Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Blog is Going to the Birds

Since I am still on vacation, I am going to take a bit of a turn from my regular cultural history based posts and make a natural history post. Hey, I am allowed a few other interests. Today was a snowy and blowy day around Annapolis Royal so I decided to spend some time watching the birds at our feeders. In all honesty, this is a fairly common activity for me. I usually enjoy watching the feeder birds as I have a cup of coffee in the morning. At least I try to watch the birds as I am getting the kids fed, dressed and out the door. Since there was no need to rush out the door this morning, I decided to see if I could leisurely get photographs of some of the species which visit our house.

While this collection of birds is not particularly rare for the Annapolis Royal area, they are some of my regular winter visitors. My sense of humour is not warped enough to refer to them as my frequent flyers. From top to bottom they are a chickadee, downy woodpecker, goldfinch, female cardinal, mourning doves and a bluejay.

All for now,

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Annapolis Scallop Fleet

Well, since I am theoretically on vacation this week I am going to try to keep my posts short. This may be difficult for me since I have shown a tendency to ramble. I will see what I can do but I probably should not make any promises.

As I was driving home from a trip to Annapolis Royal this afternoon, I noticed that there was an interesting light over the Annapolis Basin. For those who do not know, since the 1960s the communities of Annapolis Royal and Granville Ferry have been joined by a causeway. In the middle of the causeway is a generating station where electricity is produced using the tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy. On the west side of the causeway are the moorings which are used by local scallop fishermen. These moorings are usually left open for pleasure craft during the summer but, by the end of tourist season they are filled by the fishermen. With a view of the Annapolis Basin framed by the North and South mountains, this is a popular spot for photographers and painters.

All for now,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Boxing Day Trip to Victoria Beach

Well, Boxing Day (December 26 for our American friends) at our house finally started to head toward a bit of cabin fever brought on by trying to keep two active kids contained in a house. Our five year old and I decided that it was time to hop in the car and take a short trip somewhere. Rather than taking the corporate option and heading for a mall to spend, spend, spend, we decided that we should head down to the water to see what was there to be seen. This is one of the advantages of living in Nova Scotia. Whenever you feel the need to connect with the water, be that water salt or fresh, it is never a long trip to make your connection. In our case, we decided that the salt water of the Digby Gut was the order of the day.

We hopped in the car and headed for Victoria Beach at the end of the Granville peninsula. This is one of my favorite local landscapes because I almost always see something interesting or unexpected. From the colourful boats and activity of lobster and scallop fishermen to a stunning array of wildlife this is a terrific little spot for watching the world. As you would expect on the day after Christmas, the wharf was totally devoid of any human activity. This did not take away from the experience since part of the fun of visiting places like this with a five year old boy is looking at the boats which are tied up. While we were discussing the boats we noticed some activity on the Digby side of the gut. From our vantage point we watched the Princess of Acadia ferry silently make its way away from the wharf and start its voyage to Saint John, New Brunswick. As you could imagine, this was wonderful entertainment for my companion.

When the ferry finally moved on, we were left with the stillness of the late afternoon. This stillness was pleasantly broken up by a group of harbour porpoise who started jumping and playing in the middle of the Gut. For my money, there is not much more fun than watching porpoise as they leap around. When the porpoise went away we noticed a seal swimming around close to the shore and another at the end of the wharf. Mix in a few sea ducks who were gathered in the bay beside the wharf and this was a very pleasant way to spend some time.

As for the photographs in this post, I was looking for images with repeating patterns. I often find that there are interesting patterns around work sites of this sort. While they may not be everyone's taste, I find something interesting in these scenes which are usually looked at for their utility rather than their aesthetic qualities.

All for now,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Well, since it is already Christmas Eve, I figured that there really not much that I needed to say to elaborate on the Christmas season. I thought that the best thing to do would be to make this a very simple post with some images from this year's Victorian Christmas event at the O'Dell House Museum.

Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Black Loyalists Part 6

This post is the sixth part of an occasional series I have been writing on parts of the history of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia. To find the earlier posts you can use this link.

As with many decisions in the late 18th century, the decision to resettle the Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia in the Sierra Leone colony was one largely influenced by economics. More specifically, this was a decision made to partially ease the white population of Nova Scotia of a perceived burden while at the same time hopefully creating a new economic engine on the west coast of Africa. While the desire of the Black Loyalists to resettle in Africa and live in freedom may have been at the heart of the movement, it was the potential gain of the British mercantile empire which finally led to the establishment of this free Black colony.

What many modern Nova Scotians may not realize is that the establishment of Freetown in 1792 was not the first attempt to establish a free Black colony in Sierra Leone. In 1787, the St. George's Bay Company established a settlement called Granville Town. This settlement, named for British abolitionist Granville Sharp consisted of about 320 members of what were known as the Black Poor of London. For the sake of those familiar with the geography of the Annapolis Royal region I should hasten to add that Granville Sharp is not the person who Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia is named for. The Black Poor were an interesting collection consisting mostly of escaped or freed American and Caribbean slaves. Most of these people toiled at menial jobs for which there was poor pay. Added to this group were a collection of about 70 white women from the streets of London and a handful of tradesmen. While individuals like Granville Sharp may have had the best of intentions, there is some debate as to whether the decision to resettle the Black Poor was entirely altruistic. Some historians feel that the foundation of Granville Town was merely an attempt to clear a problem from the streets of London. To Granville Sharp this was an attempt to establish an idealized and peaceful colony. To other supporters of the St. George's Bay Company this was an opportunity to derive some profit from the west coast of Africa. Ideally these settlers would quickly start producing goods which could be sold in Britain and British colonies around the world. Whatever the motivation for the establishment of the colony, the settlers of Granville Town arrived on the coast of Africa in May of 1787.

Granville Town was established on land purchased from Koya Tenme chief King Tom. It is not clear whether the Koya Tenme fully understood the implications of what the English agreement intended and whether they expected them to use the land for settlement. Because of this disputes very quickly broke out with the settlers. In additions to problems with the neighbours this was not a problem free life in the Province of Freedom. If the residents of Granville Town were not careful they were captured by local slave traders and returned to slavery. Disease and death also made their way into Granville Town. These problems reached a climax in 1789 when King Jimmy (King Tom's successor) burned the settlement to the ground.

The failure of this first attempt to settle a free Black colony is the backdrop for the arrival of the Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia. The image at the top of today's post is a print depicting the arrival of the ships carrying the Black Loyalists to Sierra Leone.

All for now,

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hindon Painted Parlour

About a month ago I received a phone call from one of the long standing members of the Annapolis Heritage Society. In a very excited tone of voice he told me that a painted room had been discovered in Lequille. Now, those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of painted rooms in the Annapolis Royal region may not understand why my caller was so excited. Our area is home to a handful of these interior painted surfaces. The images in all of these rooms are painted directly onto the plaster. In the Annapolis Royal region decoratively painted rooms have been found in the Hillsdale House, Sinclair Inn Museum and at a location in Bear River. The most ambitious, and most controversial, painted room in our area was located in the Croscup House in Karsdale. This painting, which has been called the finest piece of pre-confederation Canadian art, was removed from its original location in the the 1970s and taken to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Understandably, there was some local controversy and discontent when the Croscup parlour was removed. After considerable conservation work by the Canadian Conservation Institute, the Croscup Room was installed as a permanent exhibit at the Gallery. With this as the backdrop, in Annapolis Royal a painted room is an exciting discovery.

The room which was recently discovered is located in the front parlour of the Hindon House in Lequille. This house was built in 1862 by Sea Captian Alonzo Hindon. It is doubtful that anyone within living memory knew about the decorative painting since the new owners of the house discovered the image under 10 - 12 layers of wallpaper. As you can see from the images, the image in this room is a series of repeated Gothic arches. This is quite different than the landscapes and portraits of the Croscup Room and the floral design of the Hillsdale House. The unknown artist evidently knew what they were doing since the arches are fairly delicately shaded.

Sadly, by the time I was notified of the existence of the room it was a matter of quickly documenting the images before they were gone. The second visit I made to the house was with a representative of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia who have created an impressive database of painted rooms in the province. Since there are ways to mothball this sort of room I was hoping that this room may have been a candidate. Unfortunately, it was his feeling that too much damage had been done to the images. As a note to anyone else who happens to find one of these rooms, please get in touch with someone early on in the process.

As part of the documentary process, I made a short video which has been posted on YouTube. There is no narration in the video but it gives a good look at the room.

All for now,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Building a Bridge

I have previously written about the long and somewhat bizarre history of the building of the Annapolis Royal to Granville Ferry bridge. While I was going through some archival images earlier today, I noticed a small collection which showed how the spans of the bridge were floated into place. Since these were a rather interesting collection of images, I figured that I should gather them together in a post.

Ten years after ice piers had been placed at strategic locations across the Annapolis River construction on a bridge was begun. The engineers who were responsible for the planning of the bridge took full advantage of the tides in the Annapolis River. Since the Annapolis Basin is an offshoot of the Bay of Fundy, the Basin, as well as part of the Annapolis River, are subject to some very impressive tidal action. In Annapolis Royal we have an average tide of about 29 vertical feet (about 8.8 meters). Knowing this, a decision was made to float the bridge spans to the piers at high tide. As the tide receded, the bridge spans would gently come to rest on the ice piers where they could be fastened in place. The barges which had floated the span into place would then return to the shore to wait for the next tide when they would be able to move another span. When it was completed in 1921, the Annapolis River bridge was supposed to be the longest metal bridge in Canada east of Montreal.

All for now,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fanlights of Annapolis Royal - Part 2

Almost immediately after I made my first post on the fanlights of Annapolis Royal I started seeing more examples. I was also somewhat embarrassed to realize that one of the fanlights I had overlooked was located over the entry door of the Annapolis Royal Court House. Not only is this building located at the town's main intersection but, with its Palladian Style architecture, it is one of the the more obvious heritage buildings in Annapolis Royal. Another example at this same corner, is located over the door of St George and St Andrew Church (the brick building in this post). I originally did not include this example since it is so highly stylized. I figured that since I was making a supplemental post that I could include this example. I find it interesting that four of the five examples in today's post feature a keystone design at the top of the window. The most intriguing of these keystones is from St Luke's Anglican church hall (the white building at the bottom) since it is so out of proportion to the fanlight itself.

All for now,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down on Deck

In the past I have claimed that this image or that image was my favorite in the Annapolis Heritage Society's archival collection. Well, we can safely add today's image to my ever growing list of favorite images. What I like about this particular image is an element which is almost hidden unless you look very carefully. Go on, take a look and see if you can locate the hidden element which makes this a wonderfully intriguing image. By all respects this looks like a fairly standard deck of a ship in the late 1890s. You can find it just to the left of the dory and the main mast. Unless you look carefully it, or more precisely she, can still be difficult to see.

Once you clear away the clutter of the rest of the image, you can clearly see her standing there holding a rope. A jaunty hat on her head appears to have a couple of plumes for decoration. Her hooped skirt looks decidedly more geared to entertaining the pastor and his wife than it does to be standing around on deck. All this aside, there she is.

What I really like about this image is that it plays against stereotype. Most discussions of the Age of Sail are about the wooden ships and iron men. As this image shows, women also had a place (although not a common one) in the Age of Sail. Most of the women who went to sea were the wives or daughters of the Captain and crew of a vessel. This was often an attempt to help keep a family together rather than suffer through the extended absences of a life at sea. Lucretia Delap (Croscup) of Granville Ferry recorded several trips she made with her husband to the Caribbean. Others like Elizabeth Pritchard Hall of Granville Ferry were even called upon to navigate the ship after Captain and crew fell sick with small pox. Of course, there are stories of women from less noble callings making their way to sea as well. From the attire of the woman in this photograph, I will assume that this was not her story.

All for now,

Fannie's Recipes Part 9

Since the Christmas baking season seems like it is moving into full swing, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to transcribe another recipe from Fannie O'Dell's 1880s cookbook. You can find the history of this little book as well as some of the other recipes I have posted at this link. As always, if you try one of these recipes, please let me know how it turns out. Since the recipes do not include baking instructions and do have interesting if vague ingredients like "flavour" these recipes are not for the faint of heart. I am assuming that "flavour" was something pleasant in a cake like vanilla or cinnamon rather than onions or garlic.

Mountain Cake

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
3 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs
2 teaspoon tartar
1 teaspoon soda

As for today's image, I figured that I should be topical and include a mountain of some kind. This map is Samuel de Champlain's original chart of the Annapolis Basin. The illustration shows both the ranges known as the North and South Mountains which run on either side of the Annapolis Valley.

All for now,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

All Saints Anglican - Part 6

In many ways I would like this to be the last post I make about the sad loss of All Saints Anglican Church in Granville Centre. No matter how much I would like this to be the case, I just don't think that it is for a couple of reasons. My first reason is that I have a nagging feeling that someone will create a triumphal press release in the summer of 2010 touting what a wonderful project that this was. From the perspective of the recipients of the church in Louisiana this would probably be correct. They are inheriting a beautiful structure. The ironies that this church was built using government funds designed to protect Nova Scotia from Americans during the War of 1812 by an Anglican Bishop with a distaste for the New Lights can probably be overlooked. The fact that this is a sad loss to Nova Scotia which could not be prevented under current Canadian legislation should also be overlooked.

The second reason that this is probably not my last post on this topic is that I feel somewhat obliged to try to make something positive out of this sad situation. I have already begun discussions about hosting a symposium in Annapolis Royal on the importance of preserving our historic religious architecture. One of the potential speakers told me that he would speak, bake cookies or do whatever was needed. This sort of feedback made me quite happy. Hopefully this will be a forum to start a dialogue between religious groups and those who are interested in preserving heritage.

This current collection of photographs was taken to document the site of All Saints Church as it appears as of the middle of December. The clear exception is the top image which was included to show what the property looked like at the start of demolition. Just over a week ago I had heard that a crew was at work burning some of the remains of the church. I figured that I should probably get a few images to document this part of the process. I must admit that I was a bit surprised that the burning of the remains would take place right on the spot where the church once stood. I guess that this is just one more surprise in a strange process.

The other photograph of note in this collection shows the location in the foundation where a slate cornerstone reading 1814 once rested. I suppose that this stone will accompany the remainder of the building to Louisiana.

All for now,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Faded Beauty

For a number of years I have watched one particular house when I drive between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown on Highway 201. Now, anyone who has driven this stretch of road will tell you that there are a number of very attractive heritage houses which are worth noticing. The house which keeps getting my attention is a grand old structure in the community of Centrelea. Last week I was working on a project which had me taking some photographs at the property beside this house. When I was finished I decided to take a trip next door to see if I could get a few images of a building which I admire.

I have included this post in my documenting derelict heritage category but this may be a bit unfair for this particular property. While the house is clearly not lived in it is getting some basic upkeep. The lawn is mowed, the windows are intact and there is a good roof on the house. I am not all that clear on the story but I believe that the house is part of a family dispute. Currently this building is not in as much trouble as many of the derelict buildings I have photographed in the past. This being said, it still has a faded glory which I find appealing.

From the road the first things you notice about this house are the size and symmetry. This is an excellent example of a two-storey Georgian Neo-Classical Style House. The symmetrical placement of the windows around a central door are hallmarks of this style. Another typical element in this style of house are the low hanging eaves which, in this case, almost cover the top two inches of the windows. Judging solely by the style of the house, I would place the date of the building around 1800 or before. Somewhere within the foggy reaches of my memory I can remember someone telling me that the house was dated around 1820 but this seems late to me.

There is very little decoration on this house. The door is topped by an entablature which is supported by a simple pediment on either side. This is a very pretty feature which adds some formality to the entrance. While there is a storm door on the house I am willing to guess that that there is probably a fanlight at the top of the door. The curved top of the storm door seems to fit the general shape of a fanlight. This fanlight would have added light to the central hallway of the house. The windows have no elaboration in their design. Interestingly, most of the windows are the original six over six wooden sash windows. There are a few instances where two over two sashes have replaced the originals. The other dominant feature is the central brick chimney. This was almost undoubtedly made with locally made bricks.

As I was looking at the house, one of the features which caught my eye was an addition to one of the storm windows. At the bottom of the window was a small panel which could be lifted. We have a storm window like this at the O'Dell House Museum. The purpose of this panel is to permit the residents of the house to allow a small amount of fresh air into the house on fine days. If the weather was cold and storming, the panel would be kept closed. Another feature on the western side of the house were the nails used to hold the wooden clapboard in place. Rosehead nails of this sort were hand forged by a blacksmith and give a good idea as to how long the siding has been on the house.

When I was walking away from the house I noticed something which gave this quiet old property a great deal of humanity. Leaning up against an old apple tree was a metal ladder. I wonder how many family members came out the back door to grab an apple off the tree before heading to the fields. How many dinners were finished with a pie made from the fruit of this tree? Were these apples cut into rings and dried for winter or were they eaten fresh with a random trickle of juice running down a child's chin?

All for now,