Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lost Heritage - The Grange

Through the years Annapolis Royal has lost a great number of heritage buildings. This is an interesting statement for a community that prides itself on its architectural heritage. When you stop to consider, there have been a staggering number of buildings which have been lost. There has been serious European settlement in this area since the arrival of William Alexander Jr. and his Nova Scotia expedition in 1629. None of their buildings have survived. Acadian settlement in the area takes off after the arrival of Charles d'Aulnay in 1636, but the oldest building in Annapolis Royal, the deGannes-Cosby House dates to 1708. That is 72 years worth of missing architecture. Even after the deGannes-Cosby House we only have a small handful of buildings (Sinclair Inn, Williams House, Adams-Ritchie Building) from the first half of the 18th century. Annapolis Royal boasts a few more from the late 18th century (Bailey, Bonnett, Robertson and Murray Houses, etc.) but, nowhere near what once existed. Fires, neglect or new development have claimed a large portion of our early built heritage. Thankfully, our community does still have a good representation of buildings from the 19th century. A stroll along Upper St George Street will satisfy anyone with a desire to see Victoriana.

Of all the buildings we have lost, perhaps the one I would most like to have seen is the Grange. This imposing building stood on upper St George Street in the location now occupied by the Annapolis Royal Regional Academy. Built about 1810, this house featured a three bay front with rounded bays on either end. A series of steps led to a very Greek looking central entry. I admire the simplicity of the pediment supported by columns in a very classical style. I have magnified original archival image to provide a closer view of the entrance. I am quite amused by the gentleman standing in the door with the jaunty pose. Whenever I see pictures of the Grange I wonder if it partially served as the inspiration for the Runciman House which was built some 10 years later.

The Grange was built by Judge Thomas Ritchie (1777-1852) who served as both a member of the Nova Scotia legislative assembly for 18 years before becoming a jurist. When it was built this would have been the grandest house in Annapolis Royal. The building featured no less than 12 bedrooms plus double parlours, a library, dining room and butler's pantry. The kitchens, servants hall and a dairy were all found in the basement. The Ritchie family sold the building in 1873 and the property changed hands numerous times before becoming the Annapolis Academy ten years later. Sadly, the grange was torn down in 1902.

All for now,
RGS

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