Description of Historic Place
The MacFarlane House is located in Mull River, Inverness County, Nova Scotia. This Gothic Revival style house is situated on a hill overlooking a large meadow system and is surrounded by four hundred acres of woodland, some of it “climax forest”. The house and surrounding property are included in the designation.
The house is valued for its Gothic Revival style and for its surrounding four hundred acres of woodland. Some of this woodland is "climax forest" and is known as MacFarlane Woods.
In 1820 Farlane MacFarlane came to Cape Breton from the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The family named their new home Mull River after their old home in Scotland. Hugh MacFarlane was born in a log home here in 1826.
By 1870 Hugh MacFarlane was married to Mary MacDonald of Stewartdale and had a family of 10 children. His two oldest daughters appealed to their father to replace their large centre-chimney house with four fireplaces to a house that had a modern centre hallway with facilities appropriate for heating by stove.
In the Fall of 1870, Hugh and his oldest son cut timber for the new house. Except for the sills, the stringers and rafters which were left rough hewn, the remainder of the timber was finished in a nearby waterpower sawmill. The house was built for Hugh MacFarlane’s family with the assistance of local house-framer Alex P. MacEachern. The new house was raised in the Spring of 1871 and finished in the Autumn.
A number of neighbours liked the new house so much that within a year or two several other houses of similar design appeared in the Mull River community. However, the Macfarlane House is the only one surviving in its original form.
With its Gothic peak in front, its steeply pitched roof, simple pilasters, returned eaves and decorated front windows, this one-and-a-half storey farmhouse is representative of the 1865 – 1875 period in Cape Breton, when the economy was strong and people anticipated large families and a farming operation.
While most of the lumber was prepared for the house, some of the wallboards are from the earlier house that was on the same location. Also surviving are five pine doors with the panels of each arranged as to form a cross. In addition, one of the fireplace mantels from the 1826 dwelling now surrounds a fireplace installed in the house in 1970. The house remains much as it was built with a parlour and three bedrooms downstairs as well as a kitchen and dining room. One of the bedrooms still displays the original 1871 wallpaper and many rugs hooked by Hugh’s wife Mary are still used in the home.
The surrounding climax forest, known as “MacFarlane Woods” is located on a ridge in Mull River, in the Skye River Hills and Valleys natural landscape. It is protected from any cutting by the Special Places Act of the Nova Scotia Legislature. Primarily old growth hardwood, the woodland was never cut over as the MacFarlane family was much more interested in agriculture. MacFarlane Woods Nature Reserve protects an excellent example of a rich, old-growth Sugar Maple-Yellow Birch-Beech forest. It also hosts rare plants. The original MacFarlane Woods Nature Reserve was designated in 1988. Between 2001 and 2004 more land was added to the reserve, bringing its present size to 132 hectares.
Source: Municipality of the County of Inverness, Municipal Heritage Files, MacFarlane House; MacLeod, Mary K. and James O. St. Clair, No Place Like Home (The Life and Times of Cape Breton Heritage Houses) (1992) 67-70.
Character-defining elements of the MacFarlane House related to its Gothic Revival style include:
- one-and-a-half storey wood construction with one storey kitchen ell;
- steeply pitched gable roof;
- centre door in main façade with sidelights and transom;
- classical details on door surround;
- one large central dormer;
- double Gothic windows in central dormer;
- peaked gable with double Gothic windows above the door;
- corner trim with eaves return;
- simplified cornice under eaves;
- location surrounded by MacFarlane Woods Nature Reserve.