Description of Historic Place
The Yarmouth County Museum was originally constructed as a Congregational church in 1892-93. It is a Gothic Revival style building of rough finish Shelburne granite located on Collins Street within the Collins Heritage Conservation District in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Municipal heritage designation applies to the building and the institutional zone lot it occupies.
The Yarmouth County Museum is valued for its history as Tabernacle Congregational Church and for its present day use as the home of the Yarmouth County Historical Society and the repository for artefacts and documents relating to the history of Yarmouth County. It is also valued for its Gothic architecture and its granite structure, being one of only two granite buildings in the Town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Tabernacle Congregational Church was built to replace an earlier wooden church building which was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on March 12, 1892. The cornerstone for this church was laid on August 9 that same year, and the dedication of the new building took place a year later, on August 20, 1893. The new church was a radical departure from traditional wood framed church buildings, and when it was completed, was regarded as the handsomest church building in western Nova Scotia, according to newspaper articles of the time. The stonework was done by Melford and William Sims, and was the only granite structure ever built by them.
Some time after June 10, 1925, when the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches joined to form the United Church of Canada, the name of this church was changed to “Central United Church of Yarmouth”. Its use as a church continued until the mid-1960s, when the new Beacon United Church building was constructed in Yarmouth, and this building was deemed redundant. Upon approval by the South Shore Presbytery, this building was sold to the Yarmouth County Historical Society in 1967 as a home for its collections.
The Yarmouth County Historical Society was formed in 1935, in part to collect and preserve historical records and artefacts as well as to generally promote interest in Yarmouth County’s history. The Yarmouth County Museum was founded in 1958 under the auspices of the Yarmouth County Historical Society, and for several years occupied a much smaller building several blocks away. With the acquisition of the former church, and the move into the new premises in 1969, their space increased to 12,360 square feet, enabling the expansion of the collection of artefacts and the establishment of an archival collection. The Yarmouth County Museum is well known internationally for its collections, in particular its collection of ship paintings, which is the third largest in Canada, for its costume collection which is the third largest in Nova Scotia and for its archives, which currently is one of the largest community archives in Nova Scotia.
Source: Registered Heritage Property files, Town of Yarmouth, NS.
The character-defining elements of the Yarmouth County Museum include its:
- location within the Collins Heritage Conservation District, near the central business district;
- narrow setback from street;
- asymmetrical massing;
- proximity to three other registered heritage properties;
- collection of artefacts and documents relating to the history of Yarmouth County.
The character-defining elements of the Gothic architecture of the Yarmouth County Museum include:
- granite construction;
- asymmetrical facade;
- steeply pitched gable roof;
- corner bell tower;
- Palladian window in facade;
- round-headed bays;
- steeply pitched, bell cast hip roof on tower;
- off-centre entrance in base of tower;
- wood columns and roof on entrance porch.