When I’m not gallivanting around in historical reproduction clothing with my family, I love to write. My son (who is now five) recently asked me if we could build a spaceship out of cardboard. We decided instead to turn our office into a spacecraft themed room. Upon nearing completion, the room inspired me to start a new work of fiction that I can share with others while taking breaks and pauses from my novel of a different genre. Now that it’s finished, the room not only provides a fun place for my son to go on ‘space adventures’, but also a peaceful, unique, and relaxing place for the adults of the family to work, write, and be creative. Well, we sometimes play too. No matter how old you get, who doesn’t want to play ‘space adventures’?
Recently, Man The Capstan attended a Victorian garden social event at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. This was held in conjunction with their summer exhibit called “Dear Dottie”. Costumes were encouraged by the museum, and this happily offered us an opportunity to get into our Victorian duds and do some strollin’. It was a particularly special event for us because a number of the members of the Man Capstan Crew are descended from Dottie and her family.
In 2005 a collection of approximately 500 letters addressed to Dottie Stewart, were discovered in an old trunk in the attic of a Heritage home that had once belonged to the Stewart family of Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. The sheer amount of these letters reveal a wonderfully detailed picture of what life was like for the Stewart family, their friends and their relatives, in this rural farming community during the late 1800s. Spanning a period of almost 15 years of Dottie’s life prior to her marriage, they are indeed a special find, not only for her descendants, but for the entire community.
The Stewarts were predominantly farmers and orchardists, a fact that is often mentioned in the letters sent to Dottie. Among other things, they grew and harvested apples, as did many farmers living in the Annapolis Valley during that time period, and, as many still do to this day. The ancestors and descendants of this family farmed the same lands for a period of almost 250 years, and even today members of the family can be found in the area.
The letters have been transcribed by volunteers from the Wolfville Historical Society, and were used as a primary source for “Dear Dottie”. This exhibit focuses not only on the Dottie letters and her family, but also on the history and goings’ on of the community during that time. It sheds light upon their joys and sorrows, their struggles, hardships and good times. It also divulges some of the very personal experiences of those who corresponded with Dottie. You can view this exhibit until the 15th of September, at which time the Randall House Museum closes down for the season.
Recently the Dottie Letters have also been used as a resource for seven short educational videos called Discovering Voices, by the NS Dept of Education. Some of these episodes were filmed at the Randall House.
The Randall House is a lovely old house and well worth a visit if you are in town. It is owned and operated by the Wolfville Historical Society and curated and managed by Alexandra Hernould. The following is a brief history of the house that I have taken from the
Wolfville Historical Society Website.
“This property, like all the other land in Horton Township, was granted to the New England settlers known as Planters, who arrived from Connecticut in the 1760s after the expulsion of the Acadians. A house on the property is mentioned in the deeds as early as 1769 but it is likely that the large and imposing eight room residence with full attic and cellar was built at least a generation later by more established settlers. Aaron Cleveland, a cooper, lived here with his family from 1809 to 1812, during which time he took out a large mortgage, and it is possible that he was the builder. The house, which overlooked the harbour, the wharves and the bustling commercial centre of Upper Horton or Mud Creek, was strategically situated to be at the hub of village life.
The term “the Randall House” was first used in 1812 when Charles Randall, carpenter, coachmaker and member of another Connecticut Planter family, purchased it from Cleveland. His wife Sarah Denison died shortly after the birth of their only child, Charles Denison Randall, and for a time father and son lived here alone. They later moved to a smaller house on the property and rented the Randall House. Among their tenants was the Rev. John Pryor, principal of Horton Academy and one of the founders of Acadia University, who is described as “a cultivated, courtly man”. He and his family lived in the house and may also have used it as temporary classroom space for the Academy. From 1835 to 1845 Mrs. Henry Best, widow of a Halifax naval officer, operated a seminary for young ladies in the building.
Charles D. Randall bought the house from his father in 1844, and moved there following his marriage to Nancy Bill, the daughter of a prosperous farmer and member of the Legislative Assembly. Members of the Randall family continued to live in the family home until 1927 when Eardley and Anna left the Randall House for the last time. Eardley’s initials can still be seen carved into the wall of the attic staircase.
The Charles Patriquin family purchased the house in 1927, restored it and installed its first bathroom. The Patriquins are still remembered for their warm-hearted interest in young people: there was a dress-up box for local children from which they could create Hallowe’en costumes, while Charles taught them how to care for wounded birds and animals. He also looked after the ducks who spent the summer in the Duck Pond (the old harbour) and grew a productive garden nearby. It was the Patriquins who expressed the wish that the house should remain unchanged in the community as a reminder of past times.
Photographs of the Society’s original museum, the T.A.S. DeWolf house, now hang in the front hall with a framed square of the pictorial wallpaper-all that remains of Prince Edward’s gift. The Randall House is arranged and furnished as an early Wolfville residence and most of the furniture and artifacts have been donated by local people. A temporary exhibit room in the back parlour features changing displays which relate to the town and surrounding communities.”
The Wolfville Historical Society is always looking for new members and volunteers.
But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low,
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.
One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.
Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
The Town Crier Uniform, that I have been working on for Lloyd Smith, these past almost six months, was unveiled on May 18, 2013, amidst much to-do at the Convocation Hall at King’s Edgehill School in Windsor, Nova Scotia. It was a most appropriate place for this event, which was well attended by Lloyd’s many supporters.
The Hall is almost one-hundred and fifty years old, so a very good setting for this 18th century Uniform. So wonderfully Gothic, it is stunning both inside and out. I had never visited this building prior to this event and I was so impressed with the beauty of this old place, that I had to do some research about it. The Convocation Hall at Kings Edgehill School is renowned as Canada’s first library Museum building. Made of sandstone it was designed by architect David Stirling, and built by George Lang, who was a Stonemason.
This incredible building took six years to complete between 1861 and 1867 and was built on the original campus of King’s College School which was founded in 1788. In 1923 King’s College moved to Halifax but the school continued at it’s present location. Originally a school for boys, King’s Edgehill School is the oldest private residential school in Canada. This is a beautiful place, lovely buildings, beautiful expanses of green and even a great view.
Convocation Hall is valued as a rare example of nineteenth century Gothic Revival stone architecture. It, and all land within a distance of 10 feet surrounding the building is designated as a Provincial Heritage site.
Although King’s Edgehill is a private school you can tour this building by appointment, as well as several other nineteenth century buildings on the property including a lovely Chapel, and the Head Master’s home.
Lloyd Smith is celebrating 35 years as the official Town Crier for the Town of Windsor. He is also the official Town Crier for the Apple Blossom Festival, where he will be wearing this new uniform in public for the first time at the Coronation of Queen Annapolisa 2013, on May 31st. He is Honourary Town Crier for Kentville, Kingston, Greenwood, New Minas, Hantsport and Wolfville, as well as the Counties of Kings and West Hants.
Many dignitaries were present for the unveiling of this new uniform. MP Scott Brison was not able to attend but sent along a very nice congratulatory letter. MLAs Jim Morton and Ramona Jennex spoke, so did Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley and Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum. Many more supporters and council members, past and present, of the various communities that he volunteers his talents to, were also present.
Ed Coleman, who is the official piper for Acadia University and a well known columnist in the valley, was present to pipe and escort Lloyd into the hall. There was an honour guard from King’s Edgehill, and fellow Town Crier Gary Long and his wife Sara. Gary is the official Town Crier for Berwick and Canning. His wife Sara accompanies him to most events and is always dressed in period costume herself.
Roger Taylor and the Horton High School Senior String Ensemble were present to provide beautiful period music which everyone very much enjoyed, and which did certainly lend a certain ambiance to the occasion. Jason Calnen from Light and Lens Photography was there to take the official photographs, and David Bannerman served as Master of Ceremonies. Even I had a role to play and was there to speak about the construction of the uniform.
Lloyd’s oldest uniform was presented and donated to the Hants Historical Society.
It was a rather fine afternoon and my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Don’t forget to click on the pictures to view them in full size; and come again, for I will soon be writing a post that will focus on the construction of this beautiful uniform.
I made this striking gown to sell in my Etsy shop, but as soon as my daughter Shara saw it, it became hers. I would say it has “attitude”. She looked so stunning in it that I had to give it to her, and in retrospect, perhaps I made it for her without realizing that I was doing so! Shara and her husband like to do a little Steam Punk once in a while and this gown lends itself to that, as well as to a strictly Victorian look. Shara therefore considers it a pretty versatile addition to have in her historical wardrobe. It did look wonderfully festive when it was worn to the Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum.
For accessories, I bought a plain black, buckled, ladies felted top hat to go with it. I decorated it with red lace, black french netting, a few cocky feathers, a black net train and a big red rose. It also has a black parasol and matching reticule. Shara also wears netted black crocheted gloves, and a black beaded choker. Black brocade Victorian style booties complete this ensemble.
This Victorian walking gown consists of a polonaise and a walking skirt. I find it has a French feeling to it and I also like it as a riding habit. The skirt, which is made from a black embroidered taffeta, has one large ruffle and is trimmed in black and red venise laces and satin ribbon. It is slightly trained at the back.
The polonaise, is made in a rich blood red and black shot striped taffeta and is fully lined and boned. It incorporates both the bodice and the over-skirt and has a nice large bustle, as well as a pleated basque at the back. It is trimmed with matching black venise lace, tulle lace at the neckline and sleeves, and ruched black satin ribbon. I had about a half yard of a very long, red, 8 inch venise lace, which matched the red of the taffeta exactly, so I added that to the front of the polonaise as well. I find it really stands out against the black of the skirt. This bodice closes at the front with black satin fabric self made buttons.
I’m planning to make a variation of this ensemble again as it is so striking. I have more of the striped taffeta, not only in the red but in a blue as well.
While attending the Festival of Tall Ships, Man The Capstan, had the opportunity to stay at The Waverley Inn in Halifax. This Inn is tucked away at 1266 Barrington Street, and is a reasonable walk to the waterfront. There are many other Hotels and Inns in this downtown core, but none offers quite the same experience and ambiance of this unique three story bed and breakfast.
Once an elite Victorian private residence, the Waverley Inn is definitely pretty special, especially if you’re like me and prefer smaller and more intimate places to stay, and particularly if they are historical houses.
This house was built in 1865-66 by a wealthy merchant named Edward W. Chipman and his wife Mahala Jane Northup. Interestingly both these last names are listed in the family trees of certain Man The Capstan Crew members. Could there be a family relationship there? Perhaps!
The Chipman home was purported to be one of the most expensive and extravagant homes in the city of Halifax. Mrs. Chipman was a very fashionable lady, who was well known in Halifax society and she immediately began to host many dances and social events. These were attended by not only the local society, but also by the officers who were stationed at the Garrison. Hence, it seemed just the place for a group of Royal Navy Re-enactors like us, to spend a night or two.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chipman’s dry goods business failed and in just a short while (1870), the family could no longer afford this home. It must have been heartbreaking to see their lovely home turned over to the Sherriff of Halifax. Much of the furnishings were seized, and the house was sold at auction where it was bought by a real estate speculator named Patrick Costin.
He sold the house to two spinsters named Sarah and Jane Romans, who had been operating their father’s business, The Waverley Hotel. They added a new wing to the rear of the house and in October of 1876 they moved into their new location. Since then the Waverley has functioned as an Inn, owned by a variety of different owners. In 1960 the Sterling Hotel Company purchased it and did extensive restorations.
Today this house still operates as a lovely historical Inn, and Man The Capstan certainly enjoyed their stay there. We stayed in the Vanderbilt room, and the twin room right across from it, and were indeed very comfortable. The house is filled with antiques and period furniture, and beautifully decorated with the opulence of the Victorian period. The breakfast room downstairs offers a healthful and generous breakfast with lots of variety. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the rooms are beautiful and very clean. I would definitely stay there again, and would recommend it as a place to stay if ever you are visiting Halifax , Nova Scotia.
I am very fortunate to have two very beautiful young women to model the historical gowns I make! The next two posts concerning gowns, will feature two crew members, my daughter Shara, and my feels like a daughter, friend Katherine, wearing Victorian ensembles.
This is a circa 1875 – 1878 Ball gown which sports a full bustled over skirt, a double tiered ruffled underskirt, and an off the shoulder basque back style bodice with pouf sleeves. The patterns that were used came from Truly Victorian. They are TV324, which is the Long Draped Overskirt, and TV416 which is the Ball Gown Basque Bodice. The underskirt is of my own design.
I used a Seafoam green faux silk which is embroidered with ivory, gold, tan and turquoise florals and leaves, for both the overskirt, and the main part of the bodice. The pouf sleeves and the underskirt are made of a 100% pure golden dupioni silk. The bodice is fully lined and boned for added shape and structure, and buttons at the front with self covered golden dupioni fabric buttons. This bodice also has a lovely pleated basque back.The draped overskirt is fully lined and was lengthened at the back by several feet to incorporate a long and elegant train for the evening.
To trim this gown, I used golden pearl teardrop beading around the sleeves, around the bottom and extending around the basque back of the bodice. I also used this beading on the draped front of the overskirt. I used golden swagged and scalloped rayon venise laces, which were hand-dyed using potassium permanganate. This method of dyeing gives lace a rich golden colour, and perfectly matches the silk dupioni. The result lends a very antique quality to the gown.
Katherine is also carrying an authentic Victorian lace fan made of bone and wearing a pair of beige, non-shiny, elbow length gloves. She is wearing a single strand of golden pearls around her neck and wrist, and golden crystal drop earrings. Simple but very effective accessories.
Something I really enjoy doing is creating matching foot wear for these gowns. For the Victorian gowns I purchase vintage lace booties, which I then dye and decorate with left over scraps of the lace and trimmings used in the creation of the gown. For this dress, I tea dyed a pair of lace boots and decorated them with the left over golden lace. I also re-laced them with a matching satin ribbon. The effect is very lovely when worn with the dress.
I am doing some serious catching up for Man The Capstan the last few days. I was recently asked if Man The Capstan is still active, and although we are not able to get together as often as we would like, the answer to that is a resounding yes! We have experienced a number of changes in our lives the past couple of years however, and unfortunately this blog has been sadly neglected as a result. Therefore, I will be continuing to add a number of posts, over the next few days and weeks in order to bring this blog up to date.
This post will focus on a lovely 18th century colonial gown ensemble that I created for a young lady in Virginia. It is modeled by our own Man The Capstan crew member, Katherine, who looks just beautiful in it! The pictures were taken by Dave on a beautiful spring day with our blooming cherry tree as a back drop.
This two piece gown, was made using a basic pattern, but with a number of alterations made to the design. I used a beautiful, medium to heavy weight cotton, in cream with various hues of gold and coral to red sprays of ivy leaves on it. I also used a coral sateen or polished cotton for the contrasting underskirt and the stomacher portion of the bodice. The bodice is also fully boned and lined; this adds great shaping, as well as stabilization to the form. This can be worn without a corset, which sure does add to the comfort of it. Antique style lace flounces at the sleeves and a beautiful ivory venise lace were used to trim up this gown. The result was quite nice. This gown laces up at the back with gold grommets and ivory satin ribbon.
In order to make these gowns so that they will fit a variety of sizes, or to allow the wearer to continue to make use of the gown, even if she gains or loses weight, a three inch modesty panel is installed at the back opening. I also leave a part of the skirt, at the back seam, free from the waist, which then gathers and ties up with satin ribbon. This can then be adjusted, according to how tight the lacing is done up, and prevents unsightly gaping or bunching at the back waistline. The back is slightly trained. Katherine is wearing a hoop skirt with this gown but the skirt sides are actually slightly longer then the front to accommodate panniers.
Also included in this ensemble was a matching reticule, a small flat crowned straw hat decorated with the sateen cotton, ostrich feather ribbons and lace, and a pair of cream silk habotai bloomers, made in the traditional way.
In October of 2012, my husband and I, with my brother and his wife, had the opportunity to stay at the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal. This was the second time I had stayed there, and I must say that I am in love with this stately and grand old mansion. Although we did not attend in our historical duds on this trip, I deemed it worthy to write a blog about this wonderful place!
The Queen Anne Inn is designated a Provincial Heritage Property and this applies to both the building and the land upon which it sits. It is located at 494 Upper George Street. This is the main road running through Annapolis Royal. You will find the Inn just outside of town and set back from the road, in a beautiful garden setting. One of my favourite things about the gardens, are indeed the stately old Elm trees that still grace this property. In Nova Scotia, we have lost many of our Elms to the Dutch Elm disease; it is certainly a special treat to see these glorious stately trees, all awash in the golden glow of fall, towering even taller then the center tower of Queen Anne herself.
If you love old architecture and historical places, this is the place for you! Considered an excellent example of the Second Empire style, this Inn was built as a private residence by William Ritchie in 1869. He had it built for his son Norman as a wedding gift, however, and very unfortunately, Norman’s wife Fanny died only 10 months after they were married, and before the house could be completed. Norman never lived there and the house stood vacant for a period of time. After several years William Ritchie and his wife opened the house as a an upscale boarding house. In the years ensuing, after the Ritchie’s deaths, and to the present time, the house has been used a parsonage and in 1897 it became St. Andrew’s school, a private school for boys. The school closed it’s doors in 1906 and again the house stood vacant for a time.
In 1921 the building was converted into a hotel called the Queen Hotel and it has served as such for over 90 years and with various owners operating it. Today it is called “The Queen Anne Inn”, the Proprietors or Inn keepers are Greg and Julie. They are friendly, fun, laid back, and full of information about the surrounding area. Greg is also a chef, so the food is of course delicious, served beautifully in the large dining room, and with good humour to boot. They go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable and offer many unique and personal services to their guests, such as special food requirements and so on.
Upon occasion you can also rent the entire Inn for a special event, such as a wedding or business conference, which they will cater. The rooms are large and elegant, most with private sitting areas, and each one beautifully furnished with antiques and curiosities of all sorts. The bathrooms are modern and well equipped with large jacuzzi baths as well as showers in many of the rooms.
Considered one of Nova Scotia’s finest, plan to stay here for a night or two if you are coming for a visit to the Maritimes. The Queen Anne is open from early May to late October, and there is lots to do and see in Annapolis Royal, and the surrounding communities. We found the rates very reasonable, and you just can’t beat the ambiance and historical appeal of this wonderful Inn!
I acquired the patterns to create this gown from Truly Victorian, a very good and quite authentic pattern company for making Victorian reproduction gowns. They have a good variety of patterns for period clothing, both for women and men. The instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow, however, I would not recommend them for the beginning seamstress as they use techniques that were used during the Victorian era.
To create this gown we chose Truly Victorian patterns #TV225 – 1878 Fantail Skirt, #TV420 – 1879 Cuirass Evening Bodice and #TV328 – 1880 Split Pannier Over Skirt. We made a few alterations to each of them since we wanted a differing neckline in the bodice, and we also combined the fantail skirt with the split panniers to create one skirt rather then two. The panniers were also rounded instead of left square.
For Fabrics we chose, a creamy ivory satin matelasse, complimented by a matching 100% pure shantung silk for contrast. I used a variety of matching ivory trims and laces, both venise and bridal type as well as chiffon. I was careful (insomuch as was possible) to choose only laces and trims that were historically accurate representations of what was used during the Victorian period. The gown is fully lined and boned. I used Chinese knotted silk buttons also in a matching ivory for the bodice. The sleeves and neckline are trimmed with ivory venise lace and the sleeves also are ruffled with ivory bridal lace. The back fantail skirt is made of satin matelasse and has 8 layers of overlapping lace and chiffon on the fan, and is decorated with satin ribbon. The front section of the skirt is made of ivory shantung silk and trimmed with bridal lace and two layers of silk pleats at the bottom. The split panniers are made of satin matelasse and are trimmed with bridal lace and venise lace.
In order to get the fit required, I made up several mock up bodices and because of the distance between us, sent them out in the mail. She would try them on, pin them where alterations were required and send them back to me. Although in the end we were quite successful in getting the fit right, she did have to go to a local seamstress to have slight alterations made to the shoulders and waist. I would not consider this an unusual occurrence however, since almost all of us have to have alterations done when purchasing a wedding gown.
For accessories for this gown, I purchased a pair of vintage lace booties and decorated them with laces left over from the gown. I also made a matching reticule from left over fabrics and laces. This gown was created over a period of about 5 months
Don’t forget to click on the pictures for the full size and effect!