Description of Historic Place
The de Gannes-Cosby house at 477 St George Street is a rectangular one and one half storey wooden structure with an ell. The building was constructed in 1708 in the Acadian style. It is of post and beam framing and is sheathed in clapboard. One of its dominant features is its steep gambrel roof. The house sits close to the road on Upper St George Street in the residential part of town. The municipal designation includes both the house and the property.
The de Gannes-Cosby house is the oldest documented wooden structure in Nova Scotia and has been continuously occupied since its construction in 1708 by Major Louis-Joseph de Gannes de Falaise, a French nobleman and officer with the garrison who had arrived at Port Royal in 1701. His first house was burned in the 1707 attack on the town and the following year he rebuilt on the site incorporating the existing foundation and standing chimneys. De Gannes and his third wife, Marguerite Le Neuf de La Valliere, daughter of a former governor of Acadie, lived here with their large family until the final capture of Port Royal by the British in 1710. After the surrender, they returned to France with the rest of the French garrison and as a government official, de Gannes forfeited his property to the British crown.
When Major Alexander Cosby, an Irish aristocrat with Phillips' Regiment, was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Town and Fort of Annapolis Royal in 1727, possession (but not ownership) of the property went with the post. Cosby, a brother-in-law of Governor Richard Phillips, was in Annapolis Royal by 1721. His influence was enhanced with his marriage in 1726 to Ann Winniett, daughter of William and Marie-Madeleine (Maisonnat) Winniett, leading figures in the town in the years after British conquest. A divisive figure in the political life of Annapolis Royal, Cosby remained a key player in the affairs of the colony until his death in 1742. Ann Cosby continued to live in the house another 46 years until her death in 1788. Their son Phillips Cosby (circa 1729 - 1808) became the first native-born Nova Scotian to reach the rank of Admiral and inherited the family estates in Ireland.
Following the death of Ann Cosby, her heirs in Great Britain rented the property through Annapolis Royal lawyer Thomas Barclay, who had been given their power of attorney. In 1809 it was sold to the Reverend Cyrus Perkins, the Anglican rector of St Luke's Church, apparently without protest from the British Crown. In 1816, the property was bought by Dr. George Henkell, former German staff surgeon in the Royal Fusiliers, who had become garrison surgeon in Annapolis in 1796. He married Margaret Fraser, daughter of James Fraser, Ordnance Storekeeper at Fort Anne in the late eighteenth century. Members of the related Henkell, Fraser, Robinson, Tobias and Smith families owned the de Gannes-Cosby house until 1877 when it was sold to master mariner Benjamin Nickerson. In 1921 the house was purchased by Arthur W. Banks and remained with the Banks and related Wetmore families until 1983.
The de Gannes-Cosby house, built in the Acadian style, is one of the few buildings dating from the French regime in Nova Scotia (prior to 1710) that is still standing. The building is also a rare example of early Acadian architecture, as most buildings in this style were destroyed by the British during the 1755 deportation. The house itself is a one and one half storey building with a rectangular footprint and an ell. The walls of the post and beam structure were originally finished with clay wattle and daub infill. There is a rubble foundation with a partial basement under the building. The building is clad with wooden clapboard with wooden end boards. The wooden front door is centrally located in a two storey enclosed porch with sidelights. The windows are wooden six over six double hung sash windows with moulded trim. The building features a distinctive gambrel roof with two front side dormers with pediments which were added in the twentieth century. The ell features three gabled dormers with overhangs. There are two brick double chimneys on the main section of the house and a single brick chimney on the ell.
Annapolis Royal heritage designation files, Annapolis Heritage Society, 136 St George Street, Annapolis Royal
The character defining elements of the de Gannes-Cosby house include:
-rubble foundation with a partial basement;
-post and beam construction;
-some walls constructed with wattle and daub clay infill;
-wooden front door;
-enclosed two storey porch with sidelights on either side of the door;
-wooden six over six double hung sash windows with moulded trim;
-two brick double chimneys on the main section of the house and a brick single chimney on the ell;
-two front dormers with pediments which were added in the twentieth century;
-two gabled dormers with overhangs on the ell.