Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Stroll Through Bridgetown Today

Bridgetown began as a small Acadian settlement more than 400 years ago.  Today, its population is not large, but it is a relatively thriving community nonetheless, although not in the manner of its great heyday of the early to mid 1800s to mid 1900s.  Unfortunately, many businesses have come and gone, mostly due to its small population and the population in the area overall.  It has, however, many facilities for the townspeople to enjoy, such as a curling arena, hockey arena, lawn-bowling area and an outdoor swimming pool in summer.  (Across the river, about six kilometers east, is the Eden Golf Club.)

For nature lovers and campers, there is a campsite (shown below) directly in Bridgetown along the Annapolis River, as well as one on the crest of North Mountain, in Valleyview Provincial Park, between the Bay of Fundy and town.

The summer festivals bring tourists, many of them filling the campsite.  As well, the town has several bed and breakfasts, a motel in the heart of Bridgetown and a motel with cabins close to the crossroads of Highway 201, on the southern edge of town.

Harrington House on Granville Street

Reminisce Bed and Breakfast, on the road leading south over the bridge

Jubilee Park--located on the western side of Bridgetown but still near the center of town--is under construction and renovation, but it is still accessible.  It should be completed before next summer. 

I spent some time this past summer talking to the pleasant young woman in the small tourist bureau and visiting the park.  It lies along the Annapolis River just off Granville Street West and is a lovely spot for a picnic, for a stroll or just to sit beside the water.  A pathway takes you directly into the main part of town, about a five-minute walk or so.

Two views within the park and of the river flowing past

These two pictures show the pathway leading into town and a quiet picnic area.
An old-timers' car show takes place here each summer, as well as festivals.  The Cider Fest was in mid September, which I missed by a day.  The cider itself, though, is pretty mild.  You likely won't find any with alcohol, unless a tent is erected, or perhaps at night in the arena.  Unlike Europe, no alcohol will be found along the street in booths.  The fest itself, though, is fun and a lot of work goes into it.  July 1st celebrations include a great fireworks display that night.  Another fest takes place on the August 1st weekend.

The above sign likely now reads "Welcome Back!"  Education-wise, Bridgetown has a high school and an elementary school.  (Within a twenty-minute drive, there are two community colleges, one in Lawrencetown and one in Middleton.  Acadia University in Wolfville is about an hour's drive east.  Nova Scotia has always deemed education to be important, with several universities in a province of less than one million people.

The high school is below left; the elementary, on the right

Queen Street (shown left and right; the northern end is in the forefront), named after Queen Victoria, is the
main shopping area in town and is an historic street, with many buildings from the early to late 1800s.  As you turn left onto Queen from Albert Street (far end), you can see the pattern that Captain Crosskill created in 1821.  Almost all of the original boundaries remain, although the majority of the 90 x 90 foot lots have been divided.

The Bank of Nova Scotia, on the corner of Queen and Granville Streets (shown at left), was present in town before 1900, built by local dentists of the time.  It is on the site of a tavern and an inn, where, in 1824 at a meeting, the name of the town was chosen.  It was also where the stage coach stopped for many years.

At that same intersection, just across the street, is The Royal Bank (above right).  It has been on this site since 1910, although the present building is only a little over 60 years old.

The two pictures below are of  The End of the Line Pub.  The end wall of the train station/pub was painted by an artist in the town.

The End of the Line Pub is past the bridge, heading south.  This was the town train station for many years.  I took this train a couple of times from Bridgetown to Halifax, where it pulled into the city station next to the Nova Scotian Hotel.  Most of the train tracks across Canada were removed, leaving only main lines now running across the country. 

Our friends the Nashes from Chester, on Nova Scotia's South Shore, and the Kranabetters from N├╝rnberg, Germany inside the pub this past summer.  One of the things I always order not long after I arrive in Nova Scotia is a hot turkey sandwich.  It isn't fancy and it is full of calories, but I like it.  It is not something one will find in a German Gasthaus, so I always look forward to it.  This is one of my Canadian weaknesses!

Rosi and Dieter on the pub deck on another occasion this past summer

There is also a small chicken take-out with a few tables and a pizza place for take-out as well.  You have to leave town to find a restaurant.

The town center has several businesses, including a drugstore, hardware store and supermarket, but to find a good clothing store, one must head to New Minas or Halifax.  The variety store does carry some clothing.
The Liquor Commission, for wine, beer and spirits, is now situated in the same building as the supermarket, which, for us--and likely most others--is convenient.

Below, a few of the services:


The post office is one of the gathering places and whenever you go there to pick up mail or to send off a letter, you will likely see people having a discussion or two.

Two of my favourite stops in any town, the town library and the secondhand book store.

The most striking of all in Bridgetown are the beautiful homes that line the streets, the majority of them built in the 1800s and early 1900s.  Here are a few of them.

My father spent the last ten years of his life in Bridgetown, all but a year of it in the Victorian house on Granville Street with my sister Paula and Laurie, where he had his own suite with a veranda, built onto the house for him in about 1979.  The house itself was built in the 1890s.  The two pictures below show the house:  the bottom one, a side view, shows the extension at the back where my father lived.  The house in those days was white.

I visited that house and Bridgetown many times over the years before coming to spend the summer months at our own place.  That is what brought us to Bridgetown, along with the beauty of the area and the friends we had met through Paula and Laurie over the years and, of course, because of Paula and Laurie themselves.

The picture below was taken in 1988 on Dad's small deck, with Dad, my sister Carol and me

The Bay of Fundy is just fifteen to twenty minutes north.  This is the view one sees as one comes down the hill on the other side of the North Mountain.  This is where the great lobsters come from, freshly gathered from the lobster traps in those deep waters of the bay.  My brother-in-law, Laurie, buys lobster fresh out of those cold waters from a fisherman in Hampton, the small village at the end of the road.

All in all, Bridgetown is a great town to bring up children or for anyone craving peace and quiet.  No heavy traffic mars it, whether within the town or on the highways beyond it.  There is no night life to speak of, so for the younger crowd it likely wouldn't be appealing.  After saying that though, many of the young people would like to stay if they could find work.  There is little industry now and few jobs, so most have to leave to find work elsewhere.  The town is one of Nova Scotia's prettiest with its lovely houses lining not only the main street but many of the side streets as well and with the river meandering through its center.  The slogan--The Friendly Town--is as welcoming as its residents, who always have time to say hello.

For those who wish to visit Bridgetown, it is situated about 200 kilometers west of Halifax via highway 101, about a two-hour drive west of the Halifax International Airport.

Note:  As with my previous blog post about Bridgetown, some of my information came from those same sources I mentioned:  the official Bridgetown website and brochures from Jubilee Park, including the one on "A Walking Tour of the Town of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bridgetown's Historic Past

The Annapolis Valley lies in northwestern Nova Scotia, bordered on its northern side by the Bay of Fundy.  Bridgetown is located at its western end, the last town before Annapolis Royal, with the North Mountain on its northern edge and the Bay of Fundy just beyond.  It once was thriving with industry, but today it is pretty quiet.  The beautiful old homes, many of them Victorian or Edwardian--a legacy of more bustling days--line Granville Street, the main street through the town.  Four are shown below.

Bridgetown was originally established as a small Acadian settlement along the Annapolis River in the 1600s and early 1700s.  At that time it was called Gaudetville.  The rich soils of the river's tidal marshes attracted the Acadians, who successfully drained and farmed the area.  In 1755 the British government expelled the French (Acadians) from Nova Scotia and expropriated their lands.  Four years later, in 1759, a land-grant proclamation addressed the newly acquired lands.

Two hundred land grants of 500 acres each were laid out--each running from the Annapolis River north to the Bay of Fundy--and quickly settled by New England planters.  All the lots running south from Granville Street to the river were each 90 square feet.  (Granville Street is a continuation of highway #1, which goes through the centre of town, from east to west.)

The house below, on Albert Street just south of Granville, was built between 1826 and 1828 and it includes most of its original 90 x 90 foot lot, the only house still to do so.  

John Hicks began a ferry service to cross the river in the early 1770s, one that continued until 1805 when the first bridge was built.  (The area became known as Hicks' Ferry.)  It was the first and only crossing point above Annapolis Royal and it is still the only river crossing between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown, although there are others today as one heads east.

The picture at left shows the present-day bridge from the park on the west side of the town.  The one on the right shows the bridge heading south, towards highway 201.  That street, the continuation of Queen Street heading to the junction of highway 201, is the oldest continually used highway in Nova Scotia. 

The present bridge was opened in 1992, the fifth to be constructed.  The second bridge (from the late 1870s) was a covered bridge, which was known for its famous sign:  "Keep to the Left and Walk Your Horses or You Will Be Fined."  The bridge became a symbol for the town. It was the 1920s before the Town Council agreed that everyone should now drive on the right. 

The picture below shows the present day Masonic Hall at the north side of the bridge.  (Note the bridge look-off, a pleasant spot to rest on a summer's day.)  That building was originally the Presbyterian Church and it was built in 1879 from bricks outside Bridgetown.  This is a provincially registered heritage property. 
Several of the churches follow:  The first, on the left, is St. James Anglican Church, which was begun in 1884, with its first service in 1885.  The second, on the right, is the Baptist Church, erected in 1891.  Both these churches replaced earlier ones.

Below left, St Alphonsus Catholic Church and its small cemetery, located on the street leading to highway 201. 

Below, the United Church, built in 1872.  This also replaced an earlier one.


The ferry back in the late 1700s and early 1800s transported people and goods.  After the bridge was built in 1805, the area remained as a trading and commercial centre and prospered from agriculture and forestry.  Ship building was important as was the fruit industry, in particular apples and pears.  This industrial prosperity lasted for almost one hundred and fifty years.  The importance of the river as a shipping route resulted in an era of prosperity, thus the many lovely homes from that period to be admired today .

My brother-in-law Laurie's apple tree on the left, one of his 80 trees.  Apples from our own tree on the right, picked not long before I left Nova Scotia to return to Germany.

The yellow house is on Granville Street and the brick one, with the look-out windows on top, is located on the street leading south from the bridge.

Captain John Crosskill arrived in the area in the early 1800s and acquired control of three adjoining land grants.  Their river-front boundary included the bridge.  The Captain recognized the importance of this crossing point and believed that a town should be established.  In 1821 he designed and laid out a town plan.  He surveyed enough to take care of the town's growth for one hundred years, deeding the streets to the county for public use forever.  The town was named Bridgetown after its most prominent feature.  It was incorporated in 1897.  A former owner of Crosskill's house insisted that nothing hinder the view of his house, which faced the Annapolis River below.  Today, the house faces Jubilee Park, which edges the nearby river, but the river can no longer be seen from that house today.

Below, Crosskill's house, 1815, and located on Granville Street West.

The following are several of the oldest houses in the town on Albert, Court and Water Streets, all  from the early 1800s:  

On the left, on the corner of Water and Court Streets, this house was built between 1822 and 1823.  The house on the right, on the corner of Albert and Court, was built in about 1826.

The next three houses are all on Water Street and closest to the river:  The house, below left, was built in 1822-1823.  The other, on the right, was built  shortly after 1825.  It was originally a public house and a rooming house for sailors.

The house below is another of the original homes.  It was built in 1822.  It is considered to be one of the oldest of all.

Three buildings on Queen Street in the shopping area were also built in the early 1800s.  
The green one below (left picture) dates from about 1830.  The third floor was added in the 1890s.  The white house beside it dates from the 1820s, possibly on Acadian foundations.  The store was added in the 1880s.  The blue building on the right, a business today, was erected in about 1825.

The red brick building below (also on Queen Street) was built in the 1820s and is the oldest brick building in Bridgetown.  Today it is a veterinary clinic.

The present day James House Museum on Queen Street was built in about 1835.  It features an upstairs ballroom and a five-door gallery.  It is maintained by the Bridgetown and Area Historical Society.  Admission is free.

Bridgetown today is a town of less than 1000 residents without the industry it once enjoyed.  It is, however, still a community of friendly people, set in a peaceful valley not far from the cold water of the Bay of Fundy, where the best scallops and lobster in the world are found.  My next blog will show what the town today offers.

Note:  Much of my historical information came from the brochures I obtained at the Tourist Centre in Jubilee Park, particularly from the brochure "A Walking Tour."  As well, I used Bridgetown's official website ( and the James House Museum brochure.

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