Historical Society takes ownership of Ottawa House

Historic Ottawa House

Historic Ottawa House

The Parrsborough Shore Historical Society has decided to accept ownership of historic Ottawa House.

Society president Colin Curleigh says 34 members attended a general meeting on Monday and after considerable discussion, members voted to accept the provincial government’s offer to transfer the ownership.

Final details are being worked out, but Curleigh says the transfer could happen within a couple of weeks.

It means the Society will finally have full control over maintaining, renovating and repairing the building. The Society also plans to modernize the museum’s displays of artifacts and historical records from the communities along the Parrsborough Shore.

The building, which dates from the 1770s, was once the summer home of Sir Charles Tupper. As premier of Nova Scotia, Tupper led the province into Confederation. He later served briefly as prime minister.

A year ago, local MP Scott Armstrong announced a Legacy Fund to help with restoration of Ottawa House and to finance a special event there this July. Under the terms of the agreement, the federal government will match every dollar the Historical Society raises up to $385,000.

Colin Curleigh says the Society plans to launch a concerted fund-raising campaign soon.

“We’ve got a bit of different leverage now,” he says. “If it is ours, people seem a lot more willing to give to a private building than a government one.”

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1 Response to Historical Society takes ownership of Ottawa House

  1. Sandy Graham says:

    This is good news for the Ottawa House, and it could be argued that it is a case of “better late than never”. And now, a little history (drum roll please).

    I was manager of the Ottawa House Museum in 1994, museums forming part of my career in arts, culture & heritage (I’m accredited with the Canadian Museum Association). Early in the summer of that year, I sat down with then MLA Guy Brown, to discuss what the province might be able to do for us strategically, and to review the status quo, including the “Lease between her Majesty the Queen and Parrsborough Shore Historical Society, 1980”, of which he had a copy.

    Let me back up; The federal Government was persuaded by the Society to purchase the building and property (for $68,000), and lease these back to the Society. The terms of the agreement include the provision that the Society “agrees to restore the Ottawa House to a pristine condition and return it to the Lessor in this state of repair at the termination of the Lease.”

    Now that’s what I call a good deal, for the government. Guy Brown and I were in agreement on that, for starters. We also agreed on the need to professionalize programs, services and operations, as part of accepted museum standards. To that end, I also saw eye to eye with Gordon Eaton (P. Eng), Building Services Manager for the Department of Transportation and Public Works, and our liaison with the Feds.

    They were good partners, but then, as since, the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society has grappled with the trappings of the Lease, and with “the common problem of a limited volunteer base to fulfill the demand and desires required to complete any of these various directions. Irrespective of its final disposition, the maintenance of a building this size is a major undertaking.”

    So stated architect Harry Jost (B. Arch., M.R.A.I.C) in “A Conservation Plan for the Ottawa House”, completed for the Society in 1995. I remember Harry as a very smart and gentle man, but he didn’t pull any punches in his report, thankfully.

    For my part, I would later write: “There is the common perception, within the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society, and indeed among many (nonprofit) groups, that money, or lack of it, is the major problem. It is my own view that this is not the case.” That is from “Strategic Planning for the Ottawa House” a paper I wrote as part of a museum management course (it received a Pass with Distinction). The problem for many museums, rather, has more to do with relevance (to their community), and good planning and governance.

    The Ottawa House does indeed have great potential, which ownership of the building by the Society will help to unlock. But it is also true that today’s donors and funding agencies need to see plans that show that monies will used wisely, and that such plans have a high chance of success, and measurable impacts with regard to their mandate, and the local community.

    It is good to see that the Society is moving in that direction, as well as revenue diversification. But it is of course a large project, with a long way to go.

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