Saturday, July 31, 2010

Natal Day Weekend 2010 - Part 2

The Saturday of this year's Natal Day weekend was a beautifully sunny affair. While there were numerous events going on throughout the town, my day in Annapolis Royal was broken into three sections. As you will see from this post, only one of the sections was particularly photogenic. The morning and early afternoon were all about cooking hot dogs outside the Sinclair Inn Museum. We were able to sell some food to people coming or going from the Farmer's Market and add a few coins to the coffers of the AHS. I also had the chance to chat about some of our recent work with history professors from Acadia University and Universite Sainte Anne.

When we wrapped up the BBQ, I took a few minutes to watch the black powder firing at Fort Anne. Between the bright red uniforms of the re-enactors of the 84th Regiment, the white canvas tents and the green of the fort's infield grass, the encampment always makes for some interesting photographs. Historically,
the Royal Highland Immigrants were active in Annapolis Royal in the 1770s. Every year it is my personal challenge to get the best possible picture of fire shooting out of the muzzle of the muskets. Today's best effort is the top image. Tomorrow morning I will have another opportunity after the pancake breakfast.

The final part of my day involved working at the O'Dell House Museum to start to assembling our float for Monday's parade. As always, the carpentry skills of Ken Maher were very useful. I am not ready to unveil our completed float just yet, but the final image gives a hint about what we are trying to accomplish. The Charming Molly was the ship used to transport New England settlers to Annapolis County in 1760.

All for now,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Natal Day 2010 - Part 1

Rarely ever does the drummer get the credit. They sit on the stage partially hidden behind their instrument. They do not tend to get the recognition of their showier guitar playing brethren. In this case, I figure that I should not only offer the drummer the credit, but that he could take centre stage in the post. The drummer in this case is Tim Cress of the band the East Coast Millionaires who played the opening concert for this year's Natal Day weekend. In addition to drumming, for the past three summers Tim has also been one of the summer employees at the Annapolis Heritage Society. Officially he spends his time interpreting the history of O'Dell House and Sinclair Inn Museums, but he also tends to be my go to person for the countless odd requests and jobs which occur in the course of operating a museum. Amazingly, these requests are dealt with unfalteringly good, if somewhat odd, humour. Since he his one of the faces who allow the AHS to function, I figure that this is as good of an opportunity as any to acknowledge his good work.

As I previously mentioned, tonight was the first night of Annapolis Royal's Natal Day weekend 2010. This year the Annapolis Heritage Society had been asked to organize the event. This effort was led by Jim McGinis. The event was kicked off with a procession of princesses and vintage cars led down St George Street by a piper. When they reached the Farmer's Market there was a short formal presentation followed by a concert by the aforementioned East Coast Millionaires. I was particularly happy to hear the band play Spirit of the West's "Home for a Rest" as it has been a while since I have heard that particular favorite. Thanks to everyone who helped out with tonight's events.

All for now,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sinclair Inn Museum Window Restoration - Part 3

Today was the day for deglazing the window from the Sinclair Inn Museum which we are having restored. It may say something about me that I am much more familiar with deglazing a frying pan to make a sauce than I am with deglazing a window. Evidently, the technique for deglazing a window is quite different than that used with a frying pan. While the results may not be as tasty, (despite the fact that I have seen our window restoration expert, Dr. Chris Cooper of Edifice Old Home Magazine, tasting both the putty and the paint) the deglazing of the window is the needed treatment in this scenario.

As work moved forward today, we are now certain that we are dealing with one of the earliest (if not the earliest) surviving sash window in Canada. The window has all the hallmarks of a French made window from the late seventeenth century. According to Chris the glass, meeting rail and muntin bars are all typical of French construction at this time. The glass itself is absolutely beautiful with slight waves and undulations from the blowing process. Most likely, the window originated in one of the two sections of the Sinclair Inn built around 1710. When the building was expanded in 1781 this window was recycled into the new section.

A key part of this restoration process is documentation. If this window is as old as we believe it is, it is vital that we record what is found and how the work is done. Here Chris can be seen setting up his video equipment before the deglazing process begins (note, not a single frying pan to be seen).

If you are interested in learning how to restore your own wooden windows, Chris will be offering a workshop in Annapolis Royal on August 29. A second workshop on that day will deal with the ever popular topic of keeping your old house warm in the winter.

All for now,

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Very Strange Request

Yesterday evening I received a phone call from a gentleman I had never met before. After a very brief introduction I heard him utter the words "all we need is a sample of your DNA to solve our mystery". Let's pause for a minute on this statement. For some reason my DNA was the key to a mystery great enough for someone to be phoning me on a Sunday night. In all honesty, I was a bit taken aback. Perhaps I have watched too many episodes of CSI, but when I hear "all we need is a sample of your DNA to solve our mystery" a few alarm bells go off in my head. Since I have a mostly clear conscience, I figured I should hear the caller out. At this point, I backed the conversation up to get a better grasp on what exactly we were discussing.

The man on the phone had the surname Cranton. If you add an S to the front of his name, you end up with my name. He told me that, despite their best genealogical efforts, they had not been able to trace their family line further than their arrival in Nova Scotia in the 1760s. Evidently a story existed that the name had been changed from Scranton either before or shortly after their arrival in Nova Scotia. This would explain why tracing the family line beyond their arrival in Nova Scotia was impossible. Since the story of the name change was not accepted by all parts of the family, I became the missing genealogical link in a long standing mystery. Let me tell you, it is an odd feeling being the missing link. Strangely enough, I can remember my grandfather making a comment that all of the Crantons on Cape Breton Island we related to us but they had changed their name. Perhaps there was some truth to both stories. If there is some truth, it would extend the Cranton family line back to the arrival of John Scranton in Connecticut in 1637.

Thanks to advances in science, we are able to use DNA testing for genealogical purposes. With a simple swab of a q-tip inside your cheek, you can unlock much hidden ancestral information. Since I was intrigued by the request, I agreed to meet with my caller. He proposed a meeting in Annapolis Royal where he could get a sample to be mailed to the lab at Lakehead University. Promptly at noon he arrived at the O'Dell House Museum with a box of q-tips and a handful of information. After all, what better place to have this sort of exchange than our Genealogy Centre. Looking through the information there was indeed a strong case for an existing relationship. Unfortunately, without further proof the evidence was circumstantial. Well, the cheek has been swabbed and the information sent off to the lab. I am looking forward to the results.

All for now,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chopping Firewood

This is really an image that could have been posted in the spring. From the look of the trees in the background, I feel safe in assuming that this image was probably taken in April or May. Ideally, firewood was cut in the middle of winter when the ground was frozen solid. This provided footing for the horses or oxen and made hauling or skidding logs out of the woods somewhat easier. Winter was also an excellent time for this sort of work because occupations like farming and fishing tended to have a bit more down time during the winter months. This time would have been spent in the woods chopping trees and preparing for the next winter. The trees themselves would have been cut into shorter lengths, split and left to dry until the Fall. When the weather got cold again, the wood would be brought inside to burn. In a pre-industrial age, the cycle of the seasons controlled many of the activities of those living in Annapolis County.

As one of those who still heats their home with wood, I can attest to the truth of the old adage that "wood heats you many times before you burn it". While the most labour intensive part of the process (cutting and chopping) is now done before the wood arrives at our house, there is still some needed work. I must admit that I find chopping wood by hand fun. I love the ring of the axe as it cuts through the wood. The blade sinks into the chopping block with a dull thud and pieces fall to either side. When done properly, chopping a block of wood almost feels effortless. While there is a visceral appeal to chopping wood, I am not sure that this appeal would continue if I were annually processing all of the wood we need for a winter (about 4 cords). Once the split wood has had the chance to spend the spring and summer drying outside, we stack it neatly under cover. During the winter, we usually bring about two weeks worth of wood inside at at a time. There are many times when we have been bringing the wood inside that I have decided that I was warm enough to take off my jacket on a cold winter day.

The image itself comes from the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the gentleman in the photograph. Based on the type of photographic print, I believe that the image was taken in the 1930s.

All for now,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Five Century House Tour - Part 1

If you are interested in old houses, fine craftsmanship, architectural detail, or the history of Annapolis Royal, you will want to mark your calendars for August 28, 2010. This is the day of the Five Century House Tour. On this day you will be able to explore six private homes, three museums, the Historic Gardens and one of our fine inns during the daytime. In addition to this, a lucky few will visit a mystery house where they will learn its impressive story. In the evening we are providing an innovative musical tour through historic buildings and landscapes in Annapolis Royal.

The Five Century House tour is a combined fundraiser for the Annapolis Heritage Society and the Historic Gardens. As we come up to the event, I will try to write about some of the properties which will be on display. Each of the properties featured in this post are featured during the daytime tour. The properties range in age from the 1710 Sinclair Inn Museum to the modern Dahms House which was built in 2009. To extend our historic time frame a bit (allowing for the fifth century), we are including the Maison Acadienne at the Historic Gardens. This building is a reproduction of a circa 1671 Acadian dwelling based on archaeological excavations in the Annapolis Royal area. If you are interested in ticket information please email

All for now,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sinclair Inn Window Restoration - Part 2

Not long ago I wrote about the upcoming restoration of a window at the Sinclair Inn Museum in Annapolis Royal. Well, today was the day that the window was removed from the building. A small group of us gathered to assist, watch and document Dr. Chris Cooper of Edifice Old Home Magazine as he removed the window. Before going much further I should state that we are very lucky to have Chris, an internationally renowned expert in window restoration, working on this window. All of his work, including the creation of a wooden trompe-l'oeil window replacement, is being done as a gift to the museum.

At that time I wrote the original post we figured that we were restoring a 230 year old wooden window. This assumption was based on the fact that the window was located in a section of the building which added in 1781. When we got the window out of the building and had a chance to look at it, I could see a smile growing across Chris's face. He carefully examined the sashes, took some measurements and noted some unique features like a extra piece of wood scabbed onto the header. Then, with an impish grin, he announced that "this window is not from the 1780s". Of course, an uncomfortable pregnant pause is proper for moments such as this and Chris did not disappoint. Finally deciding to speak, he told us "This is a recycled window and was made some time between 1690 and 1710".

Again we had a short pause as we contemplated the ramifications of this date. 1710 is the construction date of the Soullard section of the Sinclair Inn which is located along St George Street. The Skene section at the back of the building was built in 1712. Were these windows recycled from from one of the two early sections when the houses were joined and expanded in 1781? Are these perhaps an early form of architectural salvage from another building in Annapolis Royal? One thing is for sure, we were all very excited that these windows were as early as they are.

The photographs in this post document the removal of the window from the numbering of the panes (so they can go back in the right spot) to the installation of the trompe-l'oeil. I have also included some detail shots which will act as the before pictures when the project is finished. In the coming days I hope to get some photographs which document the restoration itself. If you are interested in learning about window restoration for yourself, Chris will be offering a workshop in Annapolis Royal at the end of August.

All for now,