Friday, 20 January 2017

Heritage Trust Lecture: Quaker House and Evergreen

Thursday, January 19th (7:30pm), David Jones, Dartmouth historian and founder of the Dartmouth History Blog, presented a free public lecture to the Heritage Trust; Lived-in History: The re-purposing of Downtown Dartmouth's Quaker House and Evergreen. The event, held in the auditorium of the Museum of Natural History, was filled to capacity and attended by people of all ages and representatives of the local archaeology, museum and built heritage communities.

Here is the description for David's talk, as advertised:

The extensive and significant material culture collection of the City of Dartmouth is currently out of public view in a Burnside storage facility. While waiting for a proper and permanent home, the Dartmouth Heritage Museum operates out of two historic buildings; Evergreen and Quaker House. 

2017 marks not only the 150th anniversary of Confederation but also of the construction of Judge Alexander James' Evergreen (famous as the home of folklorist Helen Creighton).Quaker House, notably, is the oldest known surviving building in Dartmouth (1786) and is an integral feature of a potential Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District.

Join David Jones, a strong advocate for cultural heritage, for an illustrated and lively discussion of the 'lived-in history' of these notable Dartmouth museum houses.

David Jones is an archaeologist and historian from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society.
David is the great grand nephew of Dr. John P. Martin, Town Historian of Dartmouth. Recently graduated from Saint Mary's University, David has conducted archaeological excavations and geophysical prospections on sites across Nova Scotia.

David discussed the history of two of Dartmouth's most well-known heritage homes and outlined his vision for a new, purpose-built history museum for Dartmouth and his idea, shared with many, for a Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District.

Quaker House, also known as the Quaker Whaler House, is the oldest known building in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It was built in 1786 for William Ray, a cooper and sailor from Nantucket. The Quaker Whalers (approximately two dozen families belonging to the Society of Friends, as opposed to the oft cited forty) came to Dartmouth in 1785-1786 to establish a new base for their lucrative whaling industry post American Revolution. The British Government had recently imposed heavy tariffs on whale oil and the Quaker Whalers avoided these tariffs by setting up in British territory. Names of prominent Dartmouth Quaker families included Coleman, Starbuck and Folger.

Today's Canada Post office at the Corner of Queen and King Street in Downtown Dartmouth stands on the site of the original Quaker Meeting House which was torn down in the early 19th Century.
Twelve houses were built for the Quaker families. The last to survive, the Quaker House is located on Ochterloney Street (across from Battery Park and Two if by Sea) and is open to visitors in the summer (operated by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum).

Quaker Whaler House (1786), a crucial part of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum complex, anchors the historic character of Dartmouth's beautiful Ochterloney Street, It is open to visitors during the summer tourist season.
Evergreen was designed by famous Dartmouth architect Henry Elliott and finished in 1867 for Judge Alexander James. Built overlooking Dartmouth Cove and Halifax Harbour, Evergreen is a prominent Dartmouth landmark and the current home-base for the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. For decades, it was the residence of Dr. Helen Creighton, world famous recorder of Nova Scotian folklore. Evergreen is open year round, Monday to Saturday.

Evergreen house is the administrative base of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society and is open to the public for tours
If you are in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a ferry ride, from the Chebucto Landing terminal to the Alderney terminal in Downtown Dartmouth, is a lovely way to reach the city of Dartmouth. Upon arriving, you can walk up Ochterloney Street (via Alderney Drive) to visit Quaker House. On the way, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants or coffee shops in the area. Alternatively, you could walk along the waterfront to reach Newcastle Street, home (at the corner of Albert Street) of Evergreen House.
Although interesting museums in their own right, Quaker House and Evergreen do not meet the needs of the vast and important material culture collection of the former City of Dartmouth. These thousands of artifacts currently reside in a less than ideal storage facility in Burnside, on the edge of Dartmouth. Our artifacts (and their stories) deserve a proper home on this, eastern, side of the harbour. Imagine the showcase exhibits at the new Dartmouth Museum:
  • The multi-faceted story (pre-contact artifacts, campsites such as Tufts Cove and Turtle Grove, place names, conflict/peace/racism, basket making, the first hockey sticks,birch-bark canoes and the rise of paddle sports, etc.) of the first people, the Mi'kmaq.
  • Starr Manufacturing and the Birthplace of Hockey
  • The legacy of the Dartmouth lakes (hockey, paddling, rowing, swimming, dragon boating, ecology, portage routes, ice industry, canal building, settlement patterns)
  • Local industry: ship-building, ice harvesting, skate manufacture, oil refinement, etc.
Also covered in the presentation: Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District designation. Lately, young families, professionals and hipsters have been flocking to the beautiful neighbourhoods of Downtown Dartmouth. This 'discovery' comes at a time when the lovely historic homes and precious archaeological sites are threatened by the bulldozer and wrecking ball. It is time that we protect our built heritage and underground heritage. Help turn the Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District into reality!
My grandmother taught me that you can change the world with one phone call. If you would like to help build Dartmouth's new museum, and create the Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District, please contact your local politicians!
Quaker House and Evergreen are represented by Councilor Sam Austin, MLA Marian Mancini and MP Darren Fisher.

Sam Austin contact info:

Marian Mancini, MLA contact info:

Darren Fisher, MP contact info:

Visit for more on Quaker House and Evergreen. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Starr Manufacturing Turbine Demolished

As stated in an earlier Dartmouth History Blog post (Recent News Article Neglects Starr Manufacturing), "Starr Manufacturing, harnessing the waters of the defunct Shubenacadie Canal, produced millions of pairs of Starr skates which were the first modern skates in the world. This Dartmouth company was on the leading edge of innovation in hockey for decades and played a direct role in the creation of Canada's national winter sport. The Acme Club spring skate was invented by John Forbes who came to work for John Starr's nail factory in the 1860s."

Starr Manufacturing's key position in early hockey and skating history has been honoured as a National Historic Event (the only one in Dartmouth). Frustratingly, the Starr National Historic Event plaque is not on display. It should be prominently mounted on the Starr property (misleadingly referred to as the 'Canal Greenway' on current signage) alongside a fitting sculpture of a Starr skate.

Recently, I came across a troubling update, concerning the turbine that powered the Starr Factory, from the Shubenacadie Canal Commission (
In order to allow for the restoration of masonry work and flooring in the turbine chamber the Starr era turbine has been removed. As you can see it was in poor condition and the experts determined that because there are existing examples of this type of turbine, it would not be kept. There are plans to install a replica of the original canal era turbine.
Source: Shubenacadie Canal Commission.
The  production of the Acme Spring Skate was made possible by the turbine housed below the Starr factory floor on Prince Albert Road. Unnecessarily, this impressive piece of machinery, a tangible and physical link to our past, has been broken up into pieces. It is sincerely hoped that the Starr turbine will re-appear (perhaps from a junkyard or warehouse) and be put on display for the general public. Our hockey history deserves better than to be thrown out with the trash.