Description of Historic Place
Uniacke House is a sprawling 2000 acre estate located at Mount Uniacke, a community located midway between Halifax and Windsor, N.S. Built between 1813 and 1816, it is located on a gentle slope rising from Lake Martha. Its provincial designation applies to the house, a three-storey Georgian country residence of Richard John Uniacke, an adjacent barn, carriage house and ice house and an intricate series of woodland trails, the Old Post Road and five lakes.
Uniacke House and estate is valued for its association with Richard John Uniacke. Uniacke was a member of the landed gentry, immigrating from Ireland in the 1770s . In 1781, having studied law in Ireland, Uniacke was appointed Solicitor General for Nova Scotia. The following year he was elected to the House of Assembly and in 1789 named Speaker of the House. He was also named, by Governor John Parr, Advocate General in the Nova Scotia Vice-Admiralty Court, a prestigious position, and also maintained a private law practice. In 1797 he was appointed Attorney General of Nova Scotia, a position he held throughout his life. In 1808 he was appointed to the Legislative Council, and was known as a moderate tory.
In 1813 Uniacke began construction on his country estate house, Uniacke House. Designed by English Georgian architect John Plaw, it embodies many major elements of the Palladian style and its massing, symmetry and proportions are typical of neo-Classical colonial architecture.
The site is also significant because it contains a portion of the Old Post Road, the original road connecting Halifax and Windsor and the estate includes some unusual geological features - a major drumlin and several erratics scattered across the property. In addition to the main house, Uniacke built a large barn, coach house, various outbuildings and gardens, suitable to a man in his position. The majority of these buildings were clustered around the main house. Uniacke adhered to the natural ideas of English landscape gardening and had a stone haha wall (a concealed wall) built to keep livestock away from the house, yet retain an uninterrupted visual relationship between the house and its surroundings. A hothouse was located in the orchard and a boathouse was located on the shore of Lake Martha and the end of a tree lined path running from the house to the lake. The main house overlooked a garden that was surrounded by a haha wall. The fields and pastures which would have surrounded the main house were set out to provide goods views of the house from the Old Post Road. Today much of the cleared pastures have reverted to forest. Many of the stone walls, built during Uniacke’s time to mark off his land, remain evident. Uniacke died in the house in 1830 and the estate remained in the family for many years.
The house and 2000 acres of Uniacke’s original Mount Uniacke holdings were eventually given to the Province of Nova Scotia and opened as a museum. More recently the grounds have been opened up to the public with the construction of a series of trails interpreting the social and natural history of the estate. In the 1990s the Nova Scotia Museum discovered the archaeological remains of the haha wall and hot house, which have been become part of the exterior interpretation of the site.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property Files, no. 17, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax.
Character-Defining Elements of the Estate Include:
- section of the Old Post Road, the original Halifax-to-Windsor roadway;
- arrangement of buildings and their relationship to the Old Post Road;
- many exotic and foreign species of plants, shrubs and trees imported by Uniacke;
- geological and natural features including a drumlin, erratics and lakes;
- a “ha ha” wall - a concealed retaining wall on the front lawn used to contain sheep, goats and other farm animals;
- rubble stone foundation from hot house - now an archaeological site;
- original stone well (now capped);
- reproductions of original wood gateposts.
Character-Defining Elements of the Main House Include:
- 3.5 stories, 52 ft. x 38 ft., with neo-Classical symmetry, massing and proportions;
- raised rubble stone basement walls, three feet thick to counteract dampness;
- six-over-six, single hung windows throughout; shutters on first floor;
- half-round, operable window in pediment;
- hipped roof replaces original flat roof with widow’s walk at rear and perimeter railing;
- semi-circular motif and fan light over front door;
- formal front porch with split stairs and elaborate railing and column bases;
- two storey, four column Palladian portico with full pediment;
- clapboard siding with corner pilasters with capitals and bases;
- two, eight foot brick chimneys;
- rear servant’s entry porch to basement and first floor.
Character-Defining Elements of the Interior of the Main House include:
- full fireplace and hearth of stone and brick in basement with cooking hardware;
- formal entry hall on first floor with main stair and elaborate crown moulding;
- heavy original locks, keys, handles and door knockers;
- wood burning stoves on marble hearths in each first floor room;
- curved wall in second floor hallway encloses three closets;
- cat access holes in closet doors;
- observatory in third floor pediment with operable semi-circular window;
- original widow’s walk at rear concealed beneath hipped roof;
- building replete with period artifacts and antique furniture.
Character-Defining Elements of the Barn include:
- 3 storey, 80 ft. x 30 ft., heavy timber frame building;
- hipped roof, truncated to second storey on front and back;
- square cupola at roof crest, with hipped roof, louvres and cast iron weather vane;
- building on stone or concrete piers; stone foundation wall at one end;
- shingled facades an asymmetric array of loading doors, second storey mezzanine gates and fixed windows;
- interior elements inlcuding: structural frame of hand-hewn, heavy timbers with knee braces and mortise-and-tenon, pinned joints; second storey storage mezzanine; variety of fixed, multi-paned windows (one with 35 panes); stalls for cattle, horses and other livestock; wide pine plank flooring and wall sheathing.
Character-Defining Elements of the Carriage House include:
- two storey, shingled, 20 ft. x 18 ft. building with gabled roof;
- attached one storey wing with shed roof;
- symmetric front facade, with paired double garage doors and wood gutter and downspout;
- variety of multi-paned, fixed windows (one in shed with 48 panes, bull’s eye glass).
Character-Defining Elements of the Ice House include:
- single storey, 16 ft. x 10 ft. shed with gabled roof;
- attic with front access gate;
- shingled, with no foundation and dirt floor.