Description of Historic Place
The J. Murray Lawson House is a two storey Late Victorian Eclectic style house built in 1897-98 for J. Murray Lawson, owner of the Yarmouth Herald newspaper, and later owned by Vernon S. Sweeny, owner of Sweeny’s Funeral Home. It is located on a modest sized corner lot in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia near the central business district. The municipal heritage designation applies to the house and its residential lot.
The J. Murray Lawson House is valued for its historical associations with J. Murray Lawson, proprietor, publisher and editor of the ‘Yarmouth Herald’ newspaper, and Vernon S. Sweeny, proprietor of Sweeny’s Funeral Home. It is also valued for its Late Victorian Eclectic style of architecture, which is rare in Yarmouth.
J. Murray Lawson was one of Yarmouth’s best known historians and the owner, editor and publisher of the ‘Yarmouth Herald’ newspaper, which was established by his father, Alexander Lawson, in 1833. Lawson was also the compiler and publisher of the 'Record of Yarmouth Shipping', as well as 'Yarmouth Reminiscences', both of which continue to be invaluable reference works for Yarmouth’s history.
Vernon S. Sweeny was the owner of the locally well known funeral service V. S. Sweeny, Ltd., which had been started by James G. Allen in 1840 and acquired by Vernon Sweeny’s father, Jacob Sweeny, in 1860 and which is still a well-respected business in Yarmouth.
The Late Victorian Eclectic style architecture, as interpreted in the J. Murray Lawson House, is unusual in Yarmouth and is typified by the embellishments on an otherwise simple Colonial Revival style house. The ornate two-tiered front gable, Gothic-arched bargeboards, small attic storey balconies and front veranda with curved balcony above are some of the unique elements that distinguish it from any other buildings of similar style in the Yarmouth area.
Source: Municipal Heritage Property files: the J. Murray Lawson House; located at 400 Main Street, Yarmouth, NS
The character-defining elements of the J. Murray Lawson House include:
- location near the central business district of the town;
- modest sized corner lot;
- rectangular massing;
- proximity to other houses of similar scale.
The character-defining elements of the Late Victorian Eclectic architecture of the J. Murray Lawson House include:
- wood construction;
- two storeys with a shallow back ell;
- first storey clapboard cladding; second storey shingle cladding;
- bell cast belt course set off by simple flat moulding;
- steeply pitched gable roof with return eaves and Gothic-arched bargeboards in gables;
- cross gabled roof on back ell;
- centred, two-tiered wall dormer breaking the front bracketed eaves line;
- symmetrical three bay façade with wide veranda;
- second storey balcony above front veranda;
- centred front entry with stained glass side-lights and transom-lights inside an enclosed porch;
- large fixed sash windows in first storey of façade with stained glass transoms;
- double hung sash windows with one-over-one glazing;
- Palladian window in front dormer;
- upper storey windows tight to eaves;
- attic storey windows in gables with small balconies;
- spindle-work balustrades on veranda and balconies.