Monday, January 18, 2010

Fish Houses

I have previously mentioned that I have a great admiration for the humble architecture which we find in the Nova Scotia countryside. Most people when listing the most intriguing buildings in the province would probably go for our grand or imposing buildings. I can understand this. It is easy to like structures with Palladian or Second Empire style. Turrets, buttresses and columns are designed to catch the eye. While I also enjoy these buildings, I do have an affinity for buildings which exist on the human scale. In many areas of Annapolis County it is these more utilitarian buildings which we find. While it is difficult to feel the same sense of awe when looking at barns and fish houses it is these often unkempt structures which may come the closest to expressing the determination and strength of the Nova Scotia character.

Fish houses (also called bait houses) are a common feature around many of the wharves in Annapolis County. Perhaps it is because they are so common that these little buildings often go unnoticed. As the name would imply, these buildings are used by fishermen to store equipment, bait trawl and mend traps. They can also be a gathering spot for fishermen before going out or upon returning to land. Depending on the wharf, fish houses can appear as a tidy collection or as a bit of a shanty town. In all honesty, with buildings like this the tidiness is somewhat secondary to the function.

What appeals to me about fish houses is that they have grown up to fill a very specific need of working people. Fishermen needed a place near the water where they could store their gear, fix their equipment, tell a few stories and perhaps have a drink. Fish houses fill that need. These are not elegant buildings but they are important parts of the cultural landscape. They are landlocked symbols of our seafaring past and a reminder that many of our citizens still make their living from the sea.

At some point I will follow through on my long held idea to install an exhibit at the O'Dell House Museum where I recreate the interior of one of these structures. I think that there are many stories which can be told through this sort of installation. The Bay of Fundy fish houses in this post can be found in Delap's Cove, Victoria Beach and Parker's Cove.

All for now,
RGS
















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