Description of Historic Place
An amalgam of two smaller houses (built 1710 and circa 1708), 230 St. George Street, also known as the Sinclair Inn, took on most of its present appearance circa 1781, with the union of the two earlier buildings. It has been modified frequently in the years since, and was returned to its earlier form in 1981-1982. It is located at in the middle of the business district, an area of commercial heritage properties, in Annapolis Royal, NS. The designation includes the building and surrounding property.
The historic value of the 230 St. George Street, as recognized in its municipal designation, is found in its very early construction and as one of the oldest wood framed structures in Canada; its long life as a public building in the town; its association with the French history of Annapolis Royal; and for its association with the Masons.
The building began as two separate buildings that were constructed during a period when Annapolis Royal was a French town. The front portion of the building began as a two storey residence built by Jean Soullard, a Quebec silversmith (one of the first in Nova Scotia) and gunsmith, and his Acadian wife Louise Comeau in 1710. This makes part of 230 St. George Street the only documented extant pre-expulsion house occupied by an Acadian in Nova Scotia. The origins of the back two-thirds of the building are somewhat uncertain. It is known that the building was moved to the site, probably from an adjacent lot, and was constructed in 1708 or 1709 for David du Pontiff, surgeon for the French regiment. The dates of construction for both buildings have been confirmed through the use of dendrochronology.
In 1781, Frederick Sinclair combined the two buildings to create an inn and tavern, which he and his wife Mary, operated for many years. The building was first used as a public house when Rebecca Whitchurch opened a tavern in the former Soullard house in 1747. It is thus the oldest surviving tavern in the Maritime Provinces. It continued to be operated as an inn throughout the nineteenth century, and for the first half of the twentieth century. The local Masonic Lodge met there in the nineteenth century, and according to local tradition, the first Masonic meeting in what is now Canada was held in the building in 1738.
After years of neglect and decline, the building was acquired by Heritage Canada in 1981 and was restored to its former appearance. It is now owned by the Annapolis Heritage Society, which operates it as a museum.
The architectural significance of 230 St. George Street is found in its early date of construction, its use of wattle and daub as an architectural feature, and its reflection of the importance placed on the new Georgian or Palladian features even in a small colonial town, and by an innkeeper of very modest means. It also represents the ways in which buildings were used and reused in the town, and often moved from one location to another. The interior also reflects the changing dictates of fashion, building materials and workmanship over nearly 300 years. The exterior restoration work of the 1980s paid careful attention to detail, replicating where necessary replacement windows and doors.
The rear two-thirds of the building (the du Pontiff house) still retains some of the wattle and daub infill in the walls, a very early, and now rare, construction technique. A number of other early architectural features from the eighteenth century remain, primarily on the interior, such as remnants of very early fenestration, woodwork, paint decoration and frame construction. Sinclair, in joining the buildings in 1781, attempted to impose a then-stylish Neo-classical façade, although the proper symmetry was not possible.
Source: Heritage Property Files, Map #184, 230 St. George Street, Annapolis Heritage Society, Annapolis Royal.
Character-defining elements of 230 St. George Street include:
- all Neo-classical details such as fenestration, gable treatment, pilasters and pediments surrounding the two entrances and the elliptical fanlight windows over the front door and street door, and in the end and front gables;
- gable end to the street and the “front” of the building facing the neighboring parking lot;
- positioning of the windows and doors on the front and end elevations;
- all original and historical elements including framing, waddle and daub fill, decorative elements, and flooring;
- strong red ochre exterior colour, which is a reproduction of the original paint colour of the 1781 building;
- positioning at the very edge of the sidewalk;
- location in the commercial heart of Annapolis Royal.