Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out Like a Lion

Ok, I am willing to accept a little bit of responsibility for the weather today. Yesterday I was so happy to see that the boat haul-up had opened for another season that I stared waxing philosophical about the coming of Spring. I had joyful visions of flowers and nesting birds. Well, Nova Scotia's ever changing weather lived up to its reputation. In a province where the expressions "if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes" and "if you don't like the weather out your front door just look out your back" are very appropriate, I was a bit too quick to rule winter out. When I woke up this morning, a late season snow storm had once again coloured everything white.

So, rather than complain about the weather, I am going to revel in it. When I stepped out for lunch, I made a quick side trip to upper St. George Street to see what things looked like. The pictures in this post are from that trip. This is not normally a day that I would bother taking pictures. The sky is overcast and the light is flat. But, if I am to revel in the late winter weather, why not take pictures today.

The houses featured in this post will be immediately recognizable to those familiar with Annapolis Royal. While these are some of the exceptional houses in town, they are by no means the only exceptional buildings. For someone interested in historic North American architectural styles, Annpolis Royal is a treasure. The buildings in this collection range in age from the 1914 Annapolis Royal train station at the bottom left to the 1708 deGannes-Cosby House which is the brown building with the gambrel roof.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, March 30, 2009

Signs of Spring

Every community has their own signs that winter is coming to an end. In the Annapolis Royal region, some of these signs are natural while others are very much human endeavors. I have already seen or heard some of the natural signs of spring. The Canada geese have started to return, and the barred owls have been hooting out their mating calls. I have also seen a number of snow drops in bloom in lawns and gardens. These first flowers of the season are a very hopeful sign. These little bits of colour are a good reminder that warmer weather is on the way.

As for the human signs of spring, in Annapolis Royal one of the sure signs that weather is getting warmer is that a boat has been brought in at the boat haul-up. Most years this facility closes in late November or early December and remains shut until the ice is gone from the Annapolis Basin. Some years this has made for a late start to the season as the ice has packed in on the slip and the carriage has not been able to slide into the water. This year, the first boat of the season, the Scotia Provider, arrived on March 29th.

The haul-up is an interesting facility. In many of the conversations I have with visitors to Annapolis Royal, I refer to things that we once had. We were the capital of Nova Scotia, we had an active fort until 1854, we were the end of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway. I like the boat haul-up because I can point to it and show visitors how the workers are keeping some of our heritage alive. Many of the skills and techniques used to maintain our wooden scallop fleet are the same as they were 150 years ago. The most obvious example, though not the only one, is that the boats are still caulked (pronounced corked locally) with a mallet and caulking iron. The ring of the iron as it is hit with the mallet would have been a common sound in any community where ships were built. While this is a very intangible legacy, I smile every time I hear this noise.

I took the pictures for this post a few minutes ago. It is somewhat overcast and rainy today so it does not look too much like spring yet. At least it is rain and not snow. There is more to be said about the haul-up, how it works and its role in the community but this will have to wait for a future post.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back Home Again

I am not self absorbed enough to think that people may have missed my posts this week. But, if anyone was wondering why I wasn't posting, I had to make a short trip to Ontario and I was away from the computer. It was somewhat of a whirlwind with some personal stuff tossed into the middle so, it all seems like a blur right now. All this is to say that I am back, dragging a little bit, but I am back.

I had an interesting experience as I was flying back to Nova Scotia yesterday. My second flight of the day took me from Toronto to Halifax. I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the west side of the plane so I could see all of the landscape as we passed. For most of the trip there was a fairly thick covering of clouds but these started to dissipate as we were flying over New Brunswick. By the time we were over the Bay of Fundy, there was hardly a cloud to be seen. The view was improved by the fact that the sun was setting and the sky had a lovely reddish hew.

When we approached Nova Scotia we were flying at about 22 000 feet. At least the little television attached to the seat in front of me told me that we were flying at 22 000 feet. The first recognizable features on the Nova Scotia coast were Digby Neck with its associates Long and Brier Islands. As we flew on, the entire coast of South West Nova Scotia opened up. From that height, I could literally see all of Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne counties at the same time. I have seen the google earth maps of Nova Scotia but it is a very different feeling to see so many recognizable landmarks from that height. I was even able to clearly pick out Annapolis Royal as we flew over. The turbulence of the water going through the tidal generating station makes a visible foam on the water of the Annapolis River. This makes it quite easy to find Annapolis Royal. I would have taken a picture of all of this to share but, I forgot my camera on the back seat of the car at the Halifax airport.

I could not help but wonder what Samuel de Champlain, the cartographer at the Port Royal Habitation in the early 1600s, would have thought the view from the airplane. The image at the top of this post is of Champlain's map of the Annapolis Basin. It is amazing how accurate that he was considering the equipment he was using.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, March 23, 2009

Victoria Beach

I was out with my camera again yesterday. My son and I took a short trip down to Victoria Beach because he wanted to see the fishing boats at the wharf. Since we had a bit of time on a Sunday afternoon, I figured that this would be a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

We arrived at the wharf and hopped out to see what was around. He was immediately drawn to the fishing boats. If you want to impress a four year old boy, large machines will do it every time. I, on the other hand, started thinking that I should try to include some information about some of the other communities around Annapolis Royal in this blog. So, today will be the first of an ongoing series of posts on communities around Annapolis Royal. Like my other serialized topics, I will write up one of these when it is appropriate (or, when I feel like it).

My first memory of Victoria Beach was as I was crossing the Bay of Fundy aboard the Princess of Acadia ferry. Like many residents of the Annapolis Royal region, I first came here as a tourist. Not knowing the area, I looked out from the ferry and saw a small collection of houses nestled among the rocks and steep cliffs of the North Mountain. I can remember thinking "What and isolated place to live. Who on earth would want to live there". Apparently, I do as I now live on this road. While the scenery is different between Port Royal and Victoria Beach, I am still on the same road and on the side of the same mountain.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Victoria Beach is a small fishing community literally carved out of the rock of the North Mountain. The Beach, as it is called by residents, lies directly across the Digby Gut from the Town of Digby. All of the houses in the community are tiered into rows on the face of the mountain. This decidedly adds to the charm and rustic sensibility of the place

On Marc Lescarbot's map of 1609, the spot where Victoria Beach is located is referred to as Andromeda. There is also a note about a fortification called Fort Notre Dame des Bonnes Eaux being located here. Permanent settlement in this part of Lower Granville started in 1784 with the arrival of the Loyalists. Many of today's residents are descendants of Loyalists or a group of Irish immigrants who came shortly thereafter. The strategic military use of this site overlooking the Digby Gut carried forward to the preparations for the war of 1812 when the Duke of York Battery was placed in this location. The modern name of Victoria Beach is in honour of Queen Victoria. The beach in question is a rocky area where boats could be pulled out of the water rather than a white sand beach.

Life would not have been easy in Victoria Beach. Exposed to the winds from the Bay of Fundy and at the mercy of the unpredictable fisheries, this was a hard scrabble life. Despite some hardships, the residents have a pride in place that is very refreshing. The community was, and still is, inhabited by hard working people who appreciate a good joke. This is clearly expressed in the way that one of the community's waterfalls is known as the Merry Pisser. This is also clearly expressed in the personality of former MLA Joe Casey who is perhaps the most famous son of Victoria Beach.

All of the images for today's post were taken around the wharf and the Casey's Fisheries building. Victoria Beach has many more stories to tell so I will check back here at some point.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Buckler and Barteaux Blacksmiths

A couple of days ago I posted an image of the former Annapolis Auto Station on St George Street. When I made this post I mentioned that the building had previously been used as a blacksmith shop and that the owners had gradually become mechanics. As I was digging through some files earlier today, I turned up this view of the same scene. The small building in front of the blacksmith shop was a taxi stand operated by Frank Ritchie. This picture was taken sometime around 1920.

The blacksmith was a key person in any community. In addition to their stereotyped role of shoeing horses and making nails, the blacksmith made or repaired countless items for the farm, fisheries or home. In a society where it was common to repair items rather than tossing them out and buying something new, the blacksmith was indispensable. Sadly, mechanization dealt a blow to blacksmiths. Cars replaced horses and nails were cut by machine. While we still have metal workers, most blacksmiths today are either artists, enthusiasts or working in a museum setting.

These images illustrates the benefits of archival photographs. The top image is the same scene as the image I posted a couple days ago but it is quite different. In the later image the flat roof is extended so that the building is rectangular. The small taxi stand in front has been replaced with a gas station. Without archival images documenting both of these scenes, this information would be lost today. This is especially true since this space is a park and parking lot today. These images also show what sorts of cars were in use in Annapolis Royal.

While I posted the image from the 1950s earlier in the week, I will include it in this post so that comparison between the images is easier.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Harris Cemetery

I had to take a quick trip out to Bear River at the end of the day today. Since I was going to take some pictures, I had my camera beside me in the car. As I was driving down highway 1, the little Harris family cemetery in Upper Clements caught my eye. It must have been something in the light today because, as far as cemeteries go, there is really nothing special about the Harris Cemetery. I have driven by this cemetery countless times without stopping. It is not a large or grand cemetery. There is no cast iron fence or imposing mausoleum. In all honesty, there are only a handful of stones and several of these have been knocked over. This is in all ways a very humble and somewhat forgotten cemetery and, it is because of this that I am glad that I stopped to take some pictures.

The Harris Cemetery is a fairly early cemetery. The oldest stone, for a child's burial, dates to 1798. This stone is another of the angel head stones that I admire. For some of the images of angel head stones I have collected in the Annapolis Royal region, click the cemetery button on the left side of the blog.

This is the cemetery where Captain John Harris is buried. I have had some opportunity to read about Captain Harris' exploits as he operated as a privateer during the war of 1812. Our sister organization, the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal, has printed a transcription of part of one of his journals from this period. I have a combined interest in the war of 1812 and privateering in Nova Scotia so Captain Harris' journals make for great reading.

If you find yourself driving down highway 1 in Upper Clements some day, I would recommend stopping to look around at this cemetery. It is small and some of the stones are on their sides but it really is a charming little cemetery. By the way, the early Spring is a particularly good time of year to visit otherwise overgrown cemeteries. Since the grass has not had the chance to grow again, the stones are more visible at this time of year.

All for now,
RGS







Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Annapolis Auto Station

I have stepped into the files at the Annapolis Heritage Society's archives for another image today. What interests me about this photograph is that it a scene which is not possible in Annapolis Royal today. Yes, the buildings featured in this picture are no longer standing but, I am not writing about them. While we do have a number of residents who own vintage cars, I am not writing about them either. What I am interested in is the gas station itself.

Those of you who live in the Annapolis Royal area know that we do not have a gas station in town. We do have stations just outside of town in Granville Ferry and Lequille but there are no gas stations in the town itself. From looking at this image, this was obviously not always the case. In fact, we have historically had at least six gas stations in the Town of Annapolis Royal.

The station in this picture was located at the current location of Petit Park beside the Annapolis Royal Town Hall. The larger building had previously been used as a blacksmith shop by James Buckler and Arthur Barteaux but they made the transition to become automobile mechanics as cars became more common. This was a common transition for blacksmiths.

I am very impressed with the graceful building built to house the gas pumps. This is a very interesting little building with its hipped roof and mushroom shaped exterior lights. We have very few examples of this style of purpose built gas station remaining in Nova Scotia today. The business itself operated under a series of owners until it eventually closed and was torn down.

The house beside the Annapolis Auto Station is the Haliburton House. From 1821 to 1829 this was the home of famed juror and author Thomas Chandler Haliburton. While he is most famous for his later novels about the clockmaker Sam Slick, it is in this location that Haliburton wrote much of his two volume history of Nova Scotia which was published in 1829. This house was torn down in 1958. I will undoubtedly have a post on Haliburton House at some point in the future.

As a note of interest, the man standing in the photograph has been identified as James E. Murray.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, March 16, 2009

A New Archival Collection

When it comes to archival collections offered for donation to the Annapolis Heritage Society, some are interesting, some very interesting and, on rare occasions, some are spectacular. Yesterday evening I received a phone call from Ian Lawrence, one of our board members, telling me that he had been invited to see a collection of family papers at a local house. The house in question has been owned by members of the Cronin family since it was built in the 1780s. When he arrived at the house Ian was directed to the attic where he discovered piles and boxes of old documents. The paper was definitely old. Some of it had been damaged by water, insects or mice. Other bits were crumpled or torn. To someone who is disinterested, this would have looked like piles of fairly useless decomposing paper. As Ian began to read through the material, he quickly realized that this was far more than what it appeared. The more he read, the more excited he became.

While we have not yet even come close to looking at all of the documents (we have approximately three banker's boxes full), we have learned that most of the material was written between 1800 and 1820. Included in the collection are ledgers, journals, ship's manifests, school lists, letters and countless IOUs and debit receipts. Most, if not all, of these documents chronicle life along the Granville shore of the Annapolis Basin. It is this sort of information which is invaluable to a local museum. These first person records not only allow us to gather and preserve more information about our community, they change and improve the stories that we can tell. It is truly hard to describe just how important these sorts of collections are.

I am including a couple of scans of images from this collection. These two, which were randomly selected, are not even the tip of the iceberg for what documents are available. The first is an 1807 letter to Darby Croneane (Cronin) where Colonel Milledge explains that he will be unable to assist him with an appointment which he was seeking. The second document is a simple list of materials purchased by William DeLancey on July 31, 1804. This is a seemingly random debit note but it clearly illustrates what sort of material was available for sale in 1804. As we process this material, I will include information on some of the highlights.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aerial Images

Included among the resources at the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives is a collection which documents the construction of the Annapolis River causeway. In my Curatorial opinion, this is a superb collection. There are literally hundreds of images which show the progress of the causeway from its earliest days to its eventual completion. As I go along with this blog, I will post a few of these images.

Included in the collection are several aerial photographs of Annapolis Royal. Aerial images are terrific since they usually give a wider perspective than you can achieve from the land. For the purposes of documenting the buildings in a community, this is an invaluable asset.

The first image shows the lower end of Annapolis Royal as it looked on May 9, 1958. Readily visible are St Louis Roman Catholic Cemetery and the Annapolis Royal rink on the left hand side of the picture. The O'Dell House Museum can also be clearly seen along the right hand side of the picture.

The second and third images are of the downtown core of Annapolis Royal. For those of you familiar with the town, this is the turn in St. George Street. Among the obvious differences from today, there is a service station beside Town Hall. Today this location is known as Petit Park and this is where our National Historic District plaque can be found. There are no service stations within the town of Annapolis Royal today.

The final image shows the causeway before it was completed. This image was taken on July 8, 1960 and I surmise that the above two images were taken on the same day. This is an interesting image as it shows the lumber yard for the Fortier Mill. While this area no longer houses a sawmill, there is development afoot. Brown Brothers Construction have been working to turn this area into Annapolis Royal's newest residential neighbourhood.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stones at Christchurch

I was browsing through some of my digital photographs a little while ago and I came across a folder which contains images of tombstone art from Christchurch in Karsdale, Nova Scotia. In previous posts I have posted some of the angel head tombstones from this cemetery. These can be found under the Cemeteries link on the left side of this blog. Today's collection of images illustrate some of the differing sorts of tombstone art which can be found in this cemetery.

I am not going to go into great detail to describe today's stones and their imagery. Many of the symbols, especially the carved lamb, speak very clearly for themselves. Please do not read these as morbid images. While under appreciated, tombstone art is a lasting and public form of expression for both the artist and the deceased. I will also note that many of the white stones are made from marble. Years ago it was common to use fire as a method to clear brush and overgrowth from cemeteries. These soft marble stones absorbed some of the smoke and were permanently stained.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Old Courthouse

The first Court of Common Law in what is now known as Canada sat in Annapolis Royal on April 20, 1721. During this session, the Governor and Council adjudicated both civil and criminal cases. Until a proper courthouse was built in 1791, sessions were held in rented rooms. Today, the site of the Annapolis Royal Courthouse is commemorated as a National Historic Site.

For those of you familiar with the buildings of Annapolis Royal this image will seem familiar yet strangely different. This is a photograph of a charcoal drawing of the Annapolis Royal Courthouse which was built in 1791. This courthouse was destroyed by fire on April 9, 1836 and was replaced the next year by the current building. Like its replacement, this building sat on the corner of St. George Street and what is now known as Prince Albert Road. The buildings share certain architectural elements which is why it will seem familiar. As an example, both structures are topped with a hipped roof and a cupola. There is little doubt that the 1837 building, with its elements of Palladian style, is the more ambitious building. Yet, the simple Georgian style courthouse shown in this image is a very charming structure.

If anyone would like to see the original version of this drawing, it is hung in the back parlour of the O'Dell House Museum.

All for now,
RGS

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Atlee Block and Fielding Block

Today has been a day of meetings so I will just post a quick addition to my before and after images collection. The first image is of the Atlee block which was built in the 1890s. This structure, with its impressive turret and modified Second Empire roof line, stood on St George Street across from the current location of Annapolis Royal's Town Hall. This was home to Atlee's Drug Store along with various other businesses. On the second and third floors the building had residential space.

When the 1921 fire hit Annapolis Royal the Atlee Block was one of the first buildings consumed by the flames. The second image shows the building which was built in the aftermath of the fire. This structure is known as the Fielding Block since it was owned by the Fielding family for much of the twentieth century. This building is currently home to an insurance company, a real estate agent and a pizzeria. I must admit that I miss the turret.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Toilet Paper Incident

Well, I promised something a bit lighter than a series of disasters in my next post. Annapolis Royal has many quirky incidents which have happened through its history. One of my favorites is the toilet paper incident.

While it is difficult to see visible traces of the military today, Annapolis Royal has a long military history. The toilet paper incident takes us back to April of 1721 when the British had control of the fort at Annapolis Royal (the name Fort Anne comes much later). The Ordnance Storekeeper, Lieutenant John Washington, was a interesting character. If we read reports about him, we learn two things, he strongly disliked his superiors Governor Richard Philipps and engineer Paul Mascarene and he liked alcohol. In fact, Mascarene accused Washington of being continually drunk and unfit for business. Perhaps Mascarene's reports had something to do with the following.

One fateful morning Lieutenant Martin Groundman entered the fort's privy and met Lt. Washington who was on his way out. When Groundman asked Washington for a piece of "foule" (toilet) paper he was handed a written document. The paper turned out to be a copy of a letter from Washington to Major Lawrence Armstrong. In the letter Washington was highly critical of Philipps and the other officers of Annapolis Royal.

When Groundman left the privy, he made his way directly to the Governor. Philipps, in a rage I am sure, immediately siezed Washington's letter book which was filled with copies of letters to British officials. In these letters Washington made careful efforts to chronicle what he felt were the misdeeds of the officers of the fort. Most of the complaints dealt with supply contracts and missing payments to the soldiers.

In response to the letters, Philipps drafted a series of his own where he refuted the claims. Sadly for Lt. Washington, Philipps had substantial political connections and his complaints never amounted to anything. Two years later Philipps was back in Britain living as an aristocrat and Washington was replaced as Ordnance Storekeeper.

I feel like there should be a moral to this story but I can't imagine what it would be.

All for now
RGS

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Off the Tracks

As promised, the theme of disasters continues for another day. Today's post is mostly a collection of photographs of different train derailments around Annapolis Royal. These images come from a collection donated to the Annapolis Heritage Society by the son of a former Dominion Atlantic Railway employee in Annapolis Royal.

Our first image is of a train wreck in 1937. This wreck took place near where the siding which led into Annapolis Royal split from the main line which continues on to Yarmouth. It appears that the train just missed the track as it split. The cars were filled with coal and needed to be unloaded before the men could lift them back onto the tracks. The second image shows a group of workers on a ramp hauling bags out of one of the cars involved in this wreck.

The third image is of a wrecked engine taken on May 8, 1942. According the the information on the back of the photograph, the engine has broken through the pit wall at the site of the former engine shed. This is actually fairly close to the site of the derailment in the top images.

The final two images are of a derailment of the #98 express train. These images were taken in Upper Clements in the mid 1940s. Once again, I do not have a huge file of information on any of these images.

Sadly I do not have a lot of extra information for these pictures. Whenever a donor leaves images I try to get whatever information they have but this can often be sketchy. This is especially the case if the images are being donated by children from their parents collections. There are also some large gaps in our archival copies of the Annapolis Spectator newspaper. While these derailments would have been a news worthy events, we do not have a copy of the paper to relate the story. If someone reading has a keen interest in trains or can remember any of these wrecks, I would be happy to add to our file.

After a few days of disasters, I will try to find something a bit lighter for my next post.

All For now,
RGS