The Webster/Collins House

The following is taken, with permission, from South Shore; Seasoned Timbers, Vol. 2, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, 1974:

In 1816, the widower, Dr. Andrew Webster, married Miss Hannah Collins, one of the twenty-six children of Hallet Collins who had come as a child with his parents from Chatham, Massachusetts, to become a wealthy Liverpool merchant. Hannah was the much younger sister of Enos Collins, a former privateer owner, merchant, broker, and Halifax banker on whom "Providence (was) pleased to bestow so much of this world's goods" that he is said to have been one of the richest men in North America.

Three years later Dr. Webster bought a building lot next to the town cemetery. Judging by the mass of mortgages soon incurred, the house which is now [1974] the Rectory was built in the 1820's. It was freed of debt in 1832 when Hannah received a legacy of 1,000 from her father's estate.

It is an imposing house set back from Main Street on a slight rise. There is a string family resemblance to Gorsebrook, the splendid Georgian country gentleman's house her brother Enos maintained beyond Halifax's South Suburb. Like it, the roof is hipped (while those of the neighboring Liverpool houses have pitched or gambrel roofs). Both had classical pediments breaking the roof line, though the Liverpool house is adorned with a wooden sundial of doubtful value since it faces north. Gorsebrook's front door transom and sidelights contained more delicately patterned leaded glass than its Liverpool version. The Rectory's central Palladian window, however, was employed only by the Liverpool carpenter-builder.

Within, the Rectory's central hall is broken by an archway. Beyond it, is the kitchen ell. Hidden behind a door in the kitchen is a switchback stair completely lacking the formal setting of the staircase in the front hall. Curiously, the room to the right of the hall was not finished until after 1849.

In that year the elderly Websters conveyed their house to Trinity Church in return for an annuity of 50 ending with their deaths. No sooner was the deed signed than the energetic new rector had workmen in to repair and finish the house. This is why the east side of the house has robust moldings and wide fireplace pilasters in contrast to the more delicate scale of the west side, which was finished earlier. For 46 years the Rev. E.E.B. Nichols restored, improved, enlarged and maintained his home and his parish. His flat-roofed study on which the family alligator sunned has been removed after a fire caused by a too-enthusiastic photographer parson.