Description of Historic Place
519 St. George Street, Annapolis Royal, N.S., also known as the Hillsdale House, was built in 1859-1860. It is a large two storey wood-framed structure with ells and additions on the back and side, and a pitched roof. Located in the middle of the historic residential district, it has undergone a number of modifications over the years. The front façade was restored to its original appearance in the 1990s. A number of outbuildings have been constructed and removed over the years. Only the pump house has been removed since the property’s designation in 1981. The designation includes the building, and surrounding property.
The heritage value of Hillsdale House relates to is historical associations, almost continuous use as an inn, and in its Neo-classical architecture.
The historic value of the Hillsdale House, as recognized in its municipal designation, is found in its almost continuous use as an inn and the well-known visitors who stayed there. Originally constructed as a private home, the building is an outstanding example of the size and opulence of some of the residences built in the Confederation era. Its erection on part of the old military exercise grounds reflects the end of Annapolis Royal’s role as a British military outpost. Sometime before 1870, the Foster/Ryerson family, the original owners, turned their spacious home into a summer inn, catering to the growing number of tourists who visited the area. Beginning in 1897, the Perkins family continued the hostelry business until 1970, when it briefly reverted to use as a private residence. Since the early 1980s it has once again served as an inn. Of the present inns in Annapolis Royal, the Hillsdale House has the longest history of service to the traveling public.
Among the famous visitors to the Hillsdale House have been Prince George (later King George V), Lord and Lady Landsdowne, Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir, and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The architectural significance of the Hillsdale House lies in its strong representation of Neo-classical features, its visual impact and its intactness. Although the visual impact of the building has been somewhat altered by the removal of ancillary structures over the years, the inn itself retains most of its original appearance, with the exception of the façade of the ell. A more modern verandah was removed in the 1990s and replaced with a replica of the original. As is usual for Neo-classical buildings in the area, the Neo-classical features are produced in wood rather than stone or brick. The central front portico, symmetry, window treatment and pilasters emphasize the neoclassical style,reflecting the perseverance of this architectural influence in this area of Nova Scotia.
Architecturally, the size and styling of the building represents the confidence and aspirations of the town’s elite in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as they built impressive new homes on the then outskirts of the town. The fairly rapid transformation of the house into an inn represents the decline of economic prosperity, as some of those same elite were forced to open their homes to the traveling public. The visual impact of the building is enhanced by its setting within its original grounds, with spacious lawns, trees and gardens.
Although the house has been modified somewhat on the interior, to accommodate modern requirements, especially in regards to bathrooms, the Hillsdale also retains much of the original room layout, decorative trim, fireplaces and staircases.
Source: Heritage Property Files, MAP#267 - 519 St. George Street , Town Hall, Annapolis Royal.
Character-defining elements of the Hillsdale House relate to its Neo-classical architecture and include:
- unaltered interior, such as interior decorative trim, main staircase, fireplaces, window treatment, front doorway, and layout;
- original setting on spacious grounds;
- function as an inn;
- balanced brick chimneys on the main gable;
- boxed wooden cornice with frieze, brackets, and raking but without returns;
- symmetric paired wooden tow over two double hung windows with heavy wooden labels and wide casings;
- decorative paired center hall arch top windows (second storey);
- elaborate decorated wooden portico with rail, paired newels and paired bracketed rectangular wooden columns;
- full width open gallery with elaborate decorative rail newels and balusters;
- narrow wooden clapboard siding with wide decorated wooden corner boards and heavy wooden water table with protected top.