Description of Historic Place
The Dr. John Harris House is a two-storey, Italianate style house built circa 1878-1879 for Dr. John Harris, a locally prominent physician. It is located on the south side of the Beaver River Road, which is the Yarmouth/Digby County boundary, about three tenths of a kilometre east of Highway No. 1. Municipal heritage designation applies to the house and the large residential lot on which it stands.
The heritage value of this property lies primarily in its historical associations with its original owner, Dr. John Harris, and with its second owner, Capt. Benjamin Gullison, both of whom were exemplars of their respective professions. Its Italianate style of architecture with its many decorative details also lends significant weight to its local heritage value.
Dr. John Harris had this house built circa 1878–1879 when the Yarmouth area was at its most prosperous as a major centre of shipping. He came to the area from Annapolis County in 1860 and served the community for about thirty years before removing to the town of Yarmouth, where he also had a large house built. Local history recounts that Dr. Harris, besides being an exceptionally good and kindly physician, was also a great lover of horses, which he treated very well as he depended on his horse to transport him to his patients’ homes. He had to travel over some very rough roads by horse and carriage or by sleigh in winter, and attended his patients wherever and whenever he was needed. It goes on to mention the doctor’s long black beard, which was said to be as sleek and as black as his horse, and also notes that both beard and horse were much admired.
Dr. Harris sold this property in 1890 to Capt. Benjamin Gullison, whose family’s association with leading Yarmouth merchant and ship owner Henry Lewis is recounted in the book, "Novascotiaman," which was written by the husband of Lewis’s granddaughter, Clement Crowell. Capt. Gullison mastered at least four vessels for the firm of H. & N. B. Lewis between 1870 and 1890. Two of his three sons, Frank and Eugene, also became ship captains for the firm. The Gullisons exemplified the traits of competency, good character, sobriety in habit and high sense of duty to their vessels and the owners, which were a significant factor in the success Yarmouth achieved in the shipping trade. With the end of the Lewis brothers’ freight business around 1893, Capt. Gullison and his two sons went into business under the name of “Gullison Brothers” in the community of Salmon River, Digby County. There they operated a general store and two trading schooners. Their cargo consisted mostly of cordwood to Rockland, Maine and fish and lumber to the West Indies; however the greatest bulk was pilings sent to Boston. It is said that Boston’s “Back Bay” area was built on Nova Scotia tree trunks, the “piling”, driven into the soft, swampy ground as foundation material for the buildings constructed there. Thus, the Gullisons contributed in part to the expansion of the city of Boston. Capt. Gullison sold this property in 1919.
The Italianate architecture of the Dr. John Harris House is evident in its two-storey wood frame construction, rectangular massing, symmetrical façade, bracket trim elements and its cupola. The Italianate style was a favourite of local builders during Yarmouth’s prosperous shipping era.
Source: Municipal Heritage Property files: Joint Heritage Office, 400 Main Street, Yarmouth, NS
Character-defining elements of the Dr. John Harris House include:
- location in a rural community on the south side of the Yarmouth/Digby County line road;
- moderate setback from road;
- proximity to waterfront;
- large residential lot.
Character-defining elements of the Italianate architecture of the Dr. John Harris House include:
- two-storey wood frame construction and cladding;
- rectangular massing;
- one-and-a-half and one-storey additions on back connecting to two-storey barn;
- low-pitched hip-roof with bracketed eaves and centred, hip roofed cupola with bracketed eaves, triple round-headed windows on each side and decorative top finial;
- symmetrical two bay façade;
- open front veranda with turned columns trimmed with cut-out brackets;
- double hung sash windows with bracketed crowns;
- two-storey interrupted bay window on west side;
- oriel window on west side;
- corner pilasters, frieze-board and base-board trim.