Monday, May 17, 2010

A Storied House in a Storied Land

Have you ever wondered what sort of accommodation that travellers of the past could expect? After a day trundling across Nova Scotia on the train or stagecoach, where could you lay your head for the night? If you happened to catch the tide through the Digby Gut and moor at one of the wharves on the Annapolis Royal waterfront, what sort of place would provide a meal and a warm bed? Well, if you were among the monied classes, the Hillsdale House on Upper St. George Street would have been your destination of choice.

The Hillsdale House was built by Susan Forbes Foster circa 1860. The land where the structure was built had previously been reserved as an exercise ground for the garrison at Fort Anne. When the fort was closed as a military establishment in 1859, these lands became surplus. Here Susan Foster built a high end inn which she would operate until her death in 1895. This is the inn which would play host to Prince George (later King George V) when he visited in 1884 and Governor General Lord Lansdowne in 1880. If you were among the social elite visiting Annapolis Royal, this was the place to stay.

On the death of Susan Foster, the property then came under the ownership of the Perkins family. Daughter Charlotte Perkins was a chronicler of Annapolis Royal's history in both words and images. Perhaps most famous for her book "The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal", Miss Perkins was also an avid photographer. In this collection of images, she documents how parts of the Hillsdale House looked in 1898, a mere three years after her parents purchased the inn.

Today, the Hillsdale House is still operating as an inn. While much of the furniture has changed, you can still see the same fireplaces and woodwork. If you choose to do so, you can actually sleep in the same bed as King George V (I believe that the mattress has been replaced a few times through the years). By the way, the title for this post "A Storied House in a Storied Land" actually comes from an old promotional brochure for the inn.

All for now

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