Description of Historic Place
Balmoral Grist Mill is a wood-frame industrial structure located directly on Matheson’s Brook, Balmoral Mills, Nova Scotia. Hidden among trees, the site is accessed from a path leading from a parking lot. A wooden bridge spans the river, located directly over the dam that once powered the mill, and the former stable now serves as a reception area for the property in its role as a museum. The mill buildings, including the kiln and former stable, and the surrounding land are included in the provincial heritage designation.
This property is a fine representation of the predominant local milling industry in Nova Scotia through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The mill, in its restored state, is one of the last of a once common industrial link between the farm and the home. Built of local materials in a vernacular style and furnished with machinery and equipment of both local and foreign production, it is evidence of Nova Scotia's complex trade and regional agricultural and food service history. Originally harnessed with a dam and iron water turbine, Matheson Brook offered a low technological and economic power source.
The local building tradition is well represented in the form and materials of the mill buildings, all typical for rural light industrial buildings of the period. While largely unapparent from the exterior, the structure of the building is designed in relation to the stages of the milling process, from kilning, to ginding to bagging. Its sections and levels correspond to the power production and transmission, grain handling and storage, milling, and packing.
It is key to understanding the relationship between small farm holdings and local food production, processing and consumption. This economic, agricultural and industrial pattern pre-dated provincial and national mass production and centralized distribution which became dominant after the First World War, supplanting small local mills and low volume grain production.
It is a last view of the middle and longest stage of food grain processing for Nova Scotia tables. The first stage was importation, the second stage was the development of home and local mill processing, depending on regional food production, the current form is transnational and international production, processing and sales.
The property now operates as a museum within the Nova Scotia Museum family. The mill still produces selected products and walking trails have also been developed on a portion of the property.
Source: Nova Scotia Provincial Registry, Heritage Property Program, file no. 273
Character-defining elements of the mill building include:
- location directly beside Matheson Brook;
- two-and-one-half storey wood-frame construction;
- wooden shingle cladding;
- gable roof with wooden shingles;
- wooden six-over-six windows;
- replica wooden waterwheel, designed based on remains of a waterwheel thought to have belonged to another MacKay mill;
- all original and historic milling equipment including millstones and hopper;
- stone and mortar foundation.
Character-defining elements of the kiln building include:
- sloping, shed-style roof with wooden shingles;
- wooden shingle cladding.
Character-defining elements of the property as a whole include:
- heavily treeded surroundings;
- man-made dam;
- walking trails;
- bridge over the dam.