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Alexander Robb House

21 Woodlawn Road, Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2010/04/19

View from Woodlawn Road; Village of Dorchester
Alexander Robb House
Historic image showing the second-storey balcony on the west and south side verandah in place; Village of Dorchester
Alexander Robb House
Tennis court; Village of Dorchester
Alexander Robb House

Other Name(s)

Alexander Robb House
Captain Edmund H. O'Neil Home
Maison du capitaine Edmund H. O'Neil
Emma O'Neil Home
Maison Emma O'Neil
Dobson Home
Maison Dobson

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/07/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Alexander Robb House is a two-and-a-half storey rectangular Classical Revival style house located on Woodlawn Road in Dorchester. While the interior and exterior of this circa 1840 house have been extensively renovated, it retains its original location and form.

Heritage Value

The Alexander Robb House was designated a Local Historic Place for its association with the Robb family, for its association with Douglas How and for its architecture.

The Alex Robb House is recognized for its association with the Robb family. The family of John Robb moved from Glasgow Scotland to Dorchester circa 1836. He was a miller who built a grist mill by Chapman’s Pond and he had the distinction of “grinding oatmeal better than any other miller in New Brunswick”. It is believed that Alexander, John’s son born circa 1820, built his house in the 1840’s. Alex married on October 10, 1863, Mary Ellen Chapman. They had a family of four girls and one boy.

The Alexander Robb House is recognized for its association with famous Canadian reporter, author and historian Douglas How. Douglas How (1919-2001) born in Winnipeg, but lived part of his childhood in this Dorchester home. How was a nephew of Emma (Chapman) O’Neil, a long time owner of this house. Emma O’Neil was the wife of sea captain Edmund H. O’Neil, who was presented with a gift by the Kaiser of Germany for saving lives off a sinking or shipwrecked German ship. Douglas How was also a frequent visitor of the Dobson family who occupied the Alexander Robb House through three generations since 1931. Douglas How was a reporter with the Moncton Daily Times in 1937 and then became a war reporter with the Canadian Press in 1940 before enlisting in the army. After a stint with the federal government How became a reporter for Time Magazine (1947) and Reader’s Digest (1959). At the age of 50, he enrolled at Mount Allison University where he obtained his BA and MA in History. He wrote several history books and novels, a few of which are evidently inspired by his Dorchester childhood: Blow Up the Trumpet in the New Moon (1993) and One Village One War (1995).

The Alexander Robb House is recognized for its architecture. It is a simple rectangular two-storey Classical Revival house with a front-facing gable roof and a symmetrical placement of windows. The neighbouring house was formerly the summer kitchen attached to the Alex Robb House. The back-to-back central fireplace, the hand-cut stone foundation, the framing that is sawn on a vertical sawmill, the square nails, the original double-hung six-over-six blown glass windows and pine board floors all seem to support a circa 1840-1850 construction date. Well-preserved plaster crown mouldings and modillions, a plaster archway in the hallway, elaborate window and doors mouldings and original fireplace mantles remain intact.

Source: Dorchester Village Hall, Local Historic Places file #12

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Alexander Robb House include:
- rectangular two-storey massing;
- front-facing gable roof;
- symmetrical placement of windows;
- back-to-back central fireplace;
- hand-cut stone foundation;
- original double hung six-over-six blown glass windows;
- pine board floors;
- plaster crown mouldings and medallions;
- plaster archway in the hallway;
- window and doors mouldings
- original fireplaces mantles.



New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Local Historic Places Program

Recognition Type

Municipal Register of Local Historic Places

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Single Dwelling

Architect / Designer



Alexander Robb

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Village of Dorchester, 4984 Main Street, Dorchester, N-B, E4K 2Z1, Local Historic Places file #12

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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