Description of Historic Place
The George and Mary Ellen Guest House is a large, two storey Italianate style house built in 1874 that has unique architectural features which distinguish it from other houses of the same style. The house and its residential lot are included in the municipal designation.
The George and Mary Ellen Guest House is valued for its historic associations with John W. Lovitt, who had the house built; George and Mary Ellen Guest, the first occupants; Eric H. Spinney, a prominent businessman in Yarmout; and Dr. J. Alexander Webster, who lived and had his medical office here for many years. It is also valued for its Italianate architecture and the unique elements which distinguish it from others of the style.
John W. Lovitt was running the family’s shipping business when he had this house built for his daughter, Mary Ellen, and her betrothed, George H. Guest, who were married in November 1874. Twelve years earlier Mr. Lovitt had supervised the building of his son’s house next door when Capt. John Lovitt married George Guest’s sister. Mr. Lovitt passed away in July of 1874, probably before the completion of construction, so title was not conveyed to the Guests until1876, when a division of his estate was made among his children.
The Guests moved into their new home when they married and resided here for the rest of their lives. George H. Guest was a shipowner and involved in the marine insurance business. He was also well situated politically through his maternal great-grandfather, who had served in the Provincial Legislature in the early 1800s, and through his brother-in-law, John Lovitt, who was a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) at the time of the Guest’s marriage and in 1887 became a Member of Parliament. When the office of High Sheriff became vacant in 1887, Guest was appointed to the position, in which he remained until his retirement 1921. Mary Ellen had died in 1915 and two years after his retirement George H. Guest also passed away.
From 1927 to 1954 this home was owned by Eric H. Spinney, then manager and president of the Yarmouth firm of E. K. Spinney, Ltd., hardware dealers. This family-owned business was one of the oldest and longest surviving in Yarmouth, having been established in 1834 and operating until 1963 when the business was sold. Mr. Spinney was also a civic minded individual, serving several terms on Town Council and as Mayor of Yarmouth from 1938 to 1943 and again from 1948 to 1951. He later entered provincial politics and was a MLA from 1956 to 1960.
Dr. J. Alexander Webster bought the property in 1954 and for nearly forty years it served as his home and his workplace, as he had located his professional offices in the lower level. Dr. Webster came from a long line of doctors by that name in the Yarmouth area. In fact, the name is inseparably linked with Yarmouth’s history, since there has usually been a “Doctor Webster” in residence since the early 1800s. Dr. Alex Webster retired in 1992 and sold the property the following year, though the practice was continued in the same location by his son, the current “Doctor Webster. “
The Italianate architecture of the George and Mary Ellen Guest House, while not locally uncommon, has unique trim elements that set it apart from other houses of the style. The two storey building has a centred back ell and a one storey addition on the north end of the ell. The three bay façade is symmetrical with a centred entrance flanked by one storey bay windows. Most windows are triple on the first storey, double on the upper storey and have double hung sashes and bracketed crowns. Unique elements are the rope-like carved mouldings at the corners of the main house and the “portholes “in the frieze band which give the property a distinctive maritime flair.
Source: Heritage property files, Town of Yarmouth, George and Mary Ellen Guest House
The character defining elements of the George and Mary Ellen Guest House include:
- location within one block of the main business district and within two blocks of the waterfront;
- single family dwelling;
- location on a spacious residential lot;
- wood construction and wood cladding;
- brick faced foundation.
The character defining elements of the Italianate style as interpreted in the George and Mary Ellen Guest House include:
- medium pitched hip roof with centred cupola and paired inset chimneys;
- paired brackets in cornices;
- frieze band with “portholes” in main house;
- central chimney in ell;
- paired main entrance doors with a segmental arch transom;
- large bracketed hood over front doors;
- one storey cutaway bay windows flanking front entrance;
- round-headed glazing in bay windows and front entrance doors;
- one-over-one glazing in main house windows;
- two-over-two glazing in ell windows;
- bracketed window crowns;
- triple windows in first storey and paired windows in second storey;
- small verandas on east and west sides of ell;
- wood construction;
- narrow clapboard cladding;
-corner pilasters with capitals;
- rope-like moulded trim at corners.