Saturday, March 6, 2010

Robinson House

Upper St George Street in Annapolis Royal has an impressive collection of architecture by almost any standard. While the large Victorian period houses are probably the most eye catching examples of housing in this section of town, there are a number of earlier buildings including the deGannes-Cosby House, Runciman House and, the topic of today's post, the Robinson House. This proud brick structure was built sometime around 1818 by James Fraser, Ordnance Storekeeper at Fort Anne. The house he built was for his grand daughter, Augusta Isabella Henkell, and her new husband Lieutenant George Robinson of the 60th Regiment. Retiring from the military at a mere 28, Robinson operated the property as a plantation style farm. In this house he and Isabella raised 12 children (six of each). I should note that one of the children born in this house was Augustus Robinson who, taking after his grandfather, Dr. George Christian Henkell, became a doctor. Dr. Robinson practised in Annapolis Royal until he died in 1926 at age 90. Dr. Robinson also served as Mayor of Annapolis Royal.

In our artifact collection at the O'Dell House Museum we are lucky to have to painted portraits of George and Isabella Robinson which were done in the 1830s. At some point, these paintings, and their cross Canada bus trip to back to Annapolis Royal, will become to topic for a post. If you can't wait to see the paintings, you will just have to pay us a visit at the museum.

I find the house itself impressive for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that it is made from brick while most of the houses in Annapolis Royal are made from wood. While brick does appear commonly in local foundations and chimneys, there are only a handful of brick buildings. I have always found this to be a bit of an anomaly since there were historically a number of brick yards in our part of the Annapolis Valley. We even had the Buckler Brick Yard which was located in Annapolis Royal itself. I suppose if you are making a product mainly for export, there is no sense in using it locally.

From the street, the house has all of the symmetry that you would expect to find in a Georgian Period house. The four central windows are flanked by sides which each have attractive fanlights. The roundness of the fanlights plays off perhaps the most interesting feature of the house, is its roof line. On first glance, this appears to be a fairly standard hipped roof with a central chimney. On closer examination, you can see that the front section is actually slightly convex. This curvature is very unusual.

All for now,

2 comments:

  1. As a descendent of Lt. George Robinson and his son Augustus Robinson, I have been enjoying your blog posts on Annapolis Royal and its history. As you might imagine, I especially enjoyed this post.

    I'm not sure that the traditional date of ca. 1818 for its construction is correct, however. In 2006 I had the pleasure of meeting the then-owner of the house, Wayne Morgan (I'm not sure if he is still the owner--the house was on the market in 2006). As I'm sure you know, Wayne is highly knowledgeable about Annapolis history. He did a lot of research on the house's origins and the ownership of the land it stands on, and his conclusion was that the house was built for George Robinson around 1824. James Fraser was still alive at that time, so the story that Fraser paid for it may well be correct.

    I sent you an e-mail on this and other topics using the historic@ns.aliantzinc.ca address, but I wonder if that was not the right address to use.

    Cheers,

    Bill.

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  2. I was having some problems with that account blocking what it considered spam. If you send the message through again I will adjust the settings and answer you from that email.
    RGS

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