Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Articles / Articles

No. 90-91 (2020): Special Issue - Storied Spaces: Renewing Folkloristic Perspectives on Vernacular Architecture

An Architecture of Closeness: The Ross Family Double Farmhouse in St. Mary’s, Nova Scotia

  • Meghann E. Jack
April 17, 2021


This paper analyzes an early 20th-century double or duplex farmhouse in the St. Mary’s River valley of northeastern Nova Scotia built by brothers Thomas and George Ross. Although double houses are common in urban and industrial contexts where an economy of space is required, such forms are atypical across the agricultural built landscape. In exploring the shared architecture of the Ross family farm, this paper seeks to understand the Ross family and their idiosyncratic architectural choice in the context of a rapidly changing rural landscape where economic underdevelopment and outmigration threatened the stability of established social structures. While partition may seemingly create a division between those living in double or duplex houses, in the case of the Ross family, the farmhouse reproduced and strengthened kinship.


  1. Census of Nova Scotia, 1838. RG 1, vol. 449, #150, Nova Scotia Archives.
  2. Census of Canada Returns, 1871-1921. Microfilm collection, Nova Scotia Archives.
  3. Nova Scotia Probate Records, RG 48, Nova Scotia Archives.
  4. Guysborough and Pictou County Deeds Books, Nova Scotia Registry of Deeds (available at Access Nova Scotia).
  5. The Nova Scotian Journal of Agriculture.
  6. Eastern Chronicle (New Glasgow) [copies of all newspaper articles pertaining to St. Mary’s over various years are compiled, arranged, and indexed in a series of binders at the St. Mary’s Genealogy Research Centre at Sherbrooke Village].
  7. Ames, Kenneth. 1978. Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9 (1): 19-46.
  8. Archibald, Stephen. 2015. Halifax Storm Porches. Noticed in Nova Scotia. 15 February. (accessed July 15, 2020).
  9. Archibald, Timothy. 1987. A Question of Staying or Leaving: Rural Decline in Guysborough
  10. County, 1881-1931. MA thesis, St. Mary’s University.
  11. Beattie, Betsy. 2000. Obligation and Opportunity: Single Maritime Women in Boston, 1870-1930. Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  12. Brewer, John. 2010. Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life. Cultural and Social History, 7 (1): 87-109.
  13. Brookes, Allan. 1976. Out-Migration from the Maritime Provinces, 1860-1900: Some Preliminary Considerations. Acadiensis 5 (2): 26-55.
  14. Burrill, Gary. 1992. Away: Maritimers in Massachusetts, Ontario, and Alberta: An Oral History of Leaving Home. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  15. Canada’s Historic Places. 2008. Countway Mosher Home. 14 March (accessed July 15, 2020).
  16. Carsten, Janet, and Stephen Hugh-Jones, eds. 1995. About the House: Levi-Strauss and Beyond. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
  17. Carter, Thomas. 2015. Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  18. Cashman, Ray, Tom Mould, and Pravina Shukla, eds. 2011. The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  19. Ennals, Peter, and Deryck Holdsworth. 1981. Vernacular Architecture and the Cultural Landscape of the Maritime Provinces: A Reconnaissance. Acadiensis 10 (2): 86-106.
  20. Fingard, Judith. 1993. The 1880s: Paradoxes of Progress. In The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation, ed. E. R. Forbes and D. A. Muise, 82-116. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  21. Firestone, Melvin. 1967. Brothers and Rivals: Patrilocality in Savage Cove. St. John’s: ISER.
  22. Glassie, Henry. 1972. Eighteenth-Century Cultural Process in Delaware Valley Folk Building. Winterthur Portfolio 7: 29-57.
  23. Glassie, Henry. 1974. The Variation of Concepts within Tradition: Barn Building in Otsego County, New York. Geoscience and Man (5): 177-235.
  24. Glassie, Henry. 1975. Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  25. Gowans, Alan. 1962. New England Architecture in Nova Scotia. The Art Quarterly 25 (1): 7-33.
  26. Herman, Bernard. 1985. Time and Performance: Folk Houses in Delaware. In American Material Culture and Folklife, ed. Simon Bronner, 155-75. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press.
  27. Herman, Bernard. 1987. Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware, 1700-1900. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  28. Herman, Bernard. 1995. The Architectural and Social Topography of Early Nineteenth-Century Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Vol. 5: Gender, Class, and Shelter, ed. Elizabeth Collins Cromley, Carter
  29. L. Hudgins, 225-42. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  30. Herman, Bernard. 2005. Townhouse: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780-1830. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  31. Hubka, Thomas C. 1984. Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England. Hanover N.H.: University Press of New England.
  32. Hubka, Thomas C. 1988. Farm Family Mutuality: The Mid-Nineteenth Century Maine Farm Neighbourhood. In The Farm, ed. Peter Benes, 13-24. Boston: Boston University Press.
  33. Hubka, Thomas C. 2013. Houses Without Names: Architectural Nomenclature and the Classification of America’s Common Houses. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  34. Ives, Edward D. 1976. Common-Man Biography: Some Notes By the Way. In Folklore Today: A Festschrift for Richard M. Dorson, ed. Linda Dégh, Henry Glassie, Felix J. Oinas, 260-63. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  35. Jack, Meghann. 2018. Nineteenth-Century Barns in St. Mary’s, Nova Scotia. PhD dissertation, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
  36. Joyce, Rosemary, and Susan Gillespie, eds. 2000. Beyond Kinship: Social and Material Reproduction in House Societies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  37. Latremouille, Joann. 1986. Pride of Home: The Working Class Housing Tradition in Nova Scotia, 1749-1979. Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press.
  38. Lofthouse, Pamela. 2012. The Development of English Semi-Detached Dwellings During the Nineteenth Century. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (PIA) 22: 83-98.
  39. MacKinnon, Richard. 2016. A Typology of Cape Breton Island Company Housing. In Company Houses, Company Towns: Heritage and Conservation, ed. Andrew Molloy and Tom Urbaniak, 7-45. Sydney: Cape Breton University Press.
  40. MacKinnon, Robert. 1992. The Historical Geography of Agriculture in Nova Scotia, 1851- 1951. PhD dissertation, University of British Columbia.
  41. McCann, Larry. 1999. Seasons of Labour: Family, Work, and Land in a Nineteenth-Century Nova Scotia Shipbuilding Community. History of the Family 4 (4): 485-527.
  42. Maudlin, Daniel. 2016. Politics and Place-Making on the Edge of Empire: Loyalists, Highlanders, and the Early Farmhouses of British Canada. In Building the British Atlantic World: Spaces, Places, and Material Culture, 1650-1850, ed. Bernard Herman and Daniel Maudlin, 290-312. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  43. McKay, Ian, and Robin Bates. 2010. In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  44. McMurray, Sally. 2009. The Pennsylvania Barn as Collective Resource, 1830-1900. Buildings & Landscapes 16 (2): 9-28.
  45. Molloy, Andrew, and Tom Urbaniak, eds. 2016. Company Houses, Company Towns: Heritage and Conservation. Sydney: Cape Breton University Press.
  46. Parrott, Charles. 2005. The Double House in New England. In Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Vol. 10, Building Environments, ed.
  47. Kenneth A. Breisch and Alison K. Hoagland, 33-46. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  48. Peterson, Fred W. 2008 [1992]. Homes in the Heartland: Balloon Frame Farmhouses of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  49. Pocius, Gerald L. 1982. ‘Interior Motives’: Rooms, Objects and Meaning in Atlantic Canada Homes. Material History Bulletin 15: 5-9.
  50. Pocius, Gerald L. 1987. Rebuildings on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore: Cut-Down Roofs, Raised Hopes. Material Culture 19: 67-83.
  51. Samanani, Farhan, and Johannes Lenhard. 2019. House and Home. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed. F. Stein, S. Lazar, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, J. Robbins, A. Sanchez and R. Stasch.
  52. Sciorra, Joseph. 2015. Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  53. Thornton, Patricia. 1982a. Some Preliminary Comments on the Extent and Consequences of Outmigration from the Atlantic Region, 1870-1920. In Merchant Shipping and Economic Development in Atlantic Canada, ed. L. R. Fischerand and E. W. Sager. St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland.
  54. Thornton, Patricia. 1982b. The Problem of Out-Migration from Atlantic Canada, 1871-1921: A New Look, Acadiensis 15 (1): 3-34.
  55. Walker, David. n.d. Punts of the St. Mary’s River. St. Mary’s River Association. (accessed July 16, 2020).
  56. Wall, Richard. 1986. Work, Welfare and the Family: An Illustration of the Adaptive Family Economy. In The World We Have Gained: Histories of Population and Social Structure, ed. Lloyd Bonfield, Richard Smith, and Keith Wrightson, 261-94. Oxford: Blackwell.