Take a peek inside this 1700s Nova Scotia home restored to its roots

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Robert McGregor has shown hundreds of homes during his career as a real estate agent, but none look like the tiny old house in Belmont, Nova Scotia.

And it’s not for sale; it is hardly ever for sale.

The humble gray house set amidst rolling farmland near Windsor dates back to the Planters, New Englanders who immigrated to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and 1760s.

The old Belmont Road house became the new home of the Church family in the 1700s, and remained known as Church Farm and occupied by a church until the 1970s.

It is built of birch and pine, probably hewn by the same hands who first called it home. McGregor’s parents, James and Jane, bought the house on a whim in 1971. Her father was also an immigrant, having moved from northern Scotland to Nova Scotia.

Robert McGregor sits by the fire in the cottage his family have called their other home for 50 years. (Jon Tattrie / CBC)

James McGregor was on a business trip to a Windsor pharmacy when the elderly pharmacist surprised him by asking if he was interested in buying a farm.

“And my father was not at the time,” his son says.

But something in the old man’s description of the house intrigued him and he drove off to visit her. It reminded him of a traditional Scottish croft and he bought it. He came with an unusual closing condition: the last church, Dexter Church, could live in the house for the rest of its life.

The McGregors agreed and began parking an RV on the property for the first few summers.

McGregor says Dexter Church half-hoped the house would fall on him and dismissed his parents’ renovation efforts as putting “rags upon rags.”

Today the chalet is a mix of the 1790s and 1970s. (Jon Tattrie / CBC)

McGregor says words have become a family mantra. In fact, her parents were more interested in removing some of the “rags”.

“When my parents got the property, there were layers, layers, layers of wallpaper in here, which they were able to steam and chemical off and eventually switched to what’s called a paint. ocher, where you can see the red, which is basically the clay that’s in the river, ”he explains, holding a piece of the dozen layers they pulled out to reach the original wood .

They dug about 18 layers of linoleum and other false floors to get the original wood. They modernized it a bit by adding an indoor toilet.

The McGregors removed generations of flooring and wallpaper to reveal the original interior. (Jon Tattrie / CBC)

“When my father was working on the outhouse, knocking down a wall, he found this document between the planks,” McGregor says, showing a now framed letter from former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to Dexter Church thanking him for a poem.

Upon Church’s death, McGregor’s family made it their other forever home, a place for school summers, a retreat from work life, and later a retirement home in the renovated barn.

McGregor says the barn may actually be the oldest building on the property, although the interior has been modernized. (Jon Tattrie / CBC)

McGregor’s parents both passed away in 2019. This made their cottage even more special to him, and in his own retirement he is building a solid foundation for future generations at Church Farm.

A foundation wall started to crumble this year, but with a little help he had the stone wall rebuilt and added thick gravel soil to keep the moisture out. He says the basement is actually his favorite part of the house; As a child, he spent hours there, digging into the earth for centuries of buried treasures.

Robert McGregor points out a detail of a historic photograph he gave his father James for Christmas while his mother Jane looked on. (Submitted by Robert McGregor)

Her collection of childhood bottle caps can still be found in her upstairs bedroom, as is a handmade kite created in the distant past.

His other favorite place is the hearth, and he sets another log on the fire for fiery heat.

“This is where people back then would cook, warm up, sit and chat. It would have been the heart of the house,” he says.

He points out the strange hinges on the closet door next to the fireplace.

“It’s called an HL hinge, which stands for Holy Lord, and it’s to keep the devil out of the closet.”

These weird hinges are meant to keep the devil at bay. (SRC)

Now he enjoys sitting by the fire, contemplating what life was like for generations of families at Church Farm. Births, lives and deaths, all lived under the old roof. The farm provided what was needed.

He wants to register the house as historic property.

“But the next big thing will be the roof. I’m not going to use asphalt shingles or metal roofs; I’m going to come back with cedar shingles because that’s what the house would have originally had. “

He has never seen another home like his in his 20 plus years in real estate all over Nova Scotia. Most people are drawn to new or “old” homes from the 1970s; few people are looking for an original 1700s house.

But although he and his wife have a home in Halifax, there is no place like home in Belmont. Even now, as he spends more time here with memories than with people, he never feels alone.

“We never really noticed anything, but a number of people over the years, when they walked through the door, say they feel a presence. They felt there was a spirit – a spirit. friendly – who accompanied the property. “

He keeps this friendly spirit alive in the old house and hopes to someday make it a museum, so that new generations can sit by the fire and contemplate what it means to call a place at home.

The McGregors found this old photo of the house. There was no date or name written on it. (Submitted by Robert McGregor)

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