Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blooming Through Decay

One of the nice things about the spring is that it is by far the best time of year to take photographs of buildings. The leaves have not come out to obscure your view, fields are not overgrown and hard to walk through and there is no snow on the ground. If you pick the right day you can even get blue skies and a bit of green in the grass. In fact, the house featured in today's post is one which I have been waiting since last fall to photograph. Now that the weather has improved I hope to be able to include a few more heritage buildings (derelict or otherwise) into the mix.

Believe it or not, the house featured in this post is a registered heritage property by the province of Nova Scotia. I would make the comment that there is perhaps a bit of a problem with the system, but this would be a bit too obvious. The bulk of the responsibility still lies on the property owner, but one would think that if a building was important enough to merit designation by the province that this sort of obvious deterioration would not be allowed to happen. This is also not a slap at the person in charge of heritage properties for Nova Scotia. I have worked on committees with this individual and I know him to be a concerned and informed proponent of built heritage. Sadly, the funds available to help preserve registered heritage properties continue to shrink as the years go by. Owners are currently eligible for grants of up to $1000.00 (based on $10 000 expenditure by the property owner) every two years. If a building is important enough to designate as a heritage property it seems that there should be an extraordinary effort made to help. While grateful for any investment, I wonder where I would use that $1000.00 on this house?

OK, this post is not meant to be a rant. This beautiful old house is located on the Young's Mountain Road in Belleisle. The house is approximately halfway between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown. I believe that the building was built in 1797. When you look at the house the most obvious architectural feature is the asymmetrical roofline. This would qualify the house as a saltbox, but I do not believe that house was originally built this way. If you look at the fifth image from the top you can see an interior shingled surface. This image was taken from one of the holes in the back of the building as I make it a rule never to enter a derelict property unless invited. This shingled surface is the original roof of a symmetrical Neo-Classical structure. I would guess that at some time within the first 20 years after the house was built that the roofline was extended. The original lines of the house can be more clearly seen in the image showing the profile.

Whenever I am photographing or writing about one of these faded beauties I am filled with a mixture of emotions. The sight of a house built over 200 years ago heading toward a sad end is one I always find difficult. Amazingly,
even though the house is in a poor state of repair I find that it still maintains a certain dignity. I also look for the human connections in a building such as this one. These are the connections which allow you to see past the rotten wood and broken glass. In this case there were three things which stood out for me. On the west side of the house someone has nailed a licence plate near the peak. I an not sure if this was to keep out rain or rodents but it shows an interesting and resourceful spirit. On the front porch of the house sits a chair. Was this a chair which sat at the dinner table? Did a young child push it around the kitchen while they were learning to walk? This piece of furniture which may have been made by a local cabinetmaker now sits broken and forgotten and may be emblematic of the house itself. Finally, beside the front door a single daffodil was blooming. This bulb, which was planted many years ago, gave me the same sense of happiness that it would have given to the person who planted it. Perhaps this house will get a chance to bloom again some spring.

All for now,

1 comment:

  1. Passive demolition through neglect is such a sad thing. Thanks for documenting the house as best you can, so that at least a record will remain when the building itself is gone.