The Waverley Inn, Halifax, Nova Scotia

SLR_8460-003While 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.

waverly1-001Once 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.

Lobby-I-001This 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.Roman-Sisters-II-001

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.SLR_8285-001

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.

SLR_8270-001Today 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.

Don’t for get to click on the pictures to get their full size and effect!waverly4-001


“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, Part II

Two days ago I posted the first part of this two-part post, “Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, which chronicled the first day of our Tall Ships 2009 experience. Tall Ships, a maritime festival that occurs every two years at Halifax, was the culminating event for our reproductions. It allowed us to gather in uniform and dress, and enjoy the festivities on the piers and under the sun for a weekend.

Unfortunately the first day was rain-filled and dreary (as one will learn by reading the first part), but the second day was remarkable. The amount of fun we had on Sunday more than made up for the disappointments of Saturday. Our only regret was that the ladies could not get dressed up. Unfortunately the uniforms stole the show—next time I think we won’t so carelessly tread into rainy weather, given our Tall Ships experience.

We began the day with a hearty meal at the Waverley (which consisted of pretty much any breakfast food you could dream of). It was a good idea, because we wouldn’t get another bite to eat until later on in the day. The women dressed in casual clothing and took charge of our immediate superior officer, Little William (dubbed the Admiral as our respective OIC). My father Steve donned his bright red major’s uniform, trimmed in bright silver lace, while my brother-in-law Tim and I dressed in our British Royal Navy captain’s uniforms, arming ourselves with our gold-buckled belts, swords and laced hats. Having taken a few shots on the steps of the Waverley (which so happens to be a favourite picture of ours), the three of us began our trek to the waterfront. Johanna snapped an incredible photo, pictured to the left, which hearkened to an earlier day in Halifax where the rhythmic  stomp and cry of British officers was considered normal.

It was a bit disorientating as we made our way to the waterfront. This was the first time we really got dressed up and displayed our creations in public. What were we supposed to do, exactly? Roam the piers? Stage some historical conversation? Break into a spontaneous duel that would certainly satisfy someone’s wounded pride (and undoubtedly bring down the combined-might of the HRP and the RCMP)?

We unanimously decided on the first option, and began roaming the piers. The three of us in uniform stayed together, while the women trailed behind with the camera. Chance would have it that the first ship we encountered was the beautiful Unicorn, a tall-ship exclusively staffed by females. The Unicorn, paired with Sisters Under Sail, offers a leadership program for teenage girls interested in the art of sailing; like most tall ships, it is staffed by the youth of our generation, offering great opportunities to learn and grow on board a sailing ship from a bygone era. Even without our Tall Ships passes (we hadn’t gotten them yet at the time!) the women of the Unicorn intercepted us at the pier, and immediately offered us a tour of the ship. Very nice crew, and a beautiful ship.

We carried on in a north-westerly direction, quickly discovering that our progress was snail-paced (to put it lightly); we were stopped, it seemed, every ten metres by visitors and tourists looking to snap a few photos of the three British officers seemingly patrolling the piers of Halifax. It was a indescribable experience, actually; we felt like celebrities. We adapted quickly, however, and began putting on the smiles that the dozens upon dozens of pictures demanded of us. Steve warmed to it very quickly, having some experience in gallivanting about in a bright uniform. Tim and I found ourselves following his example.

One charming moment was when we found ourselves heading towards a small group of Mounties in full-dress. They were marching down the pier as well, probably experiencing the same fanfare we were. We smiled and nodded as we passed, but it was not meant to be: someone from the crowd shouted “Oh! We simply must have a picture of the two of you!” We quickly formed a group and found ourselves stuck in that position for a solid five minutes or so. It was a really classic photo opportunity!

Throughout the experience we met a handful of others in costume, but nothing quite like our three uniforms. Many reenactors and costume designers create reproductions that replicated day-to-day dress; many uniforms were styled in the undress fashion, that is without the 10-15 metres of lace that adorned our own uniforms. It meant that in that bright Sunday sunshine, we were a veritable beacon so close to the water. It wasn’t difficult to see us coming. As we passed by one actor (employed by the Tall Ships event itself) in a British R.N. captain’s uniform, we received a somewhat cold reception: we had happened across his photo booth, and very quickly were attracting more cameras and interest. Feeling a tad awkward and certainly not wishing to infringe on a fellow reenactor’s turf, we made an expedient retreat.

Hours later we finally made it to the most north-westerly point of the piers you could manage on foot (that featured any festivities, anyway). We were getting hungry, and decided to grab a bite to eat somewhere. We fixed eyes on a place called Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill, and made the decision to get in line. Yes, there was a line (a rather long one, too). So there we were, three men in full-dress uniform ca. 1805, and two women with a young child. The sun was hot, and Little William needed to get into the shade for a rest and something to eat. It wasn’t too long before we secured a table and readied ourselves for a meal.

It was a really awesome place to eat. The food was great, the staff was very helpful and at the top of their game that day; it was their Boxing Day, I’m sure (were they a retail outlet), and they shone. We were incredibly thirsty at this point (layered wool uniforms and July weather did not mix well), and were a bit surprised that we had managed to take care of several pitchers of beer over the course of a brief meal. At the end of the meal we had a nice conversation with one of the hosts, who indicated that there was a family from Britain that were visiting Canada that had been impressed with our uniforms; the host suggested we pay them a visit. So Steve, Tim and I gathered our uniform coats, hats and swords, and headed towards the table to say hello. It was a great experience; we learned where they were visiting from, we passed them one of our business cards, and wished them well when their food arrived. Having had a great experience at Stayner’s, we paid and took our leave.

We decided to take an alternative route back to the Waverley, travelling along the adjacent Upper Water Street. It was much easier passage, with fewer stops along the way for pictures. We passed by a Canada Forces recruitment bus with some naval personnel in uniform milling about, and couldn’t help but get a few pictures. Tim had the bright idea to wander over to one of the tables staffed by CF personnel and demand two-hundred years of back-pay (they were not as impressed as we thought they’d be). One of the naval officers there stopped us before we left, however, and asked if we could stick around for a few minutes—he had sent one of his men to grab a camera, as he wanted to have a picture taken with his naval colleagues along with the Capstan Crew. We of course couldn’t decline: they happily offered us a few bottles of water from their stock and we were allowed to tour their recruitment bus. Nice lads, all of them, and the resulting picture was just fantastic.

After the Canadian Forces encounter we made quick progress back to the Waverley, and from there began to pack to head home. It had been a really successful day, but we were all utterly exhausted. Dinner was pizza and beer graciously offered by Shara and Tim. After a quick review of the day’s pictures we headed home to the Annapolis Valley, where I immediately began writing up the posts that would chronicle the day’s activities.

Okay, that last part was a big giant lie, but hey! I wrote it eventually, right?

Keep in mind all of these photos and more can be viewed at our Flickr photostream! We update it more frequently than the blog, sometimes.

Until next time guys!

“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009

Up Aloft Among the Rigging!

Long overdue, I know!

Our blog has accrued a few regular subscribers in the past two years we’ve been operational. They keep tabs on the blog updates as they roll through, and monitor our activities and progress with our reproductions. Those of you who are regular subscribers will know that the Capstan Crew’s culminating project was the display of our creations at Halifax’s Tall Ships, in particular the 2009 festival. That occurred just over 10 months ago, and was a spectacular success.

It’s a terrible tragedy that I hadn’t written anything about it afterwards, but we updated our Flickr account pretty quickly thereafter, and each picture is titled with an accurate description. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so here (they are organized into sets)!

Sea Chest

Tall Ships is usually spread over several days, beginning with the slow but steady arrival of wooden and steel ships of sail from all over the world. Due to work commitments, we couldn’t be there for the entire festival (and surely that would have been utterly exhausting). We made plans to arrive early Saturday morning, and depart Sunday afternoon. That would give us two full days in the sun, touring the ships and wearing-in the reproductions.

There would be six of us, all family members and founding members of Man the Capstan. My father, Steve, wore his early 19th century Marine uniform, styling himself a major. My mother, Johanna, planned to wear an ivory regency gown that would be appropriate for the era; similarly, my sister, Shara, wore a darker regency gown from the same time period. My brother-in-law, Tim, was garbed in a British Royal Navy, ca. 1805 captain’s uniform. I was dressed in the same.

The sixth was our newest member, Little William! He was dressed in an absolutely adorable sailor’s costume. The star of the show, he was!

Mom and Dad and I met at Shara and Tim’s (who lived near the city at the time) to get ready. We were in breeches and waistcoat, just needed the final touches, so we were on the road and rolling for the waterfront fairly quickly.

For the overnighter, we made reservations at the beautiful historic Waverley Inn. Folks, if you ever get an opportunity to stay at this lovely place, do so! The rooms are phenomenal, and of particular note (to me, anyway) the breakfast was stellar. The Waverley was located near the waterfront (a few blocks), so it was perfect. We had to book months in advance in order to secure lodgings. It was packed full.

The first day of our Tall Ships trip, however, was not very successful. For most of that day, July 18th, there was rainfall. Torrential rain is not a kind thing to woolen uniforms trimmed with gold, bias-and-stand lace. It is even unkinder to the regency gowns worn by our ladies. As soon as we arrived at the Waverley it was coming down hard; we stayed at the inn for a couple hours, hoping for it to let up.


It didn’t, naturally. Stubbornly, we dressed, grabbed some umbrellas, and made the best of it. We made a successful full circuit of the docks; it was raining so bad, though, that we didn’t really stop at any of the ships. We couldn’t really take pictures (and people couldn’t really enjoy our uniforms either, though a handful did take an opportunity to snap a few shots of us). Worst of all, it was terrible conditions for Little William.

We headed back to the Waverley, but not before we stopped in at Henry’s Pub. Steve and Johanna had scouted out the pub months before during an anniversary lunch, and it was a perfect place to detour for a warm meal. It is one of the oldest buildings in Halifax, and offers the rain-weary visitor a warm place to eat and refill his or her spirits; ours was in sore need of refilling, let me tell you.

Most of us had classic fish & chips; I had the cornish pastie, and let me tell you, it was delicious.

We quickly headed back to the Waverley, then, to dry our clothing, crack open the Pusser’s we had purchased, and make plans for the next day. Unfortunately, the lady’s gowns did not hold up as well as the men’s. The rain had made them unwearable, and they needed some TLC that Johanna couldn’t provide within the Waverley—for Sunday, the last day, it was decided that the men would get dressed up again (with some minor adjustments), and the women would dress incognito. The next day was bright and sunny, so there were no problems. The success of the second day more than made up for the misadventure on the 18th.

Stay tuned for a narrative on day two. July 19th!

Man the Capstan!

Departure for Tall Ships!


Well, it’s just before 8:00 AM, and I’m about to start getting into my uniform. Tall Ships, for the Man the Capstan Crew, is here! Johanna, Steve and myself should be departing our Valley residence in just over an hour, to rendezvous with Shara & Tim. We should arrive in Halifax by 10:30 AM or so!

Been a long road getting to this point. Environment Canada is forecasting rain and thunder showers. Sou’ ‘westers and oilskins, lads! Put another reef in ‘er!

I’m bringing the laptop along with me, so provided the Waverley has WIFI access, you can expect updates later today.

Calling all hands to Man the Capstan!

By the way, the beautiful picture above was taken from the Tall Ships 2009 flickr group! The picture was taken by ruth.erin!

Tall Ships 2009 Almost Here

Tall Ships Banner

Well, being July 16th, we’re just two days away from the weekend! Come Saturday morning, Man the Capstan will be heading out in full regalia to Tall Ships 2009! Tall Ships are already arriving in Halifax (as you can see from the pictures above and below), and the events for the weekend are always being prepared by re-enactment staff at the Halifax Dockyards.


The Tall Ships Crew have a Twitter set up, and are streaming live updates as they come in. Check them out here! They alerted us to a really cool Chronicle Herald article, discussing the events celebrating the 250th anniversary for the founding of the 1759 Naval Dockyards (one of the reasons why Man the Capstan is so interested in attending the festival). Check it out for yourself, there is some pretty cool stuff there! There will be a ceremony at 2:00 PM on Saturday (that’s four bells in the Afternoon Watch) that will include re-enactors and active service members of the Canadian Navy. You just can’t miss this one, folks.

We have a slew of new updates to post, but I’m afraid that will have to wait for another update (as we’ve so much to get done before Saturday). I’d like to remind everyone that we have a Twitter as well, and we update it frequently with new information and Man the Capstan related news. Subscribe to both us and Tall Ships 2009!

Though we are not participating in the scheduled events for the weekend, it will be a true pleasure to arrive in costume along with everyone else. It will actually be a bit of a relief to be a “uniformed” spectator; a bit more liberty to move around the festival, as it were.

We’re all excited here, and can’t wait for Saturday! You can check out the Flickr group for new Tall Ship arrivals, and Tall Ship related photos, here! The two above pictures were taken by compelling, and you can see these shots and others at their Flickr Photostream, here!

Costume Update; Regency Gown #1

Shara, regency 1

The years between 1795 and 1825 were known in Britain as the Regency Period.  It was a  time characterized by war, political upheaval, revolution and immense change in Europe.  It occurred after the slower paced Georgian period where very little changed, and just prior to the fasting moving industrialization of the Victorian age.

Shara, Regency 2It was a time of growth, expansion, religious revival, defining of culture and testing of diplomatic and military willpower; a time of constant conflict and the clashing of the old ways, philosophies and points of view against a new more modern way of thinking, often displayed to the bloody extreme. Leading figures of the age included political and military icons such as Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, Lord Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Czar Alexander I, Queen Louise of Prussia and diplomat Karl Metternich. The Regency era was also a time of great elegance and beauty. Ludwig von Beethoven composed “classical” music and Jane Austen wrote novels such as Pride & Predjudice, Sense & Sensibility and Emma. Country dances were popular, beautiful works of art were created and Greek architecture enjoyed a huge revival. This extended also to the fashion of the day. In efforts to emulate the styles and philosophies of the ancient Greeks, women’s clothing reached heights of classic simplicity it had not attained for many centuries, and so was born the Regency period gown.

Shara, Regency 3I myself have also gone through a change of heart with regards to this manner of dress. Even as little as a year ago, I would not have embraced this gown. The flimsy fabrics and often risque manner of attire did not appeal to me, but as in the Regency period itself, I found that times of change can’t be helped, but instead are reflected in one’s own attitude towards many things. It was with the coming of our little grandson that I slowly came to a change of mind.  I had fashioned the rather large gowns of the Georgian era with the boned bodices and hooped petticoats and much as I love them still, I really had to be a little more realistic about what Shara and I were actually going to wear to such an event as the Tall Ships Festival.  Although the Georgian gowns are perhaps more in keeping with the 250th anniversary of the Royal Navy Dockyards in Halifax, the time was to be July, and some the warmest weather of the year could be expected. With our entourage, we were going to have a small child and a nursing mother and I had to be honest with myself. The Georgian gowns were just not going to work for us this particular  time and occasion.

Regency modesty cover

Warily, I set my mind back to the Regency period. After-all, our men are dressing as Naval and Marine officers circa about 1805, Napoleonic Wars to the War of 1812, and really wouldn’t a regency gown seriously match the uniforms they would be wearing in a much more authentic way? So I set my mind to researching the gowns of that era. I found that fabrics such as fine muslins, lawns, silks and laces would be so much cooler for us and so much more adaptable to our requirements. I found that although clothing was simpler and more revealing, it also had an innocence, elegance and beauty that was very desirable. Fine women were still as modest and refined as ever but were granted some modicum of freedom in their dress and self expression. This led to many advances for them in lifestyle, as well as artistic and literary endeavours, to name but a few. I certainly couldn’t begrudge them that and I liked it…a lot!

Regency backThe first Regency gown I have completed, and which is modeled by my daughter Shara in this post, is very simple in it’s design.  It is based upon research I did about the drawstring gowns that were being worn at the time. They are very conducive to women of differing situations and sizes and also flattering to many figure types. I also watched Emma, Pride & Prejudice and several other Jane Austen movies. 🙂 I started with an embroidered raw silk like fabric in a cinnamon shade for the dress, a fine see through gold checked lawn and a gold venice style lace for accent.  The neckline is fairly low and the waist is high, both would normally be gathered with a simple drawstring and tied. I sacrificed a little authenticity here and used modern day elastic, simply to make the act of nursing an infant easier. I made the slightly gathered sleeves about elbow length and added a lace insert at the cleavage in order to abide somewhat to the then rules of modesty in day dress. Bare arms Regency Shara, 5and cleavage were acceptable only for evening wear. I also added a wide belt and satin ribbon to accentuate the empire waistline.  I also made a triangular lace modesty piece to wear over the shoulders and to be used as both a cover up and a warmer. I was so happy to find a plain regency reproduction straw bonnet/hat, which I decorated with scraps of fabric, lawn, ribbon and lace. Self made buttons also decorate both the hat and the dress.

So, all in all I’m pretty happy with the result ‘and Shara looks a very fine Regency lady in it. Quite lovely! Mr. Darcy would no doubt approve!