Description of Historic Place
MacMillan-Cameron House is located on the brow of a hill, overlooking Inverness Harbour in the village of Inverness, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and is one of the first houses seen when approaching the town from the west. This wood-frame, two-and-one-half storey Queen Anne Revival style house was built between 1908 and 1912. The house and property are included in the municipal designation.
MacMillan-Cameron House is valued for the house’s association with the early period of industrialization in the region (coal mining) and its reflection of the entrepreneurial spirit of an early twentieth century businesswoman.
The building was originally planned by Samuel Whiston, a local druggist. Construction started around 1908, however it became too costly for Whiston to continue. In 1912 the building was purchased by Dr. Charles Edward MacMillan, a physician who owned and operated the Imperial Drug Store, as well as serving the medical needs of the community. Dr. MacMillan was married to Diana Roberts from Parrsboro, Nova Scotia who had come to Inverness to work as a tailoress. The couple had six children. Dr. MacMillan and his family maintained the building as a private dwelling and doctor’s office. Dr. MacMillan was also a representative for Inverness County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1906-1911 and entertained a number of prominent political guests at his home, including Prime Ministers Robert Borden and Richard B. Bennett. The MacMillan’s daughter Robie was named after Prime Minister Borden. Dr. MacMillan died suddenly in 1923, and his widow Diana was left with very little support. At the suggestion of her neighbour, Mrs. MacMillan, who was a noted cook, decided to take in boarders and established the Seaview Inn.
The history of the property reflects the general development of the community of Inverness, especially the busy years of the early twentieth century. With the development of the coal mines and railway in the area, many government officials and business people stayed at the Seaview Inn. Another well known guest in the 1930’s was the poet Kenneth Leslie, who received the Governor General’s award for poetry. He composed the famous “Cape Breton Lullaby” and he and his wife spent a great deal of time at the inn. While a guest at the inn, he hosted a radio show in Inverness at the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association Hall for a period of six weeks in 1937. At Christmas that year a special show, entitled “Kismuil Castle,” after Castebay, Barra, Scotland, was broadcast across Canada. It was the first time a radio broadcast from Cape Breton was heard across the country. Local guests on the radio show included four members the MacFarlane family from Margaree and fiddler Angus Allan Gillis, all noted local singers and musicians. A young people’s choir, of which Robie MacMillan was a member, sang “The Christ Child Lullaby,” a traditional Gaelic Christmas carol. The Seaview Inn has continued to play a significant cultural role in the community of Inverness and has also witnessed the creative energy of a family who used their resources to provide hospitality to the many people who visited Inverness in the first half of the twentieth century, a time when the town was a prosperous and thriving community.
MacMillan-Cameron House is also valued for its Queen Anne Revival style architecture. It is a good example of this style and retains most of its original architectural details. This two-and-one-half storey wood frame house, clad in wood shingles, has a prominent two-storey tower, characteristic of the Queen Anne Revival style. The tower has decorative fish scale shingles and a double belt course between the first and second storeys. Its hipped roof has three hipped dormers with triple glazed windows. At the rear of the building, there is a three storey section with hipped roof.
Source: Municipality of the County of Inverness, Municipal Heritage Files, MacMillan-Cameron House
Exterior character-defining elements of MacMillan-Cameron House relating to its Queen Anne Revival style include:
- two-and-one-half storey wood frame construction;
- wood shingle cladding with decorative fishscale shingles on tower;
- basic massing and proportions demonstrate a four-square style, including hipped roof profile, dormer window placement and general simplicity of the overall design;
- elements of other styles including: Italianate brackets beneath the eaves and Greek Revival details on porch columns;
- double belt coursing between first and second storeys;
- front entrance door with transom and sidelights.
Interior character-defining elements of MacMillan-Cameron House include:
- original interior trim of imported Cyprus wood;
- panelled doors with entablatures and pediments;
- three original fireplaces with large overmantle, mirrors, freestanding Greek columns and tiles;
- arched entry ways with plaster mouldings.