In late 2008 I applied for our house to be included in the Provincial Registry of Heritage Property. It's a list cared for by the Province that indicates properties of special value to Nova Scotia.
I wasn't sure whether this house would qualify. It's not especially old by Nova Scotia standards. Its vernacular Greek Revival architecture is typical of its time and culture but I didn't think its style was exceptional. And it was the house of plain fishermen and farmers, island folk. Nobody famous ever lived here and nothing "important" ever happened here, as far as I know. So I wasn't sure if it would meet the Provincial standards.
I was hopeful, though. Historic preservation as a movement has come a long way since its own beginnings. Its focus has broadened to recognize the significance of properties that evoke the everyday life of ordinary people and a pre-industrial world we have lost.
Here's part of what I wrote: "[This house] is the last remaining of several that formed an island community throughout the nineteenth century and up until the Second World War, when most residents left the island. Besides Cape Roseway Light House, the island had a school and a post office, and various businesses such as canning. The islanders kept vegetable gardens and owned sheep whose descendants still roam the island and are themselves an important (and overlooked) part of Nova Scotia's cultural heritage."
I'm always wanting to put in a plug for the sheep while I'm at it. I also wrote about all the island's history that I knew of at the time, and added a bibliography of references to the house that have appeared in various books and articles over the years.
Then, while we were away, we received notice that the house had been recommended! A registered letter lay waiting patiently in the Shelburne post office until I could come home and sign for it. The letter says, in part, that the house is "very rare in terms of its architecture and its survival as an original residence on an offshore island. " That statement makes me curious about the other offshore islands, and whether any of the original houses are still there.
The benefit of being listed as a Provincial Heritage Property is primarily to help people realize the value of this shared heritage, which can be so easily lost. A Provincially Registered Property can't be demolished, so the designation affords a degree of future protection. There's also some financial support for specific kinds of work done on the exterior of the house. For example, I would love to eventually replace the asphalt roof singles with cedar shakes, which they would have been originally. This designation could pay for some of that expense and make it a bit more feasible to consider doing it.
So, now that I have signed for the registered letter, we're in a thirty day comment period. After that, a final decision will be made about registering the property.
To find out more about this program, take a look at The Nova Scotia Historic Places Initiative web site.
You can read about this photograph of William Perry's signature at the post entitled Autographed House. There are many other blog posts about the house, all under the label "house."