Description of Historic Place
North Hills Museum consists of a Neo-classical style wood shingle home. Set back from the road atop a gentle rise on former agricultural land, the house overlooks the Annapolis Basin in the community of Granville Ferry, NS. It currently operates as a museum; a part of the Nova Scotia Museum and is co-operated by the Annapolis Heritage Society. The provincial heritage designation applies to the building and land.
North Hills Museum is valued for its age, architecture, association with the history of the area, its last owner, and its current role in the provincial museum system.
In the 1730s the lot now occupied by the museum was granted to Benjamin Rumsey, Clerk of the Cheque to the Board of Ordinance and captain in the militia. Rumsey resided in nearby Round Hill and possibly rented the house and farm. In its original form, the house is thought to have been a small, square, wood-framed structure. Facing south, it was built to overlook the waters of the Annapolis Basin with only two windows on the north wall.
The early history of the construction house is somewhat unclear. It is believed construction of the house began circa 1764 by Rumsey. It is possible that the house pre-dates 1764, or made use of sections of an earlier building as the farmhouse contains a beam with the date 1702 carved into it and one wall contains wattle and daub (a technique of infilling walls using clay and a wooden lattice). This technique was a common feature of Acadian houses.
In 1784 the property was purchased by Paul Amberman who, with his family, arrived in Nova Scotia from New York, part of the exodus of Loyalists following the end of the American Revolution. The property remained in the Amberman family, spanning six generations, until 1964 when it was purchased by Robert Patterson. An antique collector, Patterson renamed the property North Hills, returned the farmhouse to a late eighteenth century appearance and used it to display his impressive collections of Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Chippendale furnishings, English and Chinese-export ceramics, Sheffield plate, pewter, and English glass. He died in 1974 and the site and Patterson’s collections were willed to the Province of Nova Scotia. Currently it is part of the Nova Scotia Museum and operated by the Annapolis Heritage Society.
Many changes have been made to the house during its history, including two major additions: a one-storey summer kitchen was added on the west wall and a one-and-a-half storey extension on the east side. The original fieldstone masonry of the dining room chimney and the exposed brickwork flues on the east wall upstairs remain. The original pine woodwork has been retained in the dining room including the mantelpiece and built-in cupboard, and the mantelpiece in the adjoining room. The long living room was redesigned in 1964 by Mr. Patterson. A Georgian style mantelpiece was installed and also a wooden cornice, adapted from a cornice in the Bailey House, a provincially registered heritage property in Annapolis Royal.
A small barn and privy are also located on the site. The barn and privy are typical features of a historic farmstead. The barn (made from reclaimed timbers) and garage are later additions and the privy was moved by the last owner from a nearby property. The garage is connected to the house via a breezeway.
Source: Provincial heritage property files, no. 274.
Character-defining elements of the farmhouse of the North Hills Museum include:
- original location in Granville Ferry overlooking the Annapolis Basin;
- all remaining original wooden framing;
- all elements of its Neo-classical style including symmetrical front façade, central door, gable roof with no overhang, and chimney on each end;
- rubble stone and mortar foundation;
- wood shingle cladding and roof;
- twelve-over-twelve wooden windows on main floor;
- eight-over-eight windows on second floor and additions;
- exposed beam construction;
- original large open brick fireplaces;
- absence of decoration.
- original chimmey on west end;
- original chimney base on west end;
- all evidence of waddle and daub infill.
Character-defining elements of outbuildings:
- wood shingle cladding and roofs;
- gable roofs;
- location to the rear of farmhouse.