Description of Historic Place
The Willows was built in the Bracketted style in 1863. This building is located on the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens property and acts as the offices and gift shop for that organization as well as a residential rental property. The house sits well back from the street with a circular driveway and the Historic Garden's parking lot located in front. As the property is open to the public as a botanical garden, there is elaborate landscaping. Located on this property is also a reconstruction of a circa 1671 Acadian dwelling. The municipal designation covers both the buildings and the property.
The Willows, as recognized by its municipal designation, is valued for its connection to historic personalities and its architecture. The lot where the house sits, originally part of a larger lot, was once owned by Jacques, Marguerite and Anne La Tour, the heirs of Charles LaTour the Governor of Acadie. When Jacques died his share of the ownership was transferred to his widow Anne Melanson who then married Alexandre Robichaud. It is the Robichauds who disputed the patent that local merchant John Adams received for this land in 1732. After he won the dispute, Adams sold his his portion of the property in November 1732 to Charles Vane, an ensign recently arrived at Fort Anne. By the 1780s, this land was used as a farm by Colonel Frederick Sinclair and his wife Mary.
In 1815, the property was acquired by Thomas Ritchie, a lawyer, future judge and the founder of an impressive family legal dynasty in Nova Scotia. A son, Sir William Johnstone Ritchie, would rise to the position of Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court. It was another son of Thomas Ritchie, Rev. James J. Ritchie, Rector of St. Lukes Anglican Church, who built the Willows in 1863. As time passed, two other clerics would be associated with the house. Rev. Henry How, also Rector of St Luke's, acquired the property in 1892 and Methodist clergyman Rev. Byron C. Borden owned the property in the 1920s.
Dr. F. Fraser Bond, a retired professor of journalism from Columbia University, owned this property in the 1950s. By the 1960s, the property came under the ownership of Dr. Gilles Brissette, a local dentist. Dr. Brissette operated his office from the building at this time. The property was purchased in 1980 by the Annapolis Royal Industrial Development Commission with the goal of designing a public garden. This project was part of a major effort to rejuvinate Annapolis Royal at this time. Today, the property is operated as the award winning Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Also located on this property is the Maison Acadienne, a reconstruction of a circa 1671 Acadian house built in 1982-1983. Using information discovered during the archaeological digs that took place at Belleisle, Nova Scotia in the 1980s, this house replicates the size, construction and decoration of a pre deportation Acadian dwelling.
The Willows is an excellent example of Bracketted architecture as expressed in Annapolis Royal. The house sits well back from the road with a circular driveway and the Historic Gardens parking lot located in front. Excluding modern additions, the house has a square footprint with a back ell. The house has a medium hipped roof with a boxed cornice with a frieze and decorative brackets. The front facade is perfectly symmetrical with the entrance featuring steps, sidelights, a toplight and a pediment. There are six over six double hung sash windows with moulded surrounds. The building is clad with wooden clapboard. The windows are rectangular which is a hallmark of the Bracketted style. There is a one storey square bay window on the side of the building facing the tourist's entrance to the site. A large verandah was removed from the front of the building in 2004 which gave the building back its original facade. The Historic Gardens giftshop is a modern construction on the rear of the building. A modern breezeway and storage building with public washrooms has been built beside the building.
Annapolis Royal Heritage Designation Files, Annapolis Heritage Society, 136 St George Street, Annapolis Royal
The Character defining elements of the Willows include:
-the perfectly symmetrical facade;
-medium hipped roof;
-boxed cornice with frieze and decorative brackets;
-wooden clapboard siding and cornerboards;
-rectangular six over six double hung wooden sash windows with moulded trim;
-front door with toplight and sidelights;
-decorative pediment over front door;
-segmented one storey bay window on side;
-elaborate landscaping including a rose garden, mature trees, a pond and numerous other features;
-reconstruction of a circa 1671 Acadian house located on the property built in 1982-1983.