23 Birchtown Road, Birchtown, Nova Scotia, B0T, Canada
Links and documents
1830/01/01 to 1860/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Birchtown School is a small, wood building located on a small loop road near the Birchtown waterfront. Built between 1830 and 1860, it now houses a museum dedicated to the history of Black Loyalists in the Birchtown, NS area. The provincial designation applies to the building and land.
The Birchtown School is valued for its association with the story of education in the eighteenth century African-Nova Scotian community of Birchtown. It is also valued as a local landmark and museum.
A British tactic to weaken American resources during the American Revolution was to offer freedom and land to any Black slave who managed to escape their American slave owners and fight for the British. Following the end of hostilities approximately 50,000 ‘loyal’ Blacks needed to be resettled. Over three thousand came to Nova Scotia; approximately fifteen hundred settled at Birchtown in 1783. At this time Birchtown was the largest community of Free Blacks outside of Africa. In 1791 the British government formed the Sierra Leone Company and offered Freed Blacks more land that they were given in the British colonies and the promise of self-government in the West African country of Sierra Leone. Nearly half of the Black Loyalists accepted this offered and removed to Sierra Leone. Some Black Loyalists remained in Birchtown, which eventually became a racially mixed community. Formal education began in Birchtown in 1785 by an English philanthropic society.
It is unknown exactly when the Birchtown School was constructed. Its architecture is consistent with mid-nineteenth century architecture and is believed to have been built between 1830 and 1860. During that period a teacher named Roswell Brown was known to have taught Black children in the area at a Church of England school and Brown owned the land on which the school was built.
The building is a Greek Revival, one-and-one-half storey wood frame building with a front gable roof and a one storey wing projecting from the front elevation. It is one of two public buildings remaining from nineteenth century Birchtown and is now open as a museum operated by the Black Loyalist Heritage Society.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property File No. 244.
Character-Defining elements of the Birchtown School include:
- all elements related to its simple Greek Revival style including simple label mouldings around widows and doors, and simple corner boards and eave trim;
- wood cladding;
- gable end facing the road;
- wing on front elevation containing vestibules and two exterior doors;
- large sash window in gable;
- interior wainscoting to window sill.
Province of Nova Scotia
Heritage Property Act
Provincially Registered Property
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Education and Social Well-Being
Function - Category and Type
- One-Room School
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Provincial Heritage Property Files, Heritage Division, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, B4H 3A6.
Cross-Reference to Collection