Charles MacDonald House
Charles MacDonald Concrete House
Links and documents
1910/01/01 to 1910/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Charles Macdonald House is a two-storey, residential building located on a corner lot in Centreville, Nova Scotia. Built in 1910 entirely of concrete by Charles Macdonald, the house is a local landmark and unique within the province. The Provincial designation includes the house, land, art work and garden features.
The Charles Macdonald House is valued for its association with its builder artist, industrialist and socialist, Charles Macdonald; its unique architecture; and as a local landmark.
Charles Macdonald was born and raised in Centreville, a small community in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. At the age of fifteen Macdonald left school to work in local industries, including a coffin factory and carriage factory where he learned basic carpentry skills. In 1898 he went to sea as a ship’s carpenter and for several years he travelled the world, recording his travels in poems, letters, drawings and watercolours. Between 1908 and 1910 Macdonald lived in Vancouver where he joined the Socialist Party of Canada. In 1910 he returned to Nova Scotia and established a cement brick factory, Kentville Concrete, and operated it following his socialist philosophy. It was a cooperative operation; workers did not receive wages but drew what funds they needed from the proceeds of their work. Macdonald believed so strongly in social progress that even company advertising material promoted concrete as one part of a larger movement of social change. The original one-storey factory was converted into a two-storey house in 1915 where Macdonald lived with his wife Mabel. Even decorative interior and exterior elements were made using concrete, including fences, garden sculptures and the bathtub, reflecting Macdonald’s artistic skills and creative use of concrete.
The Charles Macdonald House is a unique building in Nova Scotia. Macdonald was no doubt influenced by buildings he saw while visiting various ports, and was mocked by some for building such an unusual house. Together with the interior decorative elements and landscape features such as concrete fencing, garden beds, benches and statuary, the brightly painted Charles Macdonald House demonstrates the builder’s very personal artistic and political vision. The property has been little altered since is 1915 conversion to a residence and is now open to the public and operated by the Charles Macdonald Concrete House Museum.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property files, no. 229
Character-defining elements of the exterior of the Charles Macdonald House include:
- concrete building materials;
- form and massing;
- portico over main entrance forming base for second storey balcony;
- portico over side entrance;
- all original concrete landscape features including: sculptures of animals and mushrooms; dog house; bird houses; and arch over driveway;
- variety of size and style of windows;
- hipped roof.
Character-defining elements of the interior of the Charles Macdonald House relate to its concrete building materials and original artwork and include:
- murals and sculptures;
- fireplace and mantel;
- stairs and newel post.
Province of Nova Scotia
Heritage Property Act
Provincially Registered Property
1915/01/01 to 1915/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Social Movements
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Provincial Heritage Property Program files, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3A6.
Cross-Reference to Collection