Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The AHS AGM

I have a bit of business to deal with in this post. The Annapolis Heritage Society’s annual general meeting will take place at 7:00 pm on October 8, 2009. Please note that the meeting will be held at the Granville Ferry Hall as this is not the usual location for our AGM.

The AGM is an excellent opportunity to learn about the past year’s events and activities as well as what we are planning for the coming year. Since 2010 is the 300 anniversary of the Sinclair Inn Museum, the naming of Annapolis Royal and continous Anglican service in Canada, it promises to be a busy year. This is also one of the best opportunities through the year to see how you can get involved in our organization. Since many of our committees will make reports, it is an excellent time to see if there is a volunteer job that may interest you.

Our speaker for this year’s AGM is John Whidden of Wolfville. Mr. Whidden will be giving a presentation on Annapolis Royal's forgotten architect, Graham Johnson. In the aftermath of the fires of 1920 and 1921, Mr. Johnson, an English veteran of WWI, was hired to design a number of the buildings which still grace the downtown core of Annapolis Royal. Included in his designs were King’s Theatre, the Annapolis Royal's Town Hall and the former Newman’s Restaurant. In fact, much of the town’s current business district has the thumbprint of Graham Johnson. After his all too brief interlude in Nova Scotia Johnson went on to work in Victoria, British Columbia. Please join us for an interesting presentation on a lost part of our heritage.

Today's archival image is of the Annapolis Royal Town Hall as it appeared in 1930. I look forward to seeing the what the buildings which influenced which Graham Johnson's designs were. I am also interested to learn if he took anything of our local architecture on to his future projects.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Herring Crash of 2009

Sometimes events happen in our region which are just so strange that I feel I need to break out of my usual heritage confines. One of those strange events happened earlier today. Those of you who are familiar with the Bayshore community of Parkers Cove will be familiar with the way in which the Parker Mountain Road meets the Shore Road. To understand this story, those unfamiliar with our local geography should get a quick primer. The Parker Mountain Road crosses the North Mountain from Granville Ferry to Parkers Cove. The road has a steep incline followed by a gentle descent into a small valley at the top of the mountain. In this mountaintop valley you can find an inn beside a small lake. After another small ascent you quickly make your way down the side of the North Mountain toward the Bay of Fundy. When the road reaches Parkers Cove it abruptly ends in a T where it meets the Shore Road.

Crossing the Parker Mountain Road I have often wondered what
would happen if your brakes stopped working. Well, as you can see from today's images, if your brakes happen to fail you would eventually crash your vehicle into one of the houses on the other side of the road. More to the point, if you happen to be crossing the North Mountain with a 18 wheel truck filled with 27 215 kilograms (60 000 pounds) of New Brunswick herring, you would crash into one of the houses on the other side of the road. Thankfully nobody was at home and the passengers in the truck only received bumps and bruises. Sadly, the house is not in good shape.

I actually heard this story on the National CBC 6:00pm radio news as I was driving home. The link to the story has quite a good photograph which was taken while the truck was still in the house. The full cab of the truck had actuallu dissapeared into the building. It takes quite a story to get something from the Annapolis Royal region on the national news.
All for now,
RGS

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Annapolis Academy

While we are still in the month of September, I figured that I should make an attempt to post some of the earliest school themed images the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives holds. One of the most important functions of any archive is to collect and preserve images such as these. This sort of collecting ensures that important parts of our community's history will not be lost. Storing a community's information in one central and accessible location also allows researchers to find information that they need.

Luckily, all of the people in this 1878 class photograph have been identified. Those of you who are familiar with the genealogy of the Annapolis Royal area will readily recognize the names of the students in this class. The students featured in the photograph are all identified from left to right. Front row: Blanch Barteaux, Frank Nicholson, Reg Robertson, Fred Chipman, Victor Whitman. Middle row: Ida McCormick, Mary LeCain, Blanch Harris, Ida Harris, Addie Snow. Back Row: Maria Hardwick, Ira Hardwick, Will Barteaux, E.J. Lay (Teacher), Dwight Whitman.

The building featured in this post is the Annapolis Academy which stood on the southern end of the White House Field. To explain the location, the White House Field was an area around Fort Anne which was reserved for use by the military. This area had no buildings until the closure of the fort in 1854. This structure was built in 1866 and was used before The Grange was called into service as a school in 1883. As with some of the other early Annapolis Royal Schools, this is an interesting building. For a building built in the Middle of the Victorian era, this school has all the hallmarks of the earlier Georgian period. The simplicity and symmetry of the Neo-Classical style is the main feature of this building. The decoration on this building is unelaborate but effective. The 9 over 6 windows are all topped with an entablature as is the centrally located door. The door is further decorated with sidelights and a transom light. For me, the most interesting part of the decoration is the rosette window located in the end gable. There appears to be an interesting cupola on the roof of the building but this is unfortunately cropped off in the original photograph. Perhaps my favorite part of this picture is the person who is hanging their legs out of the second floor window. I wonder if this person wound up in the Principal's office once the photograph was developed.

All for now,
RGS

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Haul-Up

As this blog has progressed, I have often made reference to the Annapolis Royal Boat Haul-Up. There are a couple of reasons that I keep coming back to this facility as a topic. First and foremost, this is an excellent example of heritage activities at work within our community. The men who work at the haul-up are using traditional skills and techniques to keep our local scallop fleet afloat. The caulking (corking) irons and hammers which are used are the same as those which would have been used during the Age of Sail. While electric tool have replaced traditional saws and planes, many of the toos used at this worksite would be familiar to Annapolitan shipwrights of the 1850s. With so much of our community's heritage I need to speak in the past tense. "We had this, these were here, we once did this". With the Haul-up I can point down the street and tell people that they can see ship's carpenters using heritage skills as a vital part of our local economy.

A second reason that I keep coming back to the haul-up is that this is a very interesting facility. Very few people have ever had the opportunity to see a facility such as this one at work. The act of strapping a fishing boat into a harness and hauling it to shore is foreign to most people. Yet, here in Annapolis Royal, it happens on an almost weekly basis. From the first time you hear the snapping and popping of the cable as the massive winch hauls the boat to shore, you know that this is a unique facility.

I figured that today was a good opportunity to use a collection of photographs which I took at the end of August. These photographs show the scallop boat Cara & Shelley as it was hauled to shore. The best way to note the progress of the cradle is to watch the white water line around the middle of the boat. As the boat comes out of the water, more of the hull beneath the water line becomes exposed. When the boat is fully out of the water it rests on its keel and it is supported on either side by large wooden props.

After a quick wash with the pressure washer to clean off seaweed and barnacles, the crew gets to work. Over the next week or two they will replace rotten wood, recaulk loose seams and paint and do whatever else is necessary to make the vessel seaworthy. When the work is done, the haul-up works in reverse to return the boat to the water. It is nice to have a facility like this where we can see heritage skills at work in our community.

All for now,
RGS


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

High Tide, Low Tide

Ok, I know that it's been done before. Using two pictures to contrast a Bay of Fundy scene at high tide and low tide is not a new phenomenon. Despite the repetition, the tides in the Bay of Fundy are no less amazing. Any day I can step out the front door of the O'Dell House Museum in Annapolis Royal and see a 29 foot change in the tides. In comparison to the upper end of the Bay of Fundy where the tides can reach upward to 56 feet, this 29 foot change is somewhat modest. For my purposes, our 29 foot tides are both photogenic and impressive.

When I was out in front of the museum yesterday afternoon I noticed that there was a particularly high tide. With three members of our local scallop fleet tied up to the wharf I figured that this could make an interesting comparative photograph. The low tide photograph was taken when I arrived at work this morning. Note how the scallop boats are actually resting on the rocky bottom.

When I see images like these it gives me a great deal of respect for the men who piloted sailing vessels into the Bay of Fundy. It took an unimaginable amount of skill to bring vessels into these waters using only wind as a source of propulsion. Imagine the reaction of the French Captain Champdore as he sailed the first European ship into the bay and through the Digby Gut. With no prior knowledge of the tides, he must have been worried most of the time he was in the Bay.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The North Hills Museum Roadshow

This past Sunday, North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry hosted its second "Roadshow" antiques appraisal event. I believe that I have worded the title of the event in such a way that I should not offend the legal departments of any television networks. Like last year's event, this was a fun but busy day with people constantly coming and going.

Much of the material which came in for appraisal is what I would expect to see at this sort of event. There seems to be an almost inexhaustible selection of Victorian ceramics. What makes these events fun are the unexpected pieces which come through the door. Last year I was quite taken with a large portable toilet from the 1920s. It was an interesting piece which bridged the gap between the outhouse and indoor plumbing. Honestly, how many people would get excited about a strange old toilet.

This year, there were a handful of pieces which stood out for me. While they are not entirely remarkable in this area, I am always happy to see a good quality Maud Lewis painting. Louis is shown holding the painting in the top image. In the same line, I was not expecting to see a painting by Group of Seven painter AY Jackson come in for appraisal. I was thrilled just to get the opportunity to see a piece by one of Canada's most famed artists. The other pieces which drew my attention were of a more local nature. A circa 1800 school ledger from Lower Granville was a wonderful find as was an 1880 charcoal drawing of Lawrencetown.

Our appraisers for the day were Roger Crowther, Leslie Lawrence and Louis Leroux. All three were able to share their knowledge and and passion for antiques. Roger, in his charming British way, kept those of us working at the event laughing through much of the day. His gentle comment of "there really is a lot wrong with this piece" can still elicit a chuckle.

On a final note, the lady wearing the blue shirt in the third photograph is one of this blog's long time readers. She has recently started her own blog in which she will chronicle her upcoming year as Queen Anne. If you are interested, you can find her blog at http://mylifeasqueenanne.blogspot.com.

All for now,
RGS

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Mysterious Isle Haute

I suppose that today's post is in some ways a continuation of yesterday's. Although it is not all that thematically similar, the photograph was taken from the same spot on the waterfront. When you stand on the shore in Morden, Nova Scotia and look across the Bay of Fundy a large, flat island is very evident on the horizon. This is the sort of island which could make for an interesting background in a nineteenth century ship painting. It is also the sort of island which could make you wonder if humans have ever set foot out there. This is the mysterious Isle Haute.

Isle Haute is located in the mouth of the Minas Basin about 15 km from the Annapolis Valley and 10km from Cape Chignecto. The island measures about 2.6km long (about 1 mile) and stands about 100 meters above high tide. While the island has an interesting location, it is relatively inaccessible due to its steep cliffs and the aggressive Fundy tides. Thanks to its rugged nature, the Island has not seen extensive modern development.

In 1995, an expedition led by the Nova Scotia Museum found that Isle Haute was a valuable pre-contact Mi'Kmaq archaeological site. This location was used as a site to produce stone tools (scrapers, projectile points) as early as 7000 to 9000 years ago. Interestingly, the stone used to produce these tools was brought from the mainland to the island by canoe. As there are no European trade artifacts found at the Mi'Kmaq archaeological sites, it would appear that the island was not in use at the time of European contact.

A number of years ago we hosted a archaeological artifacts identification evening at the O'Dell House Museum in Annapolis Royal. One of the artifacts which was brought in for identification was a stone disk which measured about 1 foot across the center. The owner, a local fisherman, explained that he had brought up three of these in a scallop drag but the crew had tossed two back before he claimed the final one. The artifact had been found off the coast of Isle Haute. After some conferring between the experts, it was decided that the piece, an ulu, was used to scrape seal hides and was between 7000 and 7500 years old. This artifact is now owned by the Nova Scotia Museum.

Beginning in the 17th century the island was used by mariners as an anchorage as well as a spot to collect wood and drinking water. To preserve mariners access to these commodities, a application to settle the island in the 19th century was turned down. In 1878 a manned lighthouse was placed atop the island. As a sideline, the lighthouse keepers made various attempts at agriculture with their excess livestock and hay shipped to the mainland. The west end of the island was even used a a location to raise silver foxes in the early 1900s.

For the sake of clarity, I have adapted some of the contents of this post from a presentation I attended a number of years ago. The presenter, Dan Conlin, Curator at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, is decidedly one of the experts on this interesting island as he is with much of our province's marine heritage.

All for now,
RGS

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The French Cross

Today's post will take me a short way out of Annapolis County into neighbouring Kings County. While this is a little way outside of my normal geographic boundary, this story is one with a direct link to Annapolis County as well as to some of the most tragic events in the history of our province.

Nestled on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy is the small community of Morden. If you are driving there from the Annapolis Valley, you can get to Morden by taking the road across the North Mountain which lies in front of St. Mary's Church in Aylesford. Morden, originally known as French Cross, is a pleasant community filled with summer cottages. From this location you have a wonderful view of the mysterious Isle Haute which lies in the middle of the Bay of Fundy. It is in this community that one of the unheralded stories of the 1755 Acadian deportation is played out.

The story of the deportation is far too complex for a single post (a doctoral thesis is about the right length). The events in this post represent only a small part of a much larger story.

Word had come to the Acadians living along the Annapolis River in Belleisle that, after many years of talk, the British authorities had decided to do the unthinkable. Acadian families living at Beaubassin and Grand Pre had been arrested. They were being loaded into ships to be transported to unknown locations. As you could imagine, this caused distress and panic among those living at Belleisle. A group of about 60 Acadians decided that they would rather take action than to passively wait for the British to come and arrest them. They would try to evade the coming deportation.

Gathering whatever belongings they could they quickly made their way up the Annapolis River to a location near modern Kingston. In this location they soon exhausted whatever supplies they had and had to forage for food. After an outbreak of dysentery members of the small party started to die. Information provided by friendly forces among the Mi'Kmaq told the Acadians that the British were still in the area. Their safest plan was to cross the North Mountain, winter on the shore of the Bay of Fundy and head to Quebec in the Spring.

Winter must have seemed like it dragged on for an eternity. Uninsultated huts would prove to be poor protection when the winter winds blew across the bay. Death claimed more victims of the small entourage. When Spring finally arrived, the survivors built canoes to paddle across to New Brunswick. Before they left, a wooden cross was erected on the shore to mark the final resting spot of their deceased family members.

Today, a memorial stone cross stands on the waterfront in Morden to mark the area where in the winter of 1755-1756 group of Acadians endured hardships and death. It is worth taking a trip across the North Mountain to see this site.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Patterson Barn

I am somewhat nervous about making this post. The last time I made a post where I expressed my admiration for a barn the poor thing got torn down and hauled off to Lunenburg County. One day I was writing about how much potential the barn had as a refurbished structure and a few weeks later I was watching it get hauled away. Guess someone else saw that potential too. Well, in all honesty, I am not too woried about anything happening to the barn in today's post.

When I was at North Hills Museum last Friday evening waiting for the wine tasting crowd to arrive, I had a bit of time to roam about the property with my camera. This is always a pleasant way to spend some time as North Hills is a charming property. That night there was something about the way the sunlight was coming over my shoulder and reflecting off of the museum's barn which demanded that I snap a picture. The combination of the blue sky and green grass mixed with red wooden shingles, yellow endboards and black doors is just pretty. For my money, the feature which makes this such a stellar structure is the transom light above the door. This is the focal point for the whole building.

This barn is not a historic structure. I am not even sure that it has ever housed an animal. It was built by Robert Patterson when he owned the North Hills property in the 1960s. It is a post and beam structure made from lumber recycled from other sources. Some of these impressive beams actually run the full depth of the structure. The barn is currently used to house some large artifacts, the museum's storm windows and a couple of public washrooms. If you have the chance to visit North Hills Museum before we close for the season, you can experience how pretty the Patterson Barn is for yourself.

All for now,
RGS

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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The County Academy

Now that teachers and students are back to work I figured that I could safely make a few school related posts. Annapolis Royal has been home to a number of schools through the years. From the early Acadian school operated by Roman Catholic nuns to the modern Champlain Elementary, Annapolis Royal Regional Academy (ARRA) and Annapolis West Education Centre (AWEC), the education of children has always been a priority. In some cases, Andrew Henderson and Icabod Corbitt would be examples, the documented quirks of the school masters tell very interesting stories about the times in which they lived.

Aesthetically, perhaps my favorite Annapolis Royal school was the County Academy which was built in 1900. This school replaced a school known as The Grange which had once been home to Judge Thomas Ritchie. The County Academy sat in much the same location on St George Street as the current ARRA. This was a very impressive building. As with many late Victorian structures, we see a blending of architectural styles. The Gothic Revival style gables frame a distinctive Italianate Style turret. This particular blending of styles has in some cases been called Chateauesque. The windows are treated differently on both floors. A simple peaked transom on the ground floor is paired to great effect with a series of fanlights on the second floor.

The two elm trees shown in front of the building were reputedly brough to Annapolis Royal as saplings by James W. Johnstone when his relatives the Ritchie family still owned the property. Later in life, the Hon. James W. Johnstone was Premier of Nova Scotia from 1857 to 1864. Victims of Dutch elm disease, the trees were removed in 2001.

While the County Academy was an impressive structure it was destined for a short life. The building burned to the ground on January 4, 1939. My wife's grandmother, who was working as a student teacher at the school which was located off the Dugway Road (now part of the golf course), saw this fire from a distance as she was walking to class. She quickly returned to the Goucher house where she was boarding and took some pictures from the hill looking across Alains River. These photographs as well as some interesting images of the aftermath of the fire can be found in the AHS Archival collections.

Please note that the Annapolis Heritage Society has started a new Twitter account. You can now keep up to date with our activities in an almost stream of consciousness manner. While I am still having some problems with the Twitter concept, I think that I have figured out how to make it useful as a heritage resource.

All for now,
RGS

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sipping Wine at North Hills Museum

Ok, I'm impressed. Last night North Hills Museum hosted a wine tasting event featuring Gaspereau Vineyards. I will freely admit that I am a soft sell when it comes to the topic of wine. At home I have been told more than once that I may tend toward "wine geek". So be it, I still enjoyed last night's presentation by Winery Manager, Kim Strickland and Head Winemaker, Gina Haverstock. In addition to sampling six wines and a maple wine, there was discussion of what types of wine would go with different foods. I may try the bottle of Muscat I bought last night with the scallops I bought at the Annapolis Royal Farmers Market today.

I also appreciated last nights presentation from a heritage perspective (I have also been accused of being a heritage geek). Kim discussed the history of agriculture in Nova Soctia and how it has led to the present growth of the wine industry. While apples are still the major fruit crop in the Annapolis Valley, the number of acres under cultivation for grapes continues to increase. Makes me think that my six southern facing acres on the North Mountain may need a few grape vines. I would hate to miss a developing trend.

For any of you who would like to do the math on the number of posts accumulating on the left side of the page, you will note that this is post #200. When I started this blog in October of last year I wasn't sure where it would go but it has been a fairly pleasant experience over the course of the first 200 posts. Thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and giving me feedback on the street and by email.

I am using the 200th post as an opportunity to launch our newest Annapolis Heritage Society communications endeavour. Yesterday I opened a twitter account which you can find at http://www.twitter.com.odellmuseum/ There will also be a link to the twitter account on the left side of this blog. I am not totally sure how this will work since many of my thoughts take up more than 140 characters but, I am willing to give it a try. A new platform may help drum up more interest in what we do as an organization and what the Annapolis Royal region is as a community.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Williams House - Part 2

Yesterday I started the story of the Williams House on St. Anthony Street in Annapolis Royal. Despite its early origins, the Williams House is best known as the birthplace of one of Annapolis Royal's most famous sons. In 1800, William Fenwick Williams was the fifth child born to Thomas and Ann (Amherst) Williams. At this time, Thomas Williams was employed as the Barracks Master at Fort Anne. Young William began his studies in Annapolis Royal but he moved on the Royal Military College in Woolwich, England.

To go on with this story I should first address a bit of local lore. Anyone who has seen a performance of the Annapolis Heritage Society's play Washing Soldiers 1797 will have heard some of the mythology of the origins of William Fenwick Williams. A rumor has persisted through the years that young William was actually fathered by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. This would have made Williams the half brother to Queen Victoria. While this is a good story, one which could easily explain the advancement of Williams, the dates do not seem to add up. Interestingly, while this story did persist during Williams life he never made any efforts to confirm or refute it. Perhaps there was some advantage to life in the British aristocracy if you were thought to be an illegitimate Royal rather than the son of an unknown colonial officer.

After graduation from military college in 1821, he entered the Royal Artillery as a Second Lieutenant in 1825. During the Crimean War Williams distinguished himself at the defence of Kars where his Turkish and British troops repulsed several Russian attacks in September 1855. During the Siege of Kars they successfully held off another Russian advance. By the end of November the garrison at Kars decided to surrender to General Muravyov to avoid further hardships, cold and cholera. After spending the winter of 1855-56 as a prisoner in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Williams was hailed as the "Hero of Kars" on his return to London. For his valiant service he was promoted to Major General, given a Baronetcy with a pension for life, made a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath (KCB), given an honourary degree from Oxford, the Freedom of the City of London as well as other honours.

From 1856 to 1859 he represented the Borough of Calne as a Member of Parliament. From 1860 to 1865 Sir William was the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. This was not an insignificant position as the American Civil War was raging at this time. There was a great worry in British North America that at the end of the conflict the victorious forces could decide to march north. An invasion by a seasoned army would have posed a great problem to the British forces.

In 1865 he was appointed Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia. One of the important reasons behind this appointment was that he was to help sway public opinion in favour of Canadian confederation. After guiding Nova Scotia successfully into Confederation, Sir William was appointed Governor of Gibraltar from 1870 to 1876, and Constable of the Tower of London in 1881.

My, I am almost fatigued just writing about Sir William's accomplishments and honours. Not bad for a man born in a humble shingle clad building in Annapolis Royal (no matter who his father was).

All for now,
RGS

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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Atlantic Sturgeon

This is not the normal sort of post that I make in this blog. In fact, some may even find this post a bit distasteful. For that matter, I find this post a bit distasteful. Most of my posts deal with cultural history in one form or another. I tend not to stray too far into natural history because there are others who do a much better job at this sort of thing. In this case, there seems to be an alarming trend developing on the waterfront in front of one of our museums.

Over the past three weeks there have been four dead Atlantic sturgeon wash up on the shore of the Annapolis Basin between the O'Dell House Museum and the Annapolis Royal Wharf. In itself I may not have thought too much about this. Fish, even large prehistoric looking fish, die of natural causes. What does make me wonder is that these fish all seem to be damaged in some way. Two of the fish that were found a couple of weeks ago were missing their heads. The fish which was found earlier today (top image) was missing the back half of its body. Add to these the two sturgeon which were found dead in this same location last year and there is something that just doesn't smell right (in addition to the large rotting fish).

By the standards of Atlantic sturgeon these fish appear to be mere youngsters. This species can live for up to 60 years and reach over 18 feet long and 800 pounds. Fossil records first show sturgeon living almost 200 million years ago. These animals really are a living fossil. Even in the somewhat decomposed form which we are seeing in front of the museum they are an impressive looking fish. The large bone plates running along the sides and back of the fish make them an impressive sight.

I would love to know for certain what is going on with our sturgeon. Perhaps this is a natural phenomenon. Whatever it is, I am sad to see these magnificent fish rotting on the shore.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wharf Rats in Annapolis Royal

Ok, even I have trouble putting a heritage spin on this one. Although I usually try to have some sort of heritage angle, no matter how hard I try it just isn't coming to me. Perhaps this is a post which can exist just for the sake of documenting something in our region. Perhaps this is documenting future heritage.

All day long I have heard the rumble of engines as motorcycles make their way down the streets of Annapolis Royal. As I sit at my computer writing this, I can hear a bike (or group of bikes) drive by about every two minutes. When the wind is blowing the right way I can also heard bikes heading down the Granville Road across the water in Granville Ferry. These are the unmistakable sounds of the Wharf Rat Rally.

Those of you not familiar with the motorcycle scene may not know about this rapidly growing event. For the past few years our neighbouring community of Digby has hosted an event known as the Wharf Rat Rally. From humble beginnings this event has quickly grown into a staple for both the motorcycle world and the local economy. While there is some variance in the predictions I have heard that there will be upwards to 20 000 motorcycles and 80 000 people visiting Digby for the rally this year. These are phenomenal numbers for any sort of event. To the credit of the participants and the organizers, this has always been a very peaceful and positive event.

Since motorcycles by their nature are made to be driven, many of the participants in the Wharf Rat Rally have made their way into Annapolis Royal over the past few days. There is even a parade of lights planned for 9:00 this evening (Friday). To get in the spirit of things, maybe next year we can organize an event for some of the older or antique motorcycles to be shown in Annapolis Royal.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fannie's Recipes part 7

It has been quite a while since I posted anything from Fannie O'Dell's handwritten recipe book from the 1880s. I figured that since I was sitting here at 1:30 wondering about lunch that a little dessert would not be a bad idea. I find this recipe particularly interesting because I am intrigued by the concept of a lemon custard between the cake layers. Unlike some of her other recipes, Fannie has provided us with a few simple instructions. For more information on the recipe book follow the Fannie's Recipes link on the left side of the page.

When I post one of these recipes it is usually accompanied by a rather random photograph. Today's image is of the lighthouse in Annapolis Royal. If you are desperate for some form of connection, this structure was built at about the same time that Fannie was writing her recipes.


Lemon Jelly Cake

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon cream tartar
1/2 teaspoon soda
Bake in thin layers.

For the jelly take the juice of
3 lemons
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
6 eggs
beat together & scald like custard, spread between the cakes

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Back when I was in university I spent my summers working as an interpreter at Upper Canada Village. In my first summer, I spent a part of my time in a building called Crysler Hall. This is where the introductory slideshow was shown (yes, there was life before powerpoint). The presentation ran every 15 minutes in English on the one side of the building and every 15 minutes in French on the other. Now, any interpreter who has spent time in a building with a repeating soundtrack will tell you that after a while the words and music become permanently burned into your memory. Certain guides at our own Sinclair Inn Museum have been able to recite most of the monologues presented by the "ghosts" in the basement. In my case, I still have a large chunk of the Crysler Hall presentation in my memory.

The presentation essentially showed a year in the life of the village. When Fall came about, the narrator started to wrap things up with the biblical quote "to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven". After hearing this hundreds of times I ended up spending the better part of the summer with the Byrds song Turn! Turn! Turn! stuck in my head. There is something about the current transition that we are going through that brings all of this to mind. In fact, at this time of year I think I still half consciously walk around with these words and music in my mind.

Despite the fact that I am not quite ready to let go of Summer, all of the signs are lined up that Autumn is on the way. The air has started to turn a bit more crisp in the evenings, the Annapolis Heritage Society's summer staff have mostly left for their respective universities and I ate my first local apple of the season yesterday. We are also going through a typical transition in our annual visitor patterns. When we get close to Labour Day we stop seeing large numbers of family groups coming through our doors. Within a week or so, we will start to see more retired couples and groups who are able to enjoy shoulder season travel. To be honest, I quite enjoy these visitors. Our shoulder season visitors usually have a bit more time to chat and learn about things at the museum. While I could do with a bit more warm weather, I must admit that "to everything there is a season".

All for now,
RGS