Description of Historic Place
The John Brown House is a two and a half storey Georgian style house of pegged wooden post and beam construction, built around 1815 at the head of Yarmouth Harbour. It is located at 4 Market Street, a private lane, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Municipal heritage designation applies to the house and its residential, waterfront lot.
The John Brown House is valued for its historical associations with John Brown, his son, Hon. Stayley Brown and Stayley’s son, Charles E. Brown. It is also valued as one of the oldest houses standing in the town of Yarmouth and for its Georgian architecture.
John Brown left Scotland in late February 1813 and by mid-1814 had found his way to Yarmouth, where he entered into a business partnership with another Yarmouth merchant. By 1815 his house and store were built at the head of Yarmouth Harbour and by 1817 a substantial wharf had been built almost literally outside his back door. The following year he and eight other local merchants formed the Market Wharf Company, using Mr. Brown’s store and wharf. John Brown continued in business until 1824 when he turned the homestead and his share of the business over to his son, Stayley, and moved to the nearby community of Hebron.
Stayley Brown was 23 years old when he took over his father’s interest in Market Wharf Company in 1824. He was already well known for his business acumen when the remaining eight partners sold their shares in the company to him in 1826. For many years he was one of Yarmouth’s most prominent businessmen. In 1842 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace and also appointed to the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia, serving in the Upper House for 34 years. He served on the Executive Council and as Receiver General for the province from 1857 to 1860 and as Provincial Treasurer, succeeding Hon. Alexander Keith, from 1875 until his sudden death in Halifax on April 14, 1877.
Around 1864 Hon. Stayley Brown had built another home nearby for himself and his second wife, but retained ownership of the old family homestead until 1875 when he sold it to his son, Charles E. Brown. Charles was also a prominent merchant and shipowner, carrying on the family business, and a Director of several insurance companies and the Bank of Yarmouth. He was well known for his public service involvements in the Yarmouth County Agricultural Society and the town's first library, for which he donated the land. A newspaper article written posthumously about him stated that he was known as “Independent in Thought; Steadfast in Truth; Fearless in Action.” He died on February 17, 1900.
The Georgian architecture of the John Brown House is typified by its two and a half stories, medium pitched gable roof, upper storey windows tight to the eaves and the principal front entrance with sidelights. It is atypical in that it does not have the eaves returns, symmetrically placed chimneys or a symmetrical facade with centred entrance typical to Georgian architecture. Many of the windows, particularly in the back, have been changed and a one storey ell was added to the west end of the house many years ago. Ther rear elevation is three and a half storeys high and retains the two doors into John Brown's old storerooms at ground level, near to where the remains of Market Wharf can still be seen at low tide.
Source: Registered Heritage Property files, Town of Yarmouth, NS.
The character-defining elements of the context and location of the John Brown House include:
- the location at the head of Yarmouth Harbour;
- deep setback from road on a private lane;
- proximity to other houses of similar scale;
- generous waterfront lot.
The character-defining elements of the Georgian architecture of the John Brown House include:
- rectangular massing;
- two full storeys;
- stone foundation;
- medium pitched gable roof;
- post and beam construction;
- wood shingle cladding;
- double hung sash windows;
- upper storey windows tight to the eaves;
- main front entrance with sidelights;
- corner-board, frieze-board and verge-board trim.