Celebrating over 400 Years

At over 250 years old, with roots going back 400 years, the Bailey House is among the earliest buildings in Canada and possibly the oldest unaltered accommodation in North America. French farmers, including Louis Hébert, introduced apples, peas and wheat almost 420 years ago, making Lower Saint George Street, arguably, the oldest settled street in North America, north of Florida. The Bailey House sits proudly on this iconic street, resting on the former estate of the Seigneur (Lord) of Port Royal and French Royal Governor of Acadia.

Chapter 1: Canada's Oldest Lordship
1604 to 1770

The Annapolis Basin has been the home of the Mi’kmaq for thousands of years. In 1605, a French expedition established a settlement at Port Royal in the are of today’s historic town of Annapolis Royal. Later in North America, European settlers established Jamestown in 1607, Quebec in 1608 and Plymouth in 1620.

Much of the details of the first chapter of the history of the Bailey House has been lost to history, however we think it may go something like this… 

1604 to 1630s – The New World‘s First French Farm

Shortly after the spring of 1605, wheat, fruit trees and other crops were planted by French settlers at the Port Royal settlement, on land that is now occupied by the town of Annapolis Royal. Although Port Royal’s first centre of development was at the habitation, a few kilometres away, the principal farming area soon became the site of the modern town. Seasonal dwellings were likely built on the town site within a few years of 1605, however it is not likely that these very first French buildings were directly on the Bailey House property.

1630s to 1690s – Seigneurial Manor of Port Royal*

The Seigneury (Lordship) of Port Royal was created in 1604 for Baron Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt et Saint-Just (1557-1615) and is the oldest feudal title in North America. In 1614, the seigneury was granted to his son, Baron Charles de Biencourt (1591-1623) and by 1623, it was claimed by Charles De La Tour (1593-1666) through inheritance from Charles de Biencourt. Charles De La Tour came to Port Royal in 1610 and was Governor of Acadia from 1631 to 1644 and again from 1653 to 1654.

The location of the manor of Port Royal and its domain is not entirely clear, but the Bailey House property may be a signifiant part of it.  This is interesting for us, as we believe the Bailey House may have been built directly on the location of a storehouse that belonged to the manor.   The date of the establishment of the domain and the manor at this location is also not clear, but it may have been as early as the 1630s or as late as the 1660s.

What we know for sure is that, by 1686, Charles De La Tour’s daughter, Dame Marie de Saint-Étienne de la Tour (1654-1739) and her husband, Sieur Alexandre LeBorgne de Belleisle (1640-1693), the Seigneur of Port Royal, were living in the manor on the domain. Sieur Alexandre was also the Governor of Acadia from 1667 to 1670. This manor was located somewhere between the Bailey House garden and Saint Anthony Street.  We assume the manor and the storehouse were destroyed during the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697), which was devastating for Port Royal.

1690s to 1730s – New Seigneurial Manor of Port Royal*

By the 1690s, we believe the manor of Port Royal was relocated to the waterfront of the seignerurial domain on Saint George Street, using the foundations of the destroyed storehouse.  The new manor was destroyed as a result of the siege of Port Royal in June 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). However, it was rebuilt and remained on this new location until at least the 1750s. The manor was the home of the family matriarch, Dame Marie, her daughter, Anne LeBorgne (1690-1745), and Anne’s husband, Jean-Baptiste Rodrigue (1680-1733). Dame Marie was recognised as Seigneuresse of Port Royal, in her own right, from the death of her husband in 1693 until her own death in 1739. In fact, she was not only the Seigneuresse of Port Royal, but also of Les Mines, and effectively owned the whole of south western Nova Scotia. She was a highly respected by the citizens of Port Royal and managed her vast estate from her manor on Lower Saint George Street.

Around 1710, Anne and Jean-Baptiste moved to Louisbourg, while Dame Marie probably lived in the Saint George Street manor for the reminder of her life.  The Seigneury of Port Royal ended with the death of Dame Marie in 1739 and this important building was then likely either re-purposed again as a storehouse or fell into disrepair.  We believe the new manor’s location would be used a final time to build the Bailey House in 1770.

*Note the description of the exact locations of the referenced buildings in Port Royal / Annapolis Royal from 1630s to the 1730s is not firmly established. Maps covering the period are inexact and written records are scarce. The answers can only truly be resolved through archeology. We are trying to engage an archeologist to conduct a survey of the Bailey House property.

Chapter 2: Loyalist House and Coveted Prize of Pirates
1770 to 1832

The Bailey House was built around 1770 and is the oldest building on Lower Saint George Street, North America’s oldest continuously settled street. The builder was early Nova Scotia settler John Easson (1715-1790). John led an momentous life – during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) his first house was set ablaze by the French, he was kidnapped by the Mik’maq and, in 1773, he was an eyewitness to the Boston tea party.

The Bailey House was raided twice during the American Revolution. The first was on 2 October 1778, but was repelled. However, on 29 August 1781, American pirates were successful in their raid.

In the 1781 raid, the pirates pillaged the entire town, taking silverware, food, furniture, bedding, clothing and even the windows from the church. The town was almost defenceless as the British garrison normally based at Fort Anne was deployed to Charlestown, South Carolina to aid General Cornwallis. In the spring of 1782, panic broke out again as there was news that an American ship was in the Annapolis Basin and heading towards the town. Fortunately, the ship was intercepted at Goat Island and the Americans fled into the woods. The fear of further American raids on Annapolis Royal was very real until the end of the American Revolution in 1783. In that same year, Joseph Totten (1723-1788), Susannah Totten (1730-1811) and their family arrived in Annapolis Royal and bought the Bailey House. Joseph and Susannah were Loyalist evacuees from New York City, where Susannah’s Huguenot family had fled King Louis XIV’s religious persecution in France only two generations earlier. Fortunately, Annapolis Royal, the Bailey House and the Tottens were spared from assault during the War of 1812.

One of the most thrilling events in the early days of the Bailey House was when Joseph and Susannah hosted HRH Prince Edward of the United Kingdom in 1794. Prince Edward was the father of Queen Victoria and is the namesake of the Province of Prince Edward Island.

Chapter 3: Welcoming the World

Sometime between 1832 and 1835, Elizabeth “Marm” Bailey (1787-1880) opened the Bailey House as an “aristocratic boarding house.” She was a young widow, with three daughters to support. By 1837, she had purchased the Bailey House. We don’t know the cause of Marm’s husband’s death, but it may be related to a chronic injury due to a duel in March 1815.

During Marm’s tenure, the Bailey House was at a key travel centre in Canada.   By 1833, Canada’s first steamship on the Atlantic coast, the Maid of the Mist, would arrive and depart at the docks facing the Bailey House, connecting travellers with Saint John. The renowned Rose Fortune would aid travellers with their bags as they arrived and departed the Bailey House. Marm’s cooking was legendary and you can even try one of her recipes listed on the Parks Canada website.

No known guest register survives from this time, but through secondary sources, we can tentatively piece together a partial guest list:

Lord William Campbell (1730-1778)  Last Royal Governor of South Carolina

Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865)  First Canadian best-selling author

George Phipps (1819-1890) and Laura Phipps (1844-1885), 2nd Marquess (and Marchioness) of Normanby  Governor of Nova Scotia

John Spencer (1835-1910), 5th Earl Spencer  Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland

John Campbell (1845-1914), 9th Duke of Argyll  Governor-General of Canada

Chapter 4: Renaissance
1910 to Today

By 1910, the house was gifted to Saint Luke’s Church by Marm’s last surviving daughter, Sarah Bailey (1825-1910). It was run for a few decades as a tenement, during which time its condition deteriorated. Effort was taken in the 1940s by the then owner, Suzanne Halliburton (1879-1961), to restore the Bailey House to its former glory.

The house was eventually acquired in 1962 by Ruth Eisenhauer (1909-1997), a local historian, who lived here until her death. At that time, the house and contents were gifted to the Nova Scotia Museum. However, the museum declined the offer.

Soon after, the Bailey House opened again as an inn. We have the honour of being the third owner of the Bailey House in its latest incarnation. However, the honour is not without responsibility. Maintaining a 250 year old privately-owned house which is an icon of North American history is a huge undertaking. It is our mission to ensure that the Bailey House and its incredible story is preserved for future generations.

The Bailey House in Maps

Port Royal in 1686
Future Lower Saint George Street

In 1686, Port Royal was already over 80 years old. According to this map, the Bailey House is on the shore of the property owned by the former Governor of Acadia, Sieur Le Borgne, and his wife Marie Saint Étienne de la Tour. Their house seems to have once stood around the back of our garden. The dark red box shows the approximate location of the Bailey House.

At that time, Port Royal was the capital of Acadia and included modern-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as large parts of Maine and Quebec.

Annapolis Royal in 1753
Lower Saint George Street

By 1753, the Bailey House was not built yet, but the lot that is stands on was clearly established. Our English garden was once an orchard. The dark red box shows the approximate location of the Bailey House. Our current belief is that the back half of the Bailey House reuses the foundations of an Acadian building dating from as early as the 1630s. Not shown on this map are the fortifications in front of the future Bailey House. This was needed as the town had been attacked 4 times in the previous 9 years, with numerous deaths on both sides.

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Bailey House
150 Saint George Street,
Annapolis Royal, NS B0S 0A8


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