Fort Lawrence

Unique architecture found in Fort Lawrence

FORT LAWRENCE – Nova Scotia, because of its location on the Atlantic seaboard, was one of the first present day provinces to be explored and settled by Europeans. It was also the setting of a number of battles between the English and French governments to decide who would dominate North America politically. During the 1700’s Cumberland County extended into present day New Brunswick and included the area on which Fort Beausejour stands. The Fort was the site of military activity between 1751 and 1833. Originally a French stronghold, Fort Beausejour was captured by an Anglo-American force in 1755 and renamed Fort Cumberland. 

There are unfortunately few examples of architecture from this early period in Cumberland’s history, but one notable exception is the Chapman House in Fort Lawrence, located on Mount Whatley Road. Owned by George and Marilyn Carter since 1971, the structure is a handsome example of Georgian architecture. Built circa 1775, it is one of the few brick houses in Cumberland quite possibly the oldest dwelling in the County. 

Georgian style architecture was named for the English kings George I through George IV, and buildings so named followed classical rules of architecture for proportions and symmetry. It was introduced to North America through English architectural style books. Almost all Georgian homes are simple, rectangular blocks with windows, doors and chimneys carefully balanced. 

The Chapman house exemplifies the style with its balanced facade, minimum of design and stately presence. The house boasts a gable roof; two and one half storeys and entrances on all sides. It has a stone foundation. The rectangular Georgian form was modified into a tee-shape by a later addition to the back of the house. One interesting feature of the structure is the raised gable wall on the south end which evolves into a chimney. This type of wall construction was developed in Scotland and may betray the ancestry or sense of homesickness of its’ builders. 

Charles Dixon and William Chapman Junior constructed the house for Major Thomas Chapman, a pre-Loyalist immigrant from Yorkshire England. The Major became a farmer and the property has been chiefly used for that purpose since it was settled. Located near the driveway of the structure is a cairn erected by the Government of Canada which recognizes the home as a significant historic structure. An excerpt from the cairn states: 

“It has been occupied by Chapman and his descendants for almost two centuries and although slightly modified, it still preserves the basic form and many of the details of a prosperous late 18th century farmhouse.” 

Sources: Fort Beausejour National Historic Park Self-Guided Tour Brochure.
     Allen Penney, Houses of Nova Scotia Halifax: Formac, 1989.
     Shirley Hanson and Nancy Hubby, Preserving and Maintaining the Old Home. New York: McGraw Hill, 1983.

Individuals and organizations with questions or concerns regarding private homes or public buildings built in Cumberland County before 1914 or who are interested in Municipal Heritage designation for their building or the Heritage Act in General are welcome to contact Laurie A. Glenn, Historical Researcher at the Municipality of Cumberland, E.B. Fullerton Building, P.O. Box 428, Amherst, Nova Scotia. B4H 3Z5. Phone 667-2313 or Fax 667-1352.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, July 9, 1994, Page 33 – Cumberland’s Built Heritage, by Laurie A. Glenn – Unique architecture found in Fort Lawrence)

Plaque honours heritage home

During the regular Municipal Council Session held July third, David and June McClelland were presented with a brass plaque recognizing their home as a Registered Heritage Property. The house is located in Fort Lawrence on the north eastern side of the Trans Canada Highway overlooking the Amherst Marsh and LaPlanche River. 

The Fort Lawrence Ridge is an area rich in history. From the time of the Mi’Kmaq to the Acadians beginning in the seventeenth century, the subsequent clash between English and French centred on Fort Lawrence and Fort Beausejour to the arrival of settlers from New England in the early 1760s and from Yorkshire, England in the 1770’s, this area has been a centre of activities. Following the arrival of thousands of Loyalists to the area around Saint John in the 1780s political unrest grew steadily until in June of 1784, The Province of New Brunswick was formed, splitting Cumberland Township along the Missaguash River. 

The main impetus behind the movement of settlers to Fort Lawrence was the availability of fertile marsh and dyke lands. This rich agricultural land fuelled the local economy producing hay, cattle, butter and other agricultural surpluses until the dramatic decline in hay prices collapsed the market at the end of the Second World War. Since then, the economy of the Fort Lawrence area has somewhat more diversified but still remains agricultural. 

The McClelland home sits on land formerly owned by the noted merchant, farmer and politician, Thomas Roach was a leader in the Methodist Church and member of the Nova Scotia Assembly, serving from 1799 to 1826. Thomas Roach married Ruth Dixon. After the death of Roach, the land which the McClelland home sits on was resold several times before being bought by John Smith and his son Howard Smith in 1879. Howard eventually built the house sometime before 1899 when the home and land were sold to Frederick and Amelia Thompson. The McClellands bought the home in 1989 and have since maintained the exterior in its present form which has been only slightly modified from the original facade. 

The house is a modified gothic revival style with a steep roof-line. The front is symmetrical with a small square-bay window below a central dormer with pointed roof. Unlike many homes of this style which feature a central doorway on the front side, the McClelland home has the entry in a small ell on one of the ends. The house is one-and-a-half storeys with a three bay facade with small entablatures over windows and doors. The house was originally built as a farmhouse and has served that function throughout most of its existence.

     Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, various references.
     Nelson M. Bezanson and Robert Summerby-Murray, 1996, Heritage Landscapes of The Tantramar Area: A Historical Geography, New Brunswick Department of Municipalities, Culture and Housing, Fredericton.
     Gladys Trenholm, 1985, A History of Fort Lawrence; Times, Tides and Towns, Sherwood Printing Limited, Alberta.
     Howard Trueman, 1902, The Chignecto Isthmus and Its First Settlers, W. Briggs, Toronto. 

Individuals and groups seeking further information on the Heritage Property Act or heritage designation are invited to contact Nelson Bezanson, Heritage Researcher at the Municipal Office in Upper Nappan. Phone 902-667-2313, Fax 902-667-1352, P0 Box 428, Amherst, Nova Scotia, B4H 3Z5.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, July 13, 1996, – Cumberland’s Built Heritage, by Nelson Bezanson – Plaque honours heritage home)