Description of Historic Place
The Gavelton Meeting House is a two-and-a-half storey building of wood construction located on a fairly large terraced and elevated lot on Lake Vaughan Road in Gavelton, NS. There is a burial ground situated to the east and west of the Meeting House with some of the earliest inscribed stones dating from the 1840s. The designation applies to the building, burial ground and surrounding property.
The Gavelton Meeting House is Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia’s only surviving New England style meeting house. It is valued for being the only such example in the county and one of the few remaining in Nova Scotia, for its association with the original Loyalist settlers, and for its long history as a place of worship in the community of Gavelton.
The community of Gavelton was settled by Loyalists shortly after 1784. One of the most prominent families of that area, originally known as “Tusket Lakes,” was the Gavel family, and a portion of “Tusket Lakes” eventually became known as Gavelton. The original settler of this name was John Gavel, and it was his son, John Gavel 2nd, also known as “Deacon John Gavel” who was the leader in the construction and consequent operation of this meeting house. The exterior of the building had already been finished by 29 March 1842 when he deeded the property on which it was built to himself and to John Gavel 3rd, Jacob Gavel, Andrew Gavel, Titus Hurlburt, Simon Kavanah, James King and William H. Gavel. Built on the principal of many Proprietor’s Meeting Houses (more closely associated with the Congregationalists), the deed states that the meeting house was owned in 30 shares, among the previously named men. The burial ground holds many of the graves of these early settlers as well as several fine examples of rare purple slate gravestones located on the Eastern end of the building. The deed however also makes it clear that from the beginning this was a “Baptist Meeting House.”
As an organized church body this church was always a Calvinist or Regular Baptist Church (as opposed to Free Baptist which was more common in Argyle Municipality). In 1905-06 this became a United Baptist Church. It has been some fifteen years or more since any organized church has worshipped in this building, although there are still Trustees for the building and it is reasonably well maintained.
The Gavelton Meeting House is a two-and-a-half storey building of wood construction with a medium pitched gable roof, built in the style of the old New England meeting houses. Greek Revival influence can be seen in the decorative elements and the fact that it is built on the front gable plan. For many years the rear gable end had no windows, but during a 1980s restoration most of the original windows were reinstated.
Source: Argyle Municipal Heritage Files, file #004
Character defining elements of the Gavelton Meeting House include:
- two-and-a-half storey, wood construction;
- New England Meeting House style, but built on a front gable plan;
- symmetrically arranged twelve-paned windows on all four sides;
- triangular window with moulding centred in front gable end at attic level;
- Romanesque window on the rear gable end, positioned between the rectangular windows at the second floor level;
- dentils under eaves on ridge walls;
- double-door entrance with entablature;
- classical decorative cornerboards designed to resemble pilasters with capital;
- cemetery on each side (east and west) of the meeting house;
- terraced, elevated lot.