to the storm surge.

The two black ducks, which you can see in the bottom of the top picture, were resting unseen along the bank of the river. As I approached the bank with my camera and startled them, the rustling of feathers and scurry of moving ducks gave me a good startle. Better to wake you up than I cup of coffee I can assure you. Despite my adrenaline rush, I am very happy to live in a place where we can interact so directly with nature.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, January 9, 2009

Angels in Annapolis County

I figured that I should probably explain the image that I have chosen in my profile section of this blog. It is the same image at the top of this post. For those of you unfamiliar with this sort of iconography, this is an angel head or cherubim and it was a common motif on tombstones in this area before 1820. I have also heard these referred to as a winged death heads (I personally vote for the flying deadhead but my suggestion usually elicits frowns). There are a wide variety of styles which were employed by the carvers of these stones. I may take the opportunity to post more of these angel heads in the future.

The angel head is to symbolize the soul's ascension to heaven (ie. becoming an angel) or acts as a symbolic guardian angel for the departed. Deborah Trask, currently the curator of the Mahone Bay Settlers Museum, wrote an excellent book entitled Life how Short Eternity how Long in which she gives a greater background about this style of tombstones. If you can find a copy of this book, it is a very interesting read.

Now the sensible question is "with all the images I could choose from, why did I pick this particular angel head for my profile image"? Well, over the past few years I have worked on a number of projects which have brought me into Annapolis County cemeteries. In that time, I have developed a great appreciation for the art of tombstones. The stones which I find the most interesting are the angel heads, especially those carved in slate. This is partially because these are among the earliest stones in our area and partially for the artistry of the carving itself.

This particular angel head comes from the stone of Douwe Ditmars at Old St. Edwards Anglican Church in Clementsport, Nova Scotia. Captain Ditmars was a Loyalist from Jamaica, New York who came to Clementsport in at the end of the American Revolution. Like many of the Loyalist emigrants to Annapolis County, he was of of Dutch ancestry. Other Dutch names include Amberman, VanBlarcom, VanBuskirk, VanTassel etc. When he was granted land in 1786, much of the current community of Clementsport was included in Captian Ditmars allotment. In fact, he was the one who sold the land for the building of Old St. Edwards Church. Legend has it that the land was sold for one peppercorn, but documentation may not support this story.

So, I have chosen this graceful image of an angel head because I appreciate the artistry of the carving. I have also chosen it because it is one of the best preserved stones of this vintage. Finally, I have chosen it because of the link between this stone and Captain Ditmars. He is one of the links between our community and the historic events of the American Revolution which not only changes the 13 colonies but has a hand in the creation of modern Nova Scotia.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Queen Anne Inn - St. Andrews Boys School

I am going to post another image from Charlotte Perkins' scrapbook today. For those who are unfamiliar with her, Charlotte Perkins was one of the great chroniclers of Annapolis Royal's history. Born in the last part of the nineteenth century, Charlotte lived through some of the highest and lowest points in our community's history. In addition to her book, The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal, she has left a wonderful legacy of photographs which she took throughout her life. This example is actually one of my favorite images in the Annapolis Heritage Society collection.

Anyone who is familiar with Annapolis Royal will find the building featured in this image immediately identifiable. The Queen Anne Inn on upper St George Street is one of the architectural landmarks of Annapolis Royal. The house was built in 1875 as a wedding gift for William Ritchie and Fanny Foster. This building is a testament to the high Victorian period in Annapolis Royal as well as the wealth and influence of the Ritchie family. The couple only had one son and decided to operate the building as a boarding house until they sold the property.

After a series of owners, the house was opened as the St Andrew's Boy's School in 1897. It is during this time as a boy's school that this picture was taken. The boys are taking part in some sort of exercise class or, more likely, a gun drill. In the AHS archival collection we have additional pictures of this building as a school as well as a copy of one of the School's advertising This image was taken between 1897 and 1907, the years that the school was in operation. For most of the last 100 years the building has been run as a hotel.

One of the things that I admire about this structure is that there is a different treatment for the windows on each floor. You will also note that there is very little vegetation around the building. A similar picture taken today would show mature trees, gardens and bushes.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crisis in a Small Town

For those of you who live outside of our province may not have heard, the Town of Annapolis Royal is in the middle of a bit of a crisis. Yes, even our peaceful little town has a crisis every once in a while. For better or worse, this crisis does not seem to be one of our own creation. That said, if things are allowed to proceed unchecked, this crisis does threaten the very existence of Annapolis Royal as an incorporated town.

What is it you ask. What can threaten the future of this old town? Why the changing property assessment on Nova Scotia Power's Tidal Generating Station of course. Confused? Well, honestly most of us are confused and wondering what is going on. Essentially, in a move which was unexpected, unannounced and seemingly undocumented, the town of Annapolis Royal is in a position where they may lose in excess of 25% of their annual operating budget. This is all related to a complex grants in lieu of taxes program which Nova Scotia Power uses to pay the provincial government. For more on the background, I would suggest the following articles.

http://www.novanewsnow.com/article-288098-Kinsella-baffled-concerned-over-new-NSPI-assessments.html
http://www.novanewsnow.com/article-284982-Annapolis-Royal-budget-crisis-uncovers-longstanding-conflict.html
http://thechronicleherald.ca/Search/9010098.html

Most of the reader commentary posted on the various media websites has been very positive toward Annapolis Royal. People seem to genuinely feel that Annapolis Royal makes an important contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia. Of course our historic importance and our terrific tourism infrastructure play no small part in creating those opinions. On the other hand there were a few people saying that Annapolis Royal is too small to deserve to exist as a town. To those people I would like to quote All in the Family's Archie Bunker and say "PPPPUHHHHHTTT". Yes, Annapolis Royal is a town whose population is hovering just under 500 people (499 I was told the other day). But, Annapolis Royal is one of the places who is doing things right. Within the last five years the town has been named the most liveable small town on earth, selected as a cultural capital of Canada, won the Prince of Wales award for preservation of built heritage and won national and international Communities in Bloom competitions. We have a thriving cultural scene with museums, art gallerys and a live theatre. We also have an impressive environmental record and an organization like the Clean Annapolis River Project working in town. Do I even need to mention the Farmer's market, the Historic Gardens, the natural beauty, or the friendly and engaged citizens? The world needs more Annapolis Royal not less!

Sadly, I am writing this at a time when there is great indecision about where this process is going. The Town is appealing the decision (if the province makes clear what the appeal process is). For now, residents are obviously and rightly upset.

My thanks to Trish Fry for the image at the top of this post. It is a bit too icy and rainy for me to want to crawl around taking pictures today.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

deGannes - Cosby House

I recently had a request to mix in a bit more of the built heritage of the Annapolis Royal region in this blog. It has always been my plan to profile the buildings in and around Annapolis Royal but, these profiles usually take a bit more time and thought since I try to make sure I am factually accurate. That being said, I usually try to keep the tone of this blog fairly light so, it is in that spirit that I will write my built heritage profiles.

Where to begin with built heritage in Annapolis Royal? As I have previously mentioned, we are blessed with a collection of heritage buildings that would be the pride of any community. From imposing buildings like the Annapolis Royal Courthouse, and the Fort Anne Officer's Quarters to more fanciful buildings like the Queen Anne Inn and the Pickels-How House, we have a wide variety of historic styles and sensibilities represented in our architecture. I suppose that the proper place to begin is at the start.

The oldest surviving house in Annapolis Royal is the deGannes-Cosby House on upper St George Street. This is a small colonial style house built with a gambrel roof and two chimneys. The house is notable for its remnants of wattle and daub, a clay wall infill used during the Acadian Period. In fact, this is only one of two buildings in Annapolis Royal (the Sinclair Inn Museum is the other) whose origins can be linked to the pre-1710 French regieme in Nova Scotia. This house was built in 1708 for Louis deGannes de Falaise, a French Major who was posted to the fort at Port Royal (Fort Anne). The house was built on the ashes of a structure built in 1690 that had been destroyed during the British attack in 1707. It is believed that elements of the foundation and masonry for the chimney are remnants of this earlier structure. deGannes and his Family returned to France sometime between the British capture of Port Royal in 1710 and the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

For much of the 18th century the house was owned by members of the Cosby Family. Alexander Cosby arrived in Nova Scotia in 1721 as a Major in the 40th Regiment of Foot who were stationed in Annapolis Royal and Canso. Cosby, who has been described as habitually quarrelsome, was appointed Lt. Governor of the Fort and Town of Annapolis Royal and fell into a bitter power struggle with Lawrence Armstrong the Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia. After serving as a Lieutenant in Admiral Boscowen's fleet at Louisbourg in 1758, Cosby's son Philipps went on to become an Admiral of the White in the British Navy.

Almost amazingly, the house has had only 16 owners over 300 years and remains a private dwelling today. Today, the deGannes-Cosby House leads a quiet yet prominent existence on upper St George Street. In the summer of 2008 the deGannes-Cosby House celebrated its 300th anniversary with a Garden Party hosted by the Honourable Mayann Francis, Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, January 5, 2009

Annapolis Scallops

Home again, home again jiggity jig.

Well, after a two week trip to Ontario followed by a week long sabbatical at my home on the North Mountain, I am back to my desk relatively refreshed and ready to go. Now, all I need to do is wade through a pile of about 250 emails waiting for me! Oh the joys of modern technology.

As I mentioned in my last post, Annapolis Royal is the proud host to a number of the vessels which fish scallops (pronounced skal-ups to the locals) in the Bay of Fundy. These boats usually tie up at the moorings by the Annapolis River causeway. In addition to their photographic qualities, the scallop fleet are an important part of the local economy. The scallops they catch are shipped from our community to stores and restaurants across Canada and the United States. Without any feeling of exaggeration, I will proudly state that our Bay of Fundy scallops are the finest in the world.

The boats in our scallop fleet are on average about 25 years old and generally made from wood. Some of the vessels are actually nearer to 50 years old. As you can imagine, there is a great deal of maintenance needed to keep wooden vessels of this age afloat. In Annapolis Royal, the boats are cared for at the the Annapolis Royal Boat Haul-up. This is a very interesting facility and an excellent example of how heritage skills and trades have moved forward into our modern world. While some of the equipment and tools have evolved technologically, the process of keeping wooden boats floating is the same now as it was 300 years ago. After the boats are hauled up using a large metal crib and a huge winch, they are cleaned or defouled. At this point, any rotten timbers are removed and replaced and leaks are fixed. All of the boat's seams are still filled using oakum and cotton as shipbuilders have done for hundreds of years. The oakum is now made from a Danish tree bark rather than recycled hemp rope. It is very nice to walk down St George Street and hear the ring of a caulking mallet. When all of the repairs are done, the boats are painted and sent back to work. In discussing heritage in this area, There are so many times when I need to speak in the past tense. It is nice that the scallop fleet allow me to show how heritage and heritage skills are being carried forward.

One of the things I always find amusing is discussing where to eat scallop with visitors to the area. For years Digby, our neighbouring community, has promoted itself as the scallop capital of Canada and has boasted of the world's largest scallop fleet. I should hasten to add that Digby deserves both of these titles. The promotion must be working for the Digby area because without fail I hear the following statement a number of times every summer. "We really can't stay in Annapolis for dinner. We want to have Digby scallops." I am always left in a quandry as to whether I should burst their bubble and tell them that they are the same scallops in Annapolis Royal as in Digby. They are fished in the same areas by the same fishermen using the same equipment. The only difference is a geographic boundary on a map.

All for now,
RGS