Historic Landscapes

Bay View Park, Yarmouth

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,  stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.

Evangeline, H.W. Longfellow

Historic landscapes are an often overlooked part of our cultural heritage. While it may be easy for the general public to recognize a historic landscape such as Grand-Pré, the public only understands the importance of such a site because of the extensive interpretation and pervasive education that mark it as significant (and because of the unrelenting heart of Gabriel Lajeunesse).

What of those sites that do not yet benefit from the protecting cloak of site interpretation and public education? What of traditional Mi’kmaq flintknapping sites? What of the stone and iron work in historic cemeteries? What of sites where public hangings took place? Or of individual trees or rocks that once held a place of cultural meaning in local lore?

Parks, bridges, canals, commons, roads, dykes, sports fields, and other “built” landscapes can be so ubiquitous that we almost don’t recognize their significance. Sometimes it takes someone from “away” to point out the uniqueness of a place. Sometimes a place can appear to be so unchanging, so constant, that locals do not fear it losing its heritage value. Heritage value though is not always eradicated by an early morning excavator; it can also be forfeited slowly over generations.

 


Prince Street, Truro

By now you are beginning to get an inkling of where this commentary is headed. Everything should be turned into a museum so that history huggers have a place to take (and indoctrinate) their children. Nope! Turning everything into a museum is of course not the answer; nor is it the objective of those engaged in historic preservation. It is in fact, ‘continuous use’ that is often the best preserver of all. It is important though that sites are thoroughly researched and documented and appropriate management plans put in place.

The ongoing preservation of cultural landscapes provides scenic, economic, recreational, ecological, and educational opportunities for Nova Scotians and visitors. Such sites provided early residents with a sense of place and have the ability to continue doing so for many years to come.

Posted by Joe Jul 03, 2011 Posted in Cultural Landscapes, Featured Comments Off

Adaptive Reuse of Churches

Colchester County’s Balmoral Kirk

Contrary to prevailing belief, church closures are NOT new to Nova Scotia. What is new is our inability to conceive of new uses for the structures. Over 100 years ago, resourceful and imaginative Nova Scotians turned former houses of worship into homes, inns and bowling alleys!

Vineberg & Fulton Ltd. can work with church stewards, property developers, and community groups to re-imagine and reuse these venerable buildings while valuing their architectural integrity and their importance to the community.

As Bluenoses we have been in this position before. Let’s be just as smart this time around, think outside the nave – think of these landmarks as cultural resources and consider how they can be retained rather than demolished.  In small communities the loss of these buildings is often a death-knell.  Don’t surrender these charming buildings easily; remember that the best use for a church is still as a place of worship.  Historically, church buildings were raised and supported by the entire community, not just the congregation.  Even Protestants and Catholics aided one another despite their differences; atheists too, supported the efforts of worshipers.  There is no good reason to stand idly by as a congregation in your community struggles to find the funds to repaint a steeple or replace an aging roof.  Save the church, save the community.

The “Old Chapel” was for many years the only house of worship in town except the neat Episcopal church that now makes such a nice meat market.

Truro Daily News, January 6, 1898

Posted by Joe Jun 18, 2011 Posted in Adaptive Reuse, Atlantic Canada, Featured Comments Off

DIY & Architectural Salvage

 

Salvaged brick

The house on the property lately sold by Mr. J. J. M. Ritchie to the Nova Scotia Bank, was on Monday last put to the hammer and sold… the old fashioned brick chimnies bringing $15.

The Digby Weekly Courier, Apr 27, 1877

 

Do-it-yourselfers love architectural salvage; and Nova Scotia is fairly well served by salvage companies that divert old growth lumber and historic architectural details from C&D sites. These salvagers can be a rich source of period hardware and vintage moulding. Even things as minute as authentic nails and screws can be hard to find but are essential for correct finish work. Hopefully the salvage yard you eventually deal with is responsible enough to advocate for preservation (where possible) rather than always rushing to rape and pillage orphaned buildings. Responsibility also lies with the renovator who has the potential to damage built heritage with inappropriate alterations or additions. Attaching an old cornice to an old house isn’t necessarily a good idea just because the two are old. You may actually be creating Frankenstein Manor even though your intentions are noble.

It is a very smart and helpful practice to identify any renovation work by inscribing on the reverse side of newly installed woodwork any pertinent information, particularly if the wood is salvaged from another location. This would include recording the source of the material and the date of installation but may also contain other information that could be helpful to future stewards of the property. A photo log of home renovations is another option utilized by some but the long term survival of such records is subject to the assiduity of the property owner. Really, these two methods of record keeping, in tandem, are ideal. Taking care not to create a false sense of history is the key when dealing with reused material. Diligent documentation and sensitive, well-thought-out projects will help achieve this while protecting your investment from mistakes.

 

Architectural salvage in Nova Scotia

Phillips and Chestnut, Truro (formerly Onslow Historic Lumber Co.)

Renovator’s Resource, Halifax

Annapolis Heritage Society, Annapolis Royal

Graff Brothers Salvage Company, Weymouth

Bargain Bruce’s Reusables, Middleton

This list should not be assumed to be complete nor should it be mistaken as an endorsement of the parties named.


 

 

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Posted by Joe Jun 10, 2011 Posted in Architectural Salvage, Atlantic Canada, Featured Comments Off