Chapel Hill Museum
Shag Harbour United Baptist Church
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Chapel Hill Museum is located at 5492 Highway 3, in Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia. Located on top of a hill facing the ocean and surrounded on three sides by a burial ground; the building and cemetery were designated a municipal heritage property July 4, 1984.
Chapel Hill Museum is valued for its age, religious role in the community, and for the property’s association with the first European settlers in the area.
The location of the museum is thought to have been the location of a ‘vieux logis,’ or old house, as referenced on Samuel de Champlain’s 1612 map of Acadia. This map shows a trading post near Cape Sable at the mouth of the Shag Harbour Brook on a high hill, easily visible to approaching ships. It is believed that the hill on the map is the one where the museum now stands.
In 1760 one of the first ships carrying English-speaking settlers arrived in the Barrington area. On board was Joshua Nickerson, who became one of the founders of the Barrington Township and was the ‘keeper of the grant,’ a position which required him to record the markings and owners of the first land division. Nickerson also framed the Old Meeting House in 1765, and built one of the first grist mills in the area. While he was originally granted land in Barrington proper, he later moved to Shag Harbour where he established a small ship yard. This land passed through Nickerson’s family to his grandson Levi who donated a portion of the land for the first church and burial ground in Shag Harbour.
The current church on this location was built circa 1856 as a nondenominational church. Eventually the church was solely used by a Baptist congregation and became known as the Shag Harbour United Baptist Church. Its location high on a hill with a central tower and steeple, the church often served as a beacon for mariners. In 1970 the church closed and plans were made to tear the original building down and build a larger one. In response, residents formed the Chapel Hill Society to save the building. In 1979 the congregation voted to offer the building to the society to operate it as a community museum.
Originally the building had a steeple; however it was lost in a winter gale in 1929. The church has changed little since its construction, however it was clad in vinyl siding covering some architectural details.
Source: Municipality of the District of Barrington, Municipal Heritage files
Character-defining elements of the Chapel Hill Museum include:
- location close to road on hill facing ocean;
- wood frame construction;
- central tower;
- wooden door on either side of tower;
- three large wooden, arched windows on each side;
- two sets of cement stairs leading to the main entrance;
- all original interior elements including: pews, platform for choir and pulpit, floorboards, metallic ceiling with gold coloured dropped metallic squares to hold lamps; and gilt filigree chandelier;
- cemetery on three sides.
Local Governments (NS)
Heritage Property Act
Municipally Registered Property
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Institution
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Municiepality of Barrington, P.O. Box 100, Barrington NS B0W 10
Cape Sable Historical Society
P.O. Box 67, Barrington NS B0W E0
Cross-Reference to Collection