Description of Historic Place
The Cole Harbour Meeting House is located at the top of Long Hill, in the rural farmland just outside the city of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, overlooking the Cole Harbour salt marsh and the beaches of the Eastern Shore. This small wooden, one-and-a-half storey church, built around 1830-1831, is the second oldest Methodist Chapel in Nova Scotia. It is also almost surrounded by the graves of about thirty early settlers, though very few markers remain. The building and property are included in the designation.
The Cole Harbour Meeting House is valued for its historical association with the development of the Methodist denomination in Nova Scotia.
Built in 1830-1831, this small wooden church was built on land that was once part of a 500 acre lot purchased in 1797 by the Jamaican Government to resettle Maroons. This property was later sold and a piece of it was donated for the meeting house in 1830.
The Methodist movement in Halifax began to prosper in 1786 when Reverend William Black permanently settled there. He became the leader of the Methodists in the Maritimes. William Black corresponded directly with John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, seeking ministers to help with the task in the Maritimes. From 1811 to 1829, at least eight Methodist Ministers visited the Cole Harbour area, including William Black. William Croscombe's arrival in 1829 culminated in the opening of the Cole Harbour Meeting House in 1831. Following the construction at Cole Harbour, Croscombe concentrated his efforts on planning and building a second and larger chapel in Halifax.
Methodist ministers supplied the Meeting House until 1925 when the congregation then became part of the United Church of Canada. During the late 1950s and early 1960s the congregation was growing with new families arriving and new housing being built in the area. Instead of enlarging the Meeting House, the congregation opted to move to a new location. In 1961, they moved into a portable church erected on Bissett Road. Ten years later a permanent church was built on that site. William Croscombe was the first minister to serve at the Meeting House and the last was Eric Fullerton, with 53 other ministers in between them.
The Meeting House is almost completely surrounded by the graves of early settlers. A search of Methodist records indicates as many as thirty people are buried there. Some family stones are missing and many of the early markers are just simple triangular shaped field stones of which only one has markings.
Located on the west side of the Meeting House are mill stones, the only remaining parts of Cole Harbour's first oat mill, built in the 1830s by James Bissett, an active participant in the affairs of the early community.
By 1973, the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society was well established, and was granted permission to use and restore the building. Now the Meeting House once again fulfills the purpose for which it was originally constructed, as a church for ecumenical services as well as an exhibition centre and public meeting house for various societies.
The Cole Harbour Meeting House is a heavy timber frame structure with a simple gable roof and front entrance porch. Both the doorway and windows incorporate a Gothic Revival style, which is possibly a late nineteenth century alteration.
The Meeting House on Long Hill is the second of three Methodist Chapels that were built in the Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown area, and is the only one still standing today. The overwhelming development that has taken place in this area during the part few decades increases the significance of the Meeting House and its role in linking the modern urban community with a rural, early 19th century heritage.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 233, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character defining elements of the Cole Harbour Meeting House include:
- heavy timber frame stucture;
- sides and roof clad in wood shingles;
- gable roof;
- front entrance porch;
- Gothic Revival style doorway and windows;
- symmetrical appearance;
- almost surrounded by about thirty graves of early settlers, with few markers remaining;
- set back from the edge of Long Hill;
- trees surrounding the building on two sides.