Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

1793 Lunenburg

It's not often in Canada that we can stand in front of a building that's 250 years old. This summer on a trip to Quebec City and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, we got several opportunities to do just that.

This worthy structure is the Knaut-Rhuland House in Lunenburg. It was designated a National Historic Site by HSMB (Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada) and is one of the best-preserved c18 houses in Canada. Isn't that cool? That makes it one of the very special buildings in an old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its wonderfully preserved townscape.

The house was built around 1793 (!) and is considered a fine early example of British classicism, which is the formal refined architectural style based on ideas from classical Greece and Rome - those being harmony and proportion. We commonly know the style as Georgian - more elaborate later versions are called neoclassical. Georgian features include the small sash windows - of course, glass was a rare commodity and panes were necessarily small -the symmetrical five-bay front, the doorway with sidelights, transom and entablature above, the chimneys and steep gable roof. Of course, the house has touches of the local fine craftsmanship in wood - such as the brackets in the Lunenburg style at the upper corners. The house is refined by the placement of planks at the corners, between ground floor and basement, and at the eaves. You see this type of detailing later on in neoclassical styles - the flat planks become fluted to recall pillars and topped with capitals of one of the Greek orders. But in this case, the wood is unornamented, plain, and reserved.

I understand the interior is amazing - a centre-hall plan, refined wood detailing, high quality carpentry.

I did not spend long enough in Lunenburg - but then again, I'm not sure how long it would have taken...

Friday, October 29, 2010


I have been struck dumb...a late August trip around many heritage areas on the East Coast culminated in a day's walking tour around the UNESCO World Heritage designated old town of Lunenburg Nova Scotia, founded in 1753 - a heritage nut's idea of heaven. I have been revelling in my photographs and in lots of research and reading, and am only now beginning to process the amazing experience.
Lunenburg is one of the best preserved c19 streetscapes in all of North America. Walking Lunenburg's streets streets is like walking back in history. It feels British, it feels New England - not surprising given the influences on its growth. Serene Georgian symmetry, pragmatic Cape Cod cottages
exhuberant Victorian look-at-me's - all with that touch of the sea and ships. The shipbuilders and owners whose business was the sea all came home sometimes - to build families, businesses, communities and homes reflecting their status and skill. And somehow, somebody managed to preserve it!