Description of Historic Place
Richmond Hill Farm is located on College Road, on the edge of Windsor, just past the well known private school, Kings-Edgehill. A long treed driveway leads up a hill to an imposing Georgian house overlooking the Avon River, Lake Pesaquid and the surrounding fields and pastures. In many ways the view is little changed from when the house was built around 1830. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
Richmond Hill Farm is valued for its association since its construction in the 1820s, through its successive ownership by the Singer, King and Maxner families, with progressive farming in Hants County.
The land on the eastern side of Avon River near Windsor was early granted to John Butler, who in 1777 sold 1000 acres (including Richmond Hill) of his grant to John Clarke; the same John Clarke who would give in 1790, 69 acres as the site for King's College. Although the conveyance has not been found, Clarke sold this 1000 acres of upland, marsh and pasture to Thomas Chandler Haliburton around 1816; Haliburton was engaged in removing gypsum from various properties in the area for export to the United States as fertilizer. In 1821, Haliburton sold the property for £ 1633, while reserving his rights to continue to remove gypsum, to Francis Singer, about whom nothing is known other than he was a gentleman living in Windsor at this time.
In 1830, Haliburton sold his gypsum mining rights on the property of Francis Singer to a Nathaniel Jenkins. The best estimate is that the house was erected by Francis Singer sometime in the 1820s. A for sale advertisement in 1842 describes the farm as in "a high state of cultivation," and George Singer, nephew and heir of Francis, sold it to John Otis King. John King farmed, though not too successfully, and lived as a typical gentleman of his day; he was also a Justice of the Peace and an officer in the 1st Battalion of the Hants County Militia.
In 1872, King sold the property to John Weston Maxner for the substantial sum of $20,000. Maxner and his family proved to be diligent and enterprising farmers who pioneered the growing of cultivated strawberries. They also planted new orchards, opened a quarry and established a dairy with door to door delivery.
Maxner, a nineteenth century patriarch, demanded absolute devotion to the farm by his sons; two sons remained on the farm, never marrying, while the third left to marry and in consequence was disinherited by his father on his death in 1905. John Maxner's widow and two sons attempted to keep the farm going but the First World War ruined the European fruit market for them. By 1931, only one son was left alive and he refused to allow the farm to go to the sons of the brother who had married; the house fell into disrepair with ownership passing to a neighbour.
In 1946, Lieutenant Colonel Gordon MacDonald and his wife Helen bought the property which they set about restoring. On her death, it was left in 1977 to the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.
Richmond Hill Farm is a large two-and-a-half storey wood frame structure with a truncated gable roof, sitting on a stone foundation. The structure demonstrates both early nineteenth century and late Victorian architectural details. The narrow gable dormer is an example of the former, the front bay windows of the latter. Throughout the house are several suggestions, but no clear evidence, that the structure was built in more than one stage.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 145, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Exterior character-defining elements of the Richmond Hill Farm include:
- two-and-a-half storey wood frame structure;
- truncated gable roof;
- stone foundation;
- narrow gable dormer;
- front bay windows;
- wood cladding;
- position on a hilltop at the end of a well treed lane;
- location surrounded by agricultural land, orchards and a working farm.
Interior character-defining elements of the Richmond Hill Farm house include:
- interior stone walls enclose one corner of the basement, forming a self-contained room with separate stair access from the original kitchen above;
- placement of the stairwell to the remainder of the basement that rises to the original kitchen;
- joists in the front part of the building are timbers in the round; in the rear, main joists are hewn;
-alignment of ground floor level central hallway that runs from the front to the back of the house;
- large fireplace and bakeoven in the original kitchen;
- original doors and hardware, including HL hinges and a wrought iron lock in the original kitchen;
- coal fireplace and panelling in the study have Victorian detailing;
- baseboards and plaster mandella in the living room have Victorian detailing;
- bay windows in the study and living room;
- living room fireplace mantel with Ionic pilasters;
- simple balustrade of the main stairway;
- eight panel front door, with carpenter lock.