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Hantsport Memorial Centre

Hantsport Memorial Centre

Hantsport Memorial Community Centre -Churchill House - BasementThis house was built shortly after shipbuilder Ezra Churchill sold the land to his son, John Wylie Churchill, in 1860. The house was a wedding present for his son. The younger Churchill lived there with his wife Mary and two daughters Violet and Laura until he died. The family was one of the wealthiest shipbuilding families in the Nova Scotia, Hantsport boasting the provinces fourth largest fleet. The Churchills owned 99 ships. In 1945, Robbie Burgess bought the house and in 1947 it became the Hantsport Memorial Community Centre. The upper floors of the house were restored in the 1960s by James Robinson, using the original colours and designs. The house features lavish Victorian architecture and includes marble for the main floor fireplaces and crystal for light fixtures, both imported from France. Built into the house is a Widow’s Walk, a small balcony traditionally set on the roofs of sailors’ houses so their wives could watch for ships coming in.

The basement of the house was decorated by Portuguese painter Francis Da Silva, who immigrated to Canada in 1861 when he was 14 and worked here for 30 years. He was employed by the Churchills doing odd work on the estate and it is likely he painted the basement as a way to pass the time than out of any desire for others to see his work. He painted a series of portal on the near the tops of the walls all around the basement, each depicting a different image, some of them exotic scenes, other churches or animals. There are also murals of what are thought to be scenes of Portugal, including palm trees and tigers. There is a portrait of Edward Prince of Wales, who arrived in Hantsport in 1860, the first member of the royal family to visit the colonies. In one small room he painted some political criticism beneath what looks like a family crest. The inscription reads “Canadian Members of Parliament who increased their salaries without permission may have been labouring under the impression that they were working for an insurance company.” Da Silva used oil paint directly on the plaster covering the stone walls.




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Building is open weekends 1 to 4 p.m.