A Victorian Social at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

IMG_7885-001Recently, 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.

SLR_4_6252-004In 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.SLR_4_5960-002

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.scan0003-008

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.SLR_4_6267-002

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.

IMG_7896-001Charles 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.

IMG_7890-001Photographs 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.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see their full sizes.267352_620477654640513_1444852717_n-001

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Unveiling the New Town Crier Uniform for Lloyd Smith

SLR_4_3472-005The 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.SLR_4_3471-010

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.SLR_4_3641-003

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.SLR_4_3648-002

Today it continues to function as a library and is the oldest library built for that purpose in Nova Scotia. SLR_4_3528-002It is also used as a gathering place for various events.

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.

SLR_4_3526-003Many 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.SLR_4_3543-002

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.SLR_4_3558-002

A Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum

SLR_2_5614-003The O’Dell House Museum is situated at 136 – George Street, in the beautiful and historic town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This very interesting Victorian house Museum, circa 1869, is now owned and operated by the Annapolis Heritage Society. Graced with beautiful period furnishings, art, photographs, and history, as well as a Genealogy Centre and Archives, this is a pretty special place.4460170492_4bb3e7fd52_z-001

Each year, “A Victorian Christmas” is hosted here, an event that is held over a period of two weekends in late November and/or early December. Two Christmases ago, Man The Capstan decided to attend. (yes I know this blog was a long time in coming, but better late then never), and did we ever enjoy it! For this outing, we donned…what else…but our Victorian bustle gowns! Our Royal Navy Captain and Marine Major, altered slightly, the way they wore their uniforms. The beauty of them is that they can be worn in several differing ways, which really helps when using them for different time periods.

SLR_2_5637-001The ambience, warmth, and beautiful period Christmas decor of the O’ Dell house, make this event well worth attending. The heritage society does a wonderful job of it, spending days collecting Christmas greenery from the surrounding woods, and then countless hours more in decorating the house with these natural treasures.

photo_1272856_resize-001Boughs, wreaths and bouquets of evergreen, holly, boxwood, moss and pine cones fill the house, adorning each doorway, staircase and mantle. Delightful touches such fruit pyramids on the dining table and sideboard, and dried floral bouquets brighten each corner of the house. An old fashioned Christmas tree with homemade and antique ornaments graces the lovely parlour. The golden flicker of candlelight, the fragrance of evergreen, and scents of baking and apple cider assail your senses as you enter. There is much laughter and conversation, and singing of the  traditional carols. You really feel as though you have stepped back in time! What a treat! The crew of Man The Capstan truly appreciated the efforts made and were definitely in our element.SLR_2_5624-001

Once a thriving Tavern and Inn, the O’Dell House was owned and built by Corey O’Dell in the 1860s. Corey who was born in St. John, New Brunswick on June 27, 1827, arrived in Nova Scotia in about 1849. He was a Pony Express Driver for the Kentville-Victoria Beach part of the Halifax-Victoria Beach run. This service was short lived and he returned to New Brunswick the following year.

He came back to Nova Scotia in the late 1850s with his wife and family to live in Annapolis Royal. There he purchased the property where the O’Dell house now stands. The house has fourteen rooms, including the tavern, which later became a grocery store, six bedrooms, dining room, front parlour and kitchen. It is situated near the waterfront, a short distance from the wharves in an ideal location for trade. Corey died March 14, 1887, a wealthy man.

SLR_2_5650-001The O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are open year round.

The open hours for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are:

Summer (from late May to early September):
Every day – 9 am to 5 pm
Winter:
Monday to Saturday – 1 pm to 4 pm
(weather permitting; a call ahead is advised). Closed Sundays.

Admission for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre is by donation; the suggested amount is $3.00.

French Provincial At The K.C. Irving Centre

The 65,000 square foot K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre at the Acadia University in Wolfville, has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the Annapolis Valley. I really love this place and it’s wonderful architecture. Built in a classical almost Georgian styling, it nonetheless offers state of the art research and technology. There is a grandeur about it that is unsurpassed, yet all the while it maintains a comfortable and homey, well lit, conducive to learning environment. study irvingFirstly it is a place for study, research and instruction of the natural sciences, but it is also a place of gathering for both the University and the surrounding communities, and is a well used event and conference centre. It is a lovely place for a wedding reception for example.

The K.C. Irving centre was constructed in 1999 and along with the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens was built and donated to the University by Jim, Jack and Arthur Irving in memory of their beloved parents. The Irving family’s attachment to Acadia University began many years ago with K.C,  (Kenneth Collin) who attended there, and has continued with sons Jack and Arthur who are graduates there-of. Arthur is also the present day Chancellor of the University.

I had always wanted to do a shoot in this fantastic building and upon the completion of my 18th century French Provincial/Colonial Gown and matching Gentleman’s Coat, I once again began to imagine how wonderful these pieces would look with the Irving Centre as a back drop.

So,…I asked Man The Capstan crew members, my son David and good friend Katherine, to model these pieces and it did seem quite right, since, after all,  they are both Acadia University Alumni. Katherine gained permission from the building’s manager for us to take some photographs there. It was great fun and such a beautiful and appropriate setting.

This 18th Century gown and coat were created using a printed and embroidered fabric which I found locally at a home decor place. I have often found that the greatest fabrics to make 18th century clothing from are drapery type fabrics. Such was the case with this beautiful striped Antoinette blue and embroidered gold cotton. It caught my eye the moment I walked into the shop and I had to have it! As a matter of fact I bought enough to make two gown and coat sets! Which is indeed a good thing since they have already both been sold. I am obviously not the only one who loves the blue and gold stripe combination.

I trimmed the gown with ivory and gold Venise laces, beige Chantilly lace and satin ribbon. It is paired with an ivory brocaded petticoat or underskirt which is also trimmed in gold Venise lace. Also sold with this gown was a matching ivory chiffon fichu or neck scarf. I did purchase a plain 18″ flat crown straw hat to go with it and this I decorated with matching fabric, ribbon, Venise lace and one ivory ostrich feather.

When I make these gowns I try to make them so that they will fit at least several different sizes and I accomplish this by lacing the back of the gown and using about a three inch modesty panel so that the laces can be worn completely closed or open to varying degrees. I also do not attach the over skirt fully to the bodice and allow a portion of the skirt to remain free at the back closure. Using ribbon drawstring the skirt can be drawn tight or loosened and I find this feature effectively prevents the unsightly gaping and/or pulling that one often sees with these dresses. The bodice is fully lined and boned as well which gives it good shaping and structure. The matching Gentleman’s coat is lined and trimmed with matching gold Venise lace and brass coloured nautical anchor buttons and sells with a jabot. The pockets are faux. David is wearing his own breeches, waistcoat, shirt and boots.

We had a great time at Irvng Centre, and really, it was difficult to get any bad shots, the setting is so spectacular! Above is a photo of the wonderful winding staircase.

Check out our Etsy Shop here

A Visit To The Gaspereau Vineyards

We took a tour one sun-shiny day in late last fall, through the historical Gaspereau Valley which is situated in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. It is such a pretty place to visit, with peaceful scenery, hills, vales, farms and for us, a feeling of heritage. Certain members of the Man The Capstan crew can trace family lineage to this area as far back as the time of the New England Planters who came to Nova Scotia during the 1760s.

Nestled snuggly amidst these beautiful rolling hills and farmlands is the Gaspereau Vineyards Winery.  Located just 3 km from downtown Wolfville, the home of the Acadia University, it is an easy 1 hour drive from Halifax and is located near some great restaurants, gift shops, inns and markets. These vineyards were once an apple orchard. Planted in 1996, the 35 acres of vineyards grow on the south-facing slope in the ideal soil and climatic conditions of this beautiful valley. There are ten wineries in Nova Scotia which represents an ever growing industry in the province. Nova Scotia is well able to produce the excellent grapes that are required to create some outstanding wines.

The Gaspereau Vineyards produces a number of red and white wines, available in dry, off dry, and semi dry, as well as ice and maple wine. Man the Capstan was here for a wine tasting tour and looking forward to sampling some wonderful award winning wines. The staff was expecting us upon our arrival, as Katherine had made prior arrangements for this visit, and we were greeted warmly and enthusiastically.

We admired the winery boutique with it’s shelves of shining bottles filled with wine, books, souvenirs and other such local goodies and niceties, before sideling up to the tasting counter for our samples.

We tried them all…and I have to say that we loved them all. Each wine was unique in bouquet and flavour, and as each was presented to us we were hard pressed to name a favourite among them.

I am not such a connoisseur but certainly I know a good wine when I taste it, and I personally loved the Vitis with it’s dark burgundy tones, berry in the nose, and the hint of chocolate on the tongue. The wonderful Reserve Port, which we enjoyed with dark chocolate, and the Maple dessert Wine which is such a special treat.

What really surprised me though was the Rose. I am not a fan of Rose wines generally but I loved this refreshing and fruity offering. We all agreed that the wines offered at this winery were exceptional! We filled a case with a variety of them and I came away with two of the Rose, which I saved for our Turkey dinner on Christmas Day. It complimented this meal wonderfully well and was  a great hit at the table!

Gaspereau Vineyards is well worth the visit. The winery boutique is lovely. The complimentary wine sampling and tours are offered in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and the staff are great!

The winery boutique is open 7 days a week.

April-May 10am-5pm

June-Sept 9am-6pm

Oct-Dec 10am-5pm

From downtown Wolfville (Highway #1), turn up Gaspereau Avenue (Beside the Police Station and across from Tim Horton’s). Drive 3km – Gaspereau Vineyards is located on the right.

Travelling Highway 101, take Exit 11 (Old Orchard Inn) and follow the signs. Gaspereau Vineyards is 7 km from the highway.

Wine List:

2004/06 Vitis
2007 Castel (Dry)
2007 Lucie Kuhlmann (Dry)
2008 Lucie Kuhlmann Barrel Select (Dry)
2008 Pinot Noir (Dry)
Reserve Port (Medium)
Maple Wine (Sweet)
2009 L’Acadie Blanc (Dry)
2009 Muscat (Dry)
2009 Seyval Blanc (Medium)

2009 Rose (Medium)

2009 Crescendo (Medium)
2008 Vidal Ortega Icewine (Sweet)
2008 Chardonnay (Dry)

Ambrotype Adventure in Sherbrooke!

Earlier this year, four members of Man the Capstan ventured across the province to Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, where tucked beside the St. Mary’s river sits a picturesque village subsisting still within the late 19th century. Interested in all things historical, especially with respect to Nova Scotian history, the Capstan Crew thoroughly enjoyed themselves and resolved to return, particularly in costume!

We prepared to depart early in the morning on October 10th, this time skipping the Guysborough detour and heading straight down to Sherbrooke from New Glasgow. It was a far quicker drive than last time, and we pulled into the parking lot at a timely 1400 hrs (or thereabouts).

Of particular interest at Sherbrooke was their reputed ambrotype studio, one of the few working studios that still use the original method employed in the 1860s. For an incredible $40.00 tourists can get dressed up in a variety of costumes and outfits and have their picture taken! Having an ambrotype picture taken is a rewarding experience; the very act itself is a historical exercise. Let me tell you, it’s not like heading to Sears and getting your family portrait taken.

Susan, our photographer this time around (different from the lady we dealt with previously) was a true professional; she explained the process and arranged us in a timely manner; for my own picture it was decided it best to sit down, holding my chapeau in my lap and sitting in such a way so as to not cut my larger frame out of the shot—you don’t have a lot of room to work with, and we’d learn fairly quickly that it’s even harder to fit two people into a frame! Our photographer told us that there are a few “tricks” they use in order to get it just right.

In the end we had two shots taken; one with myself, and the other with Johanna and Steve. We were informed the process would take about 20-30 minutes, and that in the meantime Susan could introduce us to the costumers that were responsible for helping to make all the history “come alive” at Sherbrooke. We took a walk across the street and spoke with Meg and her assistant, Andrea. The wardrobe room was filled with dresses and men’s outfits, shoes, hats, simple gowns, fancy gowns, and a workshop that exuded a creative aura; this was indeed the place that old things rose to become something new and engaging.

Andrea and Meg

Both Meg and Andrea were clearly passionate about their work (it seems that has been a trend for us; most history enthusiasts wouldn’t do what they do unless they loved it!) and we had a wonderful conversation with them. The 20-30 minutes passed quickly, and after passing a card to them, we headed back to secure our finished ambrotypes, which were spectacular!

We took the opportunity to take a few more shots within Sherbrooke, getting some splendid ones; we’ve uploaded all of them to our Flickr Photostream; check out the set here!

I’d like to return to Sherbrooke again in uniform, perhaps in a busier part of the year so as to have a bit more fun with some fellow visitors. It’s a great place in Nova Scotia, and I hope that by writing this blog it may engender some additional interest; this sort of living history is rarely seen executed so well. You can visit Sherbrooke’s website here!

Until next time!

The Importance Of A Hat!

A word about hats…

I love hats! To me there is nothing like a great hat to finish off an outfit. I think it’s really sad that hats are not more popular in this time period, for during most of our long course in history, hats were of great importance.

Millinery, which is the art of hat making, has existed as a trade in Britain since 1700, of course it  was practiced for many centuries prior to that. It was a lucrative career and one that even a woman could pursue.  Separate from the  Milliner was the Plumassier, who specialized in plummage and the dyeing and arranging of feathers. Feathers were, of course,  prized and very important, since no hat would be complete without at least one plume. The rich would pay a  veritable fortune for an elaborately feathered hat and some sported entire stuffed birds; that was until the Audubon Society put a stop to that!

Hats have always been used to protect the head and keep it warm since much heat is lost through the top of ones  head, however, hats have also, for many centuries been status symbols and fashion statements; there is nothing like a hat to draw attention to the face.They were large, small, plain and elaborate and were worn by both men and women. You would’ve known immediately what a man’s occupation was by the hat he wore, whether he was rich or poor, working or upper class. During the Regency period or Napoleonic era, a man of title or money would have worn a tall top hat or perhaps a bowler. It might have been made of wool, beaver fur or even horse hair. Sea faring men wore very distinguishable head gear with Captains wearing tricorns, bicornes, fore and afts or Chapeau de Bras.  Hats represent authority and were and are today still a part of a uniform for military men, police officers and others.

For women however, hats are and have most often been, a fashion accessory. Much effort and expense went into the procuring of the perfect hat and it is by far the most important one that any person can wear. There is an old saying that says, if you want to get noticed or get ahead, wear a hat. I believe the pun is intended.

Head coverings were not limited to fashion only however, and during many periods of history, there was real etiquette involved in the wearing of one. A lady of any class and during most historical eras, would not have been properly dressed  if she did not have something covering her head. This practice continued until as recently as the 1950s and 60s – my grandmother for example, would not have stepped into a church without a hat on her head. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods a woman would have been  in disgrace if she did not cover her head even if it was just to post a letter. Only the poor or the peasants sometimes went without head gear and even women of that class often wore caps, which  had the added advantage of keeping ones hair clean and tidy.

Hats have slowly lost popularity since about the 1920s, being used only for church attendance, weddings and other special occasions into the 1950s and 60s. Today, it is indeed rare to see an individual wearing a hat that does not serve a practical purpose, (unless of course if you are the queen) or isn’t part of a uniform. Sad but true.

One great thing of course about re-enacting or dressing in historical reproductions is that we can go a little hat crazy…