Description of Historic Place
Ottawa House is a large, two-and-one-half storey wood-frame house located on Partridge Island, NS, facing the Bay of Fundy. Construction on the home began circa 1774 in the Georgian style; however numerous additions have been made, including a two-tired porch on the front elevation and two side ells. Only the house is included in the provincial heritage designation.
Ottawa House is valued for its rare construction method, age, and role in the history of the Parrsboro area.
Patridge Island was the location for the original Planter settlement, a short distance from the modern Town of Parrsboro. Families from New England were drawn to Nova Scotia by the promise of land grants – lands made vacant by the 1755 expulsion of the French-speaking Acadians. While this area of Nova Scotia lacks rich agricultural lands, Partridge Island was located on prime shipping routes. Construction of Ottawa House began circa 1774, possibly using sections of an earlier building. The original form of the house was a Georgian style, three-bay, two-storey building with a hipped roof. The walls are palisade construction, a form generally associated with Acadian buildings and of which very few examples exist.
For whom the house was constructed is unclear. Due to its size and lucrative location, it was most likely built for a merchant or a person of some means. One of the earliest known owners was James Nobel Shannon, a merchant who arrived at Partridge Island in 1787, and the property has been referred to as the Old Shannon Store. Following his death in 1822, the property was purchased by James Ratchford Sr. a merchant trader and banker who held numerous influential positions in the community.
The next significant owner was Charles Tupper, former premier of Nova Scotia, a Father of Confederation and Canada’s sixth prime minister who gave the building the name Ottawa House and used it as a summer residence. It is believed that the side ells were added during the mid-nineteenth century, possibly under Tupper’s direction.
In 1923 Ottawa House was purchased by Captain Carl Merriam who operated it as an inn and it operated as such, under several owners, until 1980. At this time the house was purchased by the Province of Nova Scotia and is now operated as a seasonal museum by the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property Program files, no. 268
Character-defining elements of Ottawa House relate to its evolutionary form and combination of styles and uses and include:
- location on the Bay of Fundy;
- form and massing;
- basic Georgian style of original central portion including hip roof, dormers, main entrance;
- two side ells;
- oriel bay window and two-storey bay window;
- two inset chimneys;
- three peaked gables on front elevation;
- two-tiered verandah across front elevation;
- wooden clapboard siding and trim;
- original stone foundation under centre section;
- all original interior elements including: all evidence of palisade construction in original section, interior spatial layout, hardware, wood work and decorative elements, plaster and staircase front hallway, elements of original open fireplace, and massive arched chimney base.