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New book both celebrates and preserves pre-Confederation buildings

From right: Michal Crowe and Linda Forbes smile as they leaf through ‘‘Witnesses to a New Nation’, a book they compiled with photos from the Heritage Trust exhibit of the same name that traveled around Nova Scotia.
From right: Michal Crowe and Linda Forbes smile as they leaf through ‘‘Witnesses to a New Nation’, a book they compiled with photos from the Heritage Trust exhibit of the same name that traveled around Nova Scotia. - Sara Ericsson

GRAND PRE – A book celebrating historic building was launched at one of the homes featured within its page July 7.

The ‘Witnesses to a New Nation: 150 Buildings Which Saw Canada’s Confederation 1867’ had its launch at the Stewart House in Grand Pre, which is one of the 150 buildings featured in the Witnesses exhibit that inspired the book.

The exhibit was conceived by trust chair Michal Crowe, who worked with fellow trust member Linda Forbes to locate and choose buildings from Nova Scotia to include – something that proved easier than either ever thought.

“At first we thought, ‘where will we ever find 150 buildings?’ And it turns out that was not the problem – the problem ended up being choosing from over a thousand buildings, down to 150,” said Crowe.

The launch was held at the Stewart House, pictured on the left page in the above photograph.
The launch was held at the Stewart House, pictured on the left page in the above photograph.

As the exhibit traveled around the province to communities including Kentville – it was even shown at Province House twice – comments from visitors asking whether it was accompanied by a book got Crowe and Forbes thinking.

“The book was never part of the agenda – but with so many people asking about it, it became something we knew we had to do,” said Crowe.

And so a book and calendar were created using images from the exhibit and the same title, inspired by imagining the people inside these houses peering through windows to see what Confederation looked like.

“It’s a little history lesson without beating somebody over the head with information they never knew,” laughed Crowe.

She and Forbes also realized another vital reason for the book to be made – to preserve these buildings in photographs.

Cally Jordan and John Halbrook, owners of the Stewart House, which has been in Jordan’s family since it was built.
Cally Jordan and John Halbrook, owners of the Stewart House, which has been in Jordan’s family since it was built.

A similar book from 1967, ‘Backroads of Pictou County,’ also documented and photographed 100-year-old buildings for Canada’s centennial.

More than half are no longer standing, according to Crowes.

“We have to do our part to document all of these important buildings we’ve identified in our province. Hopefully they’ll still be around in 50 years,” she said.

Forbes said this book also offers hope to those who own heritage houses – like the Stewart House – that they can keep them going.

“Each building featured in our book is still in use today. So, it shows it is possible to keep these buildings going, and it’s important – almost a mission, for some – to them going,” said Forbes.

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