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MacRae-Bitterman House

Washabuck Road, Upper Middle River, Nova Scotia, B2C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/12/06

Front elevation, MacRae-Bitterman House, Middle River, Cape Breton, NS, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004.
Front Elevation
Rear elevation, MacRae-Bitterman House, Middle River, Cape Breton, NS, 2004.; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004.
Rear Elevation
Front elevation with woman and child out front ca. 1900, MacRae-Bitterman House, Middle River, Cape Breton, NS.; Courtesy of the Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.
Front Elevation ca. 1900

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1848/01/01 to 1856/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/08/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The MacRae-Bitterman House is located on the west side of the Middle River in what is known as the Upper West Side Settlement on Cape Breton Island, NS. It is a small stone house, built of local fieldstone between 1848 and 1856. The house and the property are included in the provincial designation.

Heritage Value

The MacRae-Bitterman House is valued for its vernacular stone construction and its association with the settlement of the highland Scottish immigrants.

The MacRae-Bitterman House was constructed using irregular and slightly coursed fieldstone in a combination of the traditional Scottish style and North American construction design; few houses built in this manner exist today. The house is an excellent example of the Highland Scottish style immigrant stone house. It has a central fireplace, hipped roof and wall of irregular fieldstone, while traditional Lowland houses are of regular and fully-coursed cut ballast stone and have two gabled roofs and an end chimney.

The MacRae-Bitterman House was built in the mid-nineteenth century (prior to 1856) by John MacRae, a Scottish immigrant. MacRae, like many Scottish immigrants, was given a two-hundred acre lot and probably built a wood-frame or log house on the property first. Reportedly the wooden house was destroyed by fire and MacRae proceeded to build the stone house. Using local materials in a style that reflects a combination of local building traditions and the Scottish cottage style; a style that MacRae would have known from his homeland. Several other similar stone houses that were built by Scottish immigrants still exist in Cape Breton. The house remained in the MacRae family until 1919. It later fell into disrepair and was vacant before being restored and the wooden side addition, that historically was present and later removed, was rebuilt.

Source: Provincial Heritage Property File No. 22.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the MacRae-Bitterman House include:

- quoins, lintels and doorway encasement made of locally quarried stones;
- facing exterior stones set with grain perpendicular to ground;
- gaps between larger exterior stones filled with layered smaller stones
- exterior walls with an inner and outer layer, filled with rubble and tapered inside and out;
- interior walls built of smaller, irregular rubble with small stone galletting in the jointing;
- hipped roof;
- door on north elevation centrally located, with one rectangle window to either side and directly above it;
- three small windows, the central one being larger than the two side windows;
- one window on second storey on sides;
- interior stairs located in original location.



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Province of Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Provincially Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type


Single Dwelling


Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Provincial Heritage Property Files, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS, B3H 3A6

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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