Description of Historic Place
The Riordan-Francis house is a one and a half storey wood framed building built in the Gothic Revival style. The building has a distinctive large triangular dormer with an elaborate verge board located in the centre of the building. The house sits adjacent to the street on a narrow lot that extends to the next street. The house is located in a residential section of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. The municipal designation includes the building and surrounding property.
The historic value of The Riordan-Francis house, as recognized by its municipal designation, is in its architecture and its unique history. The construction of the house may predate 1820. The house is thought to have been originally located on the Church of England glebe lands in Annapolis Royal. This area, about four acres in size, had been purchased from Captain Claude Sebastien Villieu by the French government in 1704, for the purpose of building a parish church. After the British captured Port Royal in 1710, this land was eventually granted to the Church of England as glebe land. At this point, the land was divided into plots which were rented for commercial and residential purposes. The Riordan-Francis house sat on one of these lots. The location of the glebe land was in the area that is currently the Annapolis Royal Farmer's and Trader's Market and the public parking lot between Church Street and Drury Lane.
The building is thought to have been moved to its current location on St. James Street by Cornelius Riordan in 1864. Houses located on the glebe land were moved to new locations around this time to accommodate a rail line being laid by the Windsor and Annapolis Railway. It is likely that at this time that the house received its Victorian make-over. In 1865, Riordan sold the property he had purchased a year earlier to his unmarried daughter Catherine. As per the deed, Catherine was to provide "maintenance of him, Cornelius Riordan & Mary his wife during their Natural lives in Food raiment & every thing necessary for their Comfort during the said term". The deed also included a penalty clause that "if Cornelius Riordan should feel dissatisfied as regards to Provisions made for the just and true support of himself & Mary his wife that upon his request personally made known to the aforenamed Catherine Riordan the said Deed shall be duly given up to him". It does not appear that the penalty clause was ever invoked. The house would remain in the possession of members of the Riordan family and the related DeVany family until 1950. In 1960 the house was sold to Foster Stephenson, a taxi driver in Annapolis Royal, and his wife Emma Francis, a descendant of Rose Fortune. Beginning in 2001, a set of new owners undertook a major restoration project for this house. During this work, much of the early character of the house was rehabilitated and preserved.
The Riordan-Francis house is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture as interpreted in Annapolis Royal. More specifically, this house is an example of sub-type of the Gothic Revival style known as Carpenter Gothic. The one and a half storey wooden building has a steeply pitched gable roof, with an intersecting dormer on the west side. The dormer has an elaborate verge board in the gable above two over two wooden double hung sash windows with a half circle curved top sash. The building has plain boxed cornice boards with a return. The main façade windows are two sashes with wooden entablatures, moulded trim and slip sills. The side windows have plain surround with all of the second storey windows extending into the gable. The main entry door is a six panel wood door, with glass in the upper four panels. The building has wood clapboard siding, and wood corner boards. The one storey rear ell is also clad in wood clapboard with wood corner boards.
The house is supported by hand hewn studs and beams on the first floor while all of the bracing on the second floor is machine cut. This may indicate that this second level was added when the house was moved to its current location in 1864. The exterior underlay boards, some almost 50 cm wide, contain handmade rose headed nails which also indicate an early date of construction.
Town of Annapolis Royal Heritage Designation Files, Annapolis Heritage Society, 136 St George Street,
The character defining elements of the Riordan-Francis House include:
-Carpenter Gothic style of the architecture;
-an elaborate verge board in the dormer over a wooden sash window with a curved top;
-use of hand hewn beams and studs on the first floor.
-wooden clapboard siding and wooden corner boards;
-boxed eaves with returns;
-two over two wooden sash windows with entablatures, moulded trim and slip sills;
-close proximity to St James Street;
-wide underlay boards for exterior cladding which contain handmade rose headed nails.