Description of Historic Place
The Zoé Vallé Library is a Cape Cod style home constructed circa 1850 perched on a knoll at the intersection of Regent and Central streets in the small community of Chester, Nova Scotia. The Municipal Heritage Designation applies to the buildings and surrounding property.
The Zoé Vallé Library is valued for its age, architecture, historical associations and its continued use as a public library.
Built circa 1850, this home turned residence/library was originally constructed for a local sea captain, as a dwelling in the Cape Cod style of architecture. The symmetrical front facade is on the ridgeline of this gabled house facing Regent Street and consists of a central door with a transom window and sidelights flanked by a pair of 6 over 6 double hung windows on each side.
The inclusion of a transom window and sidelights in the construction of the main entrance marks a departure from the earliest examples of the Cape Cod style; however, the noticeable lack of other ornamentation excluding the short return eaves is more common to the style. A second variation is the presence of two chimneys at the peak of the roof arranged symmetrically, instead of the single centered chimney more common of simpler Cape Cod homes.
Two small additions have been made to the home during its history: a small lean was added to the rear elevation and a small cross gabled piece added to the home in the early 1930s. The interior layout of the home has remained relatively unchanged; beyond the main entrance lies a formal central entrance hall flanked by paired rooms ending in a small stair case, giving access to the 1/2 floor above.
The home was purchased for a summer home in 1903 by Mrs. Zoé Vallé Lightfoot, a wealthy American who had previously summered in the area with her husband. The most substantial addition to the property, Lightfoot Tower, was built in this period. Lightfoot Tower is a three storey octagonal observation tower with an open rail covered deck, constructed to allow the Lightfoots to watch the yacht races in the harbour.
When Zoé Vallé passed away in 1927 she bequeathed her Chester home to her sister, who subsequently offered it to the municipality on the condition it be furnished and operate as a public library, or revert to the future family heirs. A committee was formed, including some of Chester's prominent summer residents such as Frederick L. Fowke, former Liberal Member of Parliament under Wilfred Laurier, who lobbied for the homes adoption by the municipality as a public library.
In August of 1928 the Zoé Vallé Library was designated at a ceremony attend by both local and summer residents; many of the latter were very prominent individuals, such as Professor John Grier Hibben, President of Princeton University, and Bishop John G. Murray, head of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
Although the home was designated as the Zoé Vallé Library in 1928 it was also to remain a residence and a caretaker/librarian was appointed. To provide the family with more space, as most of the lower floor was dedicated to the library, the small cross gabled addition was made to the home in the early 1930s by Harry Baker.
In addition to being used as a public library, the home also became the meeting place of the Chester Branch of the Women’s Institute of Nova Scotia. The group met regularly in the "Club Room" and organized various community projects, including the preservation of the library itself until the group disbanded in 1978.
Since 1978 the continuing support of the community has ensured the Zoé Vallé Library continues to operate as Chester's sole library and it remains under the stewardship of a live-in librarian, making it a unique setting for a public library, while preserving its historical form. The historical associations related to the library's origins as a gift from a summer resident, Zoé Vallé, continue to be preserved as her personal collection of books remain in the library, whose motto is inscribed on a commemorative plaque and reads "Here She Still Welcomes You."
Source: Municipality of the District of Chester Heritage Property Fil
The character-defining elements of the Zoé Vallé Library that relate to its Cape Cod style architecture include:
- 1 1/2 storey wooden shingle construction;
- symmetrical front facade on the ridgeline end, with pairs of 6 over 6 windows flanking a central door with a seven pane transom window and six pane sidelights with a panel bottom;
- moderate pitch gable roof with the ridgeline facing Regent Street;
- small return eaves on the original main gable roof;
- small roof overhangs;
- two chimneys symmetrically placed at the peak of the main gabled roof;
- cross gabled addition.
The character-defining elements of Zoé Vallé Library that relate to its use as a public library include:
- continued usage as a public library and residence;
- containing the personal book collection that belonged to Zoé Vallé Lightfoot.
The interior character-defining elements of the Zoé Vallé Library include:
- formal central hall floor plan;
- commemorative plaque for Zoé Vallé;
- the intact "Club" room;
- original librarian's desk.
The other character-defining elements of the Zoé Vallé Library that relate to Lightfoot Tower include:
- three storey octagonal wooden construction;
- wooden shingles;
- open rail covered observation deck;
- octagonal roof;
- wooden spiral stair case around the exterior of the tower;
- second storey entranceway to access the interior of the tower.