Sunday, January 31, 2010

Down on Deck - Part 2

In an earlier post I wrote about an archival image in the Annapolis Heritage Society's collection of a woman standing on the deck of ship. Until fairly recently I had thought that image to be solitary photograph. While it was a very interesting image, I was not expecting to find a mate. Because of this, I was thrilled to see today's image when I was looking through a collection which we have recently digitized. While taken from a different perspective, this is clearly the same vessel and the same woman on deck. This photograph was taken bu Samuel Newton Weare circa 1900.

Unlike many of the vessels which made the Annapolis Royal region their home, this one was not for fishing. Looking toward the bow we can see that this is a square rigger. Since the other masts are not visible it is difficult to tell whether this is a bark, a brig or a ship. Despite the style of the vessel, we know that it would be used to carry cargo to ports around the globe. Most likely it was a part of the triangular trade which existed between Nova Scotia, the Caribbean and Europe. By the time this image was taken around 1900 Nova Scotia would have been exporting lumber, salt fish and some fruit. From the Caribbean, the main products which were imported were sugar and rum. The European market provided a wide range of products including textiles, furniture and porcelain. Sadly, inexpensive salt fish from what is now Atlantic Canada propped up slavery in parts of the Caribbean. This inexpensive source of protein meant that slaves could be kept and fed the worst the fish caught and salted on our shores. Of course, slaves were given the poorest quality of salt fish available.

What I like about this image is the scale of the vessel. Everything is so large that the three people standing on the deck are almost an afterthought. The size is actually not actually that grand when you consider that this would be their home for months or years at a time. Here they would fight storms, ice and doldrums. Sailors could expect to experience both the sadness of losing crew members as well as the joy of finally passing through the Digby Gut and making for home.

All for now,

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Short Mid-Winter Thaw

We had a very short mid-winter thaw in the Annapolis Royal region earlier this week. After a dreary gray day filled with rain showers, we awoke to a pleasant, sunny, and mild day. It was almost enough to make you think that spring was on its way. I even found myself, in a fit of hopefulness, peeking into gardens to see if any brave plants were starting to send up green shoots. Well, I can report that there were no plants peeking up and that, as usual, the weather has now decided to take a change toward the more seasonal. If you take a look at the last image in this post you will see that the ground has returned to its normal winter appearance. Believe it or not, this final image is the road to my house.

On our sunny and mild day I happened to be doing some work at our North Hills Museum site in Granville Ferry. North Hills Museum (which has also been called the Amberman House and the Patterson House) is just a naturally pretty site. While there is some debate about the construction date of the house, it was built in the second half of the eighteenth century in the Neo-Classical Style. I say that there is some debate because an unclear deed trail shows that the house may have been built as early as 1764 or as late as 1787. Properly, this house would be referred to as a New England saltbox. One of the distinguishing features of this style is the roof line of the house. If you look at the house from a side view, you can see that the back of the house extends beyond the line of the front of the house. This is a key element in a saltbox.

Since the day was rather cheerful air I decide to take a few extra minutes at the site and get some pictures. These images just reinforce my belief that North Hills Museum is a stunning property inside and out.

All for now,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Frederick William Wallace on the Bayshore

Late in the summer of 1911 a young man with a rich Scottish brogue arrived on the Digby waterfront. While he was the son of a blue water Captain, he had never served aboard a ship. As a boy, he had feasted on tails his father told of his adventures in ports around the globe. Wild storms, brawling crewmen and exotic places would have fueled the imagination of a young man. Sadly for young Frederick William Wallace, the path of a blue water Captian was not the one which lay before him. Young Fred showed natural talent as a writer but he refused to attend university opting for a clerk's position with a Scottish shipping line. This position would prove short lived as Fred's father moved the entire family to Hudson, Quebec in 1904.

Despite the change of scenery, life did not change that much. Fred started working in a series of clerk's positions. In his spare time he had taken to writing his father's stories of life at sea and submitting them to various magazines. His first published article appeared in Dominion Magazine in 1908. Wallace was eventually assigned to write a series of articles on the Canadian fisheries by Canadian Century. This is where he made the acquaintance of Alfred Brittain who was the Director of the Maritime Fish Corporation. An invitation was extended for Fred to accompany Brittain to Digby where a Fisherman's Regatta was to take place. This invitation would set in place a lifelong association with the communities around the Digby Gut for the talented young writer.

When Frederick William Wallace arrived in Nova Scotia scenes like today's archival image would not have been uncommon. This photograph was taken circa 1910 in Delap's Cove which sits on the Bay of Fundy shore about a 15 minute drive from Annapolis Royal. This unnamed tern schooner was exactly the sort of vessel in which Wallace first became a passenger and chronicler and later a crew member. It is these experiences which led Wallace to make acquaintances among the community of Hillsburn (beside Delap's Cove). It is these fishermen who became the inspiration for Wallace's first novel Blue Water. While he has disguised some of the locations and magnified some of the personalities, this novel clearly gives a feel for the way of life in a Bayshore community in the early years of the twentieth century. Wallace gives us an intimate portrait of a close-knit, hard working group of people. Most importantly, Wallace gives us a wonderful accounting of the daily details of fishermen at sea during the dying days of unassisted sail.

In a future post I will return to Frederick William Wallace and recount how a shipping clerk from Glasgow became a novelist, the editor of Canadian Fisherman for forty years and the author of works like the Roving Fisherman and Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

All for now,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Improving a Dreary Day

As far as weather goes, today was an abjectly dreary day in Annapolis Royal. While it may seem like a petty complaint, it certainly did not help matters that my internet connection at the O'Dell House Museum was mysteriously disabled today. In the winter I am quite content with cold and sunny days. I am even happy enough with the odd snowstorm because there is something nice about lighting a fire and hunkering inside. What I am not fond of are rainy days which melt the snow cover and ruin the outdoor skating rink. Today was one of those days. In what may be a first for Nova Scotia in January, we even had a thunder storm around noon.

So, while I sit here at my functioning home computer, I know that life could be much worse than dealing with a rainy day in a beautiful historic town. I figured that rather than grump I should try to add something positive to a dreary day. While looking through some of my personal photographs I noticed a few which have been taken at the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. What better to add some colour to the gray than some photographs of flowers from one of my favorite landscapes. For those of you not familiar with the Historic Gardens, they are the ongoing friends and partners of the Annapolis Heritage Society. This site features seven cultivated acres with impressive collections of roses, rhododendrons, day lilies, heathers and countless other plants. Another interesting facet of the site is that they interpret the 405 year history of Annapolis Royal using different period plantings. From the reconstructed Acadian house to the 18th century Governor's Garden and the very proper Victorian Garden the history of our community is told in a way that would otherwise be impossible. Whether you are looking to explore a beautiful garden, wandering around for an evening stroll or just looking for some cheerful images on a January evening, the Historic Gardens is a worthwhile way to spend some time.

All for now,

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Introduction to Eugene "Bud" Hamm

Over the past few weeks I have been working with a group of volunteers in what may be the single most amazing building I have ever had the privilege to visit. This is not a grand structure nor is it located in a place where you would expect to find mind boggling artwork. Our job at the house has been to gather a collection of wood carvings which has recently been donated to the Annapolis Heritage Society by the estate of the late Eugene "Bud" Hamm. While we went looking for carvings we found much more.

I am quite confident when I say that Bud Hamm was a man of infinite creativity. In addition to the hundreds of carvings which are now at the O'Dell House Museum, he published 21 volumes of poetry, and decorated the walls of his house with plaster murals. Oh yes, I should mention that he also built the house himself. Today I would like to share some of the plaster murals which adorn almost every wall in the house. While there is plenty to look at, the images in this post are only a sampling of what we found at the house.

As we begin to process the wood carvings, I know that they will become the topic of many future posts. We are also working on more biographical information for this largely unheralded artist. With this brief introduction I will let the images on the walls speak for themselves.

All for now,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aesop "Sippy" Moses

Not all of the Black Loyalists who arrived in Nova Scotia at the end of the American Revolution came with their freedom. In certain cases, Loyalist slave holders arrived on these shores with a collection of slaves they had brought from United States. While unsavoury, this was fully legal since slavery in the British Empire was not officially abolished until 1834 (the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807). Many of the slaves who arrived in Nova Scotia later escaped and found refuge in the communities of free Black Loyalists.

The image in this post shows Aesop Moses and his ox. More commonly known as Sip or Sippy, Mr. Moses was the descendant of an earlier Aesop Moses who came to Annapolis Royal as a slave to Loyalist Frederick Davoue. Davoue settled in Lequille where his grave can be found near the Mileboard Corner at the end of the Cape Road. Upon his death, Davoue willed Moses his freedom and provided him with a bequest of land. This was much more generous treatment than many slaves could expect. Today, descendants of the original Aesop Moses can still be found around Annapolis Royal.

On a lighter note, every time I look at this image I get a chuckle from the label at the bottom which reads "Single Ox Team, Annapolis Royal, NS". How can it be a "team" if there is only one ox?

All for now,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Afternoon on the Balcony

I have been looking at this picture off and on for a couple of weeks. This image, part of the Samuel Newton Weare collection which we have recently digitized at the O'Dell House Museum, has for some reason captivated my interest. For all intents and purposes it is a fairly standard turn of the twentieth century image. The two young ladies look like they are having a pleasant afternoon on the balcony. Both are fashionably yet conservatively attired. With their high necks, long sleeves and floor length skirts there was little chance of either getting a sunburn. They really do not look like the sort who would be making cat calls at people walking by. What is it about this image which makes me think that there may be something untold?

Well, if you look on the floor of the balcony in front of the lady on the left you will see three beer bottles. While this image was taken before prohibition, the temperance movement would still have had a strong role in Nova Scotia at the turn of the twentieth century. Beer drinking by young ladies would not have been banned but it would have been frowned upon in proper circles. It is these bottles which make me wonder what other stories this picture has to tell. While I will probably never know, I do enjoy the possibility of a good story.

All for now,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Walk in the Snow

I took a walk in the snow earlier today. For those who are wondering, this was not the Pierre Trudeau style walk in the snow where I think deep thoughts about my future. This was a walk in the snow because I had been working from home today and I needed to get outside for some fresh air. So, trusty dog by my side, I decided to take a tromp around the back part of our property. I quickly realized that it was an ideal day to take some pictures. When I got these shots the snow had been gently falling for about 18 hours.

The photographs in this collection are a mixture of wild plants as well as some roses and rhododendrons around our yard. The image at the bottom is my walking companion charging through the brush.

All for now,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Clarence United Baptist Church

In yesterday's post I was writing about my admiration for some of the more humble architecture which can be found in Annapolis County. Today I have decided to go in a different direction. Over the past few weeks I have been spending some time in Clarence, Nova Scotia working on a new collection which has been donated to the O'Dell House Museum. I will have much more on this collection in future posts. When we were wrapping up our work this afternoon I decided to make a short side trip to get a handful of pictures of the Clarence United Baptist Church. This is a building I have known about for some time but I had never taken the opportunity to get any pictures until today. I am happy that I did stop because I was quickly reminded that this is one of the most attractive churches in Nova Scotia.

Years ago I remember chatting with the gentleman who played the role of the Lutheran pastor when I worked at Upper Canada Village. Like many of the people who work in living history sites, Pat was an interesting person. Living history interpreters tend to be an eccentric lot. While in character, he thought it a great joke to sit in the parlour of his house and muse that he wished that the Anglicans next door would tear down their church and build "something tasteful in the Gothic Style". Well, this particular church would have met his requirements.

The church in Clarence was built in 1853 to replace a smaller structure built in 1810. In an early example of adaptive reuse, the 1810 church was turned into a carpenter's shop for the builder of the later church, Charles B. Clark. The building itself is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. While the windows in this church are not ornate stained glass, they are wonderful examples of the Gothic arch. It is these windows which give this church so much of its charm. Another distinctive element of the church is the open tower with an exposed bell. In a nod of the head to the Classical Style, this tower features simple Doric columns on all four sides. This feature greatly lightens the appearance of the building. The lot where the church sits features mature maple trees on each side. From the front of the church you have a sweeping view across the floor of the Annapolis Valley to the South Mountain.

If you happen to be travelling through the Annapolis Valley, I would recommend taking a trip through Clarence. Not only does it have one of the most attractive churches in Nova Scotia but, it may be one of the loveliest farming communities in the province.

All for now,

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,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Hounds of Heritage are Barking

I am a dog person. I always have been. From the miniature poodle we had as a child to my first "job" training dogs for obedience trials to the large goofy lab-pointer cross we own today, I have always admired dogs. Because of this, I am always happy to see images of dogs when I go through archival collections. Strangely, as central as dogs are to our lives, they do not often appear in archival images. I could probably find 30 images of horses to every picture of a dog that I could find. I always find this a bit odd considering how central dogs are to the lives of many people. Since these images are seemingly so rare I always seem to make a mental note when I find one.

In the Samuel Newton Weare collection which we have recently digitized I have found a number of images of dogs. These images were taken around Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown at the turn of the 20th century. The dogs themselves range from the beautiful sleek greyhound at the top of this post to the powerful mastiff at the bottom. I think that my favorite may be the little mongrel which appears in the second and third images. While I tend to gravitate toward larger dogs, there is something comical about this little guy.

All for now,