Description of Historic Place
The Reid House is located on the Gaspereau River Road with the front of the house facing Provincial Highway 101, in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. This two-and-a-half storey wooden house, with two wooden outbuildings, was built during the 1760s. The building, two outbuildings, and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Reid House is valued for its close association with the social and political life of the Lower Horton Township, in particular through its use as a tavern, stage coach stop, courtroom, post office and election polling station, while continuing to be a well-known farm.
Two New England Planter families are closely associated with this house. In the 1760s, Samuel Witter took up his Horton Township lands at Avonport. Either he or his descendants built a house there. Evidence from the interior detail of the kitchen is consistent with a building date as early as the 1760s. By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the house was known as Witter's tavern and by 1831, the house and farm were in the possession of Joseph Prentice Witter. In 1837, Witter transferred the property to his daughter Eunice and her husband, Joshua Reid. The house remained in the Reid family until 1989. The Reid House has been classed as a Century Farm (a farm that has been continuously owned by a family for more than 100 years or more).
As well as farming the land, Joshua Reid continued to operate a tavern. In 1848, he received a pub license and from 1851, the house became a regular stop on the stage coach route through to Annapolis Royal. As a Justice of the Peace, Joshua Reid used to hold court in the northwest tap room. The tap room also became, from 1872 to 1940, the post office for Avonport. As late as the 1950s, the house served as a polling station for elections.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Margaret Higgins came to the Reid House as the twenty-two year old bride of Percy Bayfield Reid. She remained in the house until close to her death at the age of 101. After the death of her first husband, she married Charles Magee. She taught in four Kings County schools for a total of twenty-seven years.
The Reid House has three distinct parts. The first is the two-and-a-half storey principal structure, the second is a one-and-a-half storey middle kitchen, and the third is a one-and-a-half storey rear section.
While the scale of the rear section indicated an old structure, no evidence would indicate a construction date earlier than the mid-nineteenth century. The kitchen, however, retains several architectural elements and details which strongly suggest an eighteenth-century construction date. Most notable is the chimney structure, which incorporates a large cooking fireplace and beehive oven. Much of the interior detail of this section is consistent with a building date as early as the 1760s.
The origins and development of the principal structure is unclear, though investigations have revealed major construction and finish elements from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
For most of its history, Reid House was the centre of a farm of more than 200 acres (81 hectares). It remained a farm, though not much in use for agriculture after the Second World War, when the new Highway 101 cut through the original property and the Avonport overpass cut off the house, main barn and an outbuilding from the rest of the farmland, and made the property’s proximity to the highway a visual oddity to passing motorists. Needless to say, Margaret Magee fought the highway expansion and was successful in stopping expropriation of the house and its demolition.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 179, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Reid House include:
- two-and-a-half storey wooden construction;
- one-and-a-half storey wooden middle kitchen addition;
- one-and-a-half storey wooden rear addition;
- kitchen chimney structure, incorporating a large cooking fireplace and beehive oven;
- front verandah;
- large, front central dormer with a smaller dormer on each side;
- two central chimneys in main part of the building;
- prominent position in an agricultural area;
- two wooden outbuildings.