Halifax Heritage Home - Once Owned By A Father of Confederation - Listed For Sale

The McCully mansion sits on a fairly unremarkable stretch of Brunswick Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. But once upon a time, this area was considered an extremely upscale neighbourhood! Built in the mid-1800s by Edgar Billings Jr., the mansion's pale stone 3-storey façade is stikingly beautiful, but it's aesthetics now suffer from the immediate comparison of neighbours, both of which have unsightly vinyl siding. Realistically, if it weren't for the plaque out front, it's likely that most who pass wouldn't know it's important history. As the Halifax historian, Blair Beed, tells it, this stalwart structure once had a very ausipisious owner, Jonathan McCully (1809-1877) - a father of Confederation.



If you don’t recognize the name Jonathan McCully it’s alright - I didn’t either. But it turns out that he was quite a big deal in Atlantic Canada once upon a time, and, being a journalist, politician, and lawyer, was instrumental in the formation of Canada. In a time when there was a sizable backlash (particularly in Nova Scotia) to joining a union of provinces and territories, McCully wrote many articles in favour of Confederation, and was somewhat of an activist in that sense. In fact, he would have done much of his work in the parlour or study of this stone residence. You can imagine McCully at the small writing desk in the photos below, putting his prowess with prose to work to sell the idea of uniting the British colonies.



In the late 1970s, the City of Halifax designated the McCully Mansion a historic site, protecting it from major renovation and demolition. This status also would entitle the property to careful preservation, but, as Beed reports, they did a "lousy job of it". [1]

In 1996, Michael and Paul Donovan scouted the 3,667 square foot house as a potential headquarters for Salter Street Films. Upon entering, the brothers observed that the home was “derelict” and it was clear it had “been derelict for a long time … it was crumbling”. [2]  Reportedly, it was left so close to ruin, that there was even evidence of water running down the walls. But the Donovans saw past the disrepair, and were able to recogize that this home had very good bones and were taken with the charming architectural details that harkened back to a bygone era.

Striking a deal with the City, including a promise to repair and refurbish the property with sensitivity to its historic roots, the brothers purchased the property for $2.00. That may seem like an unbelievable steal, but they spent about $500,000 to restore the house, returning it as close as possible to its former glory. While it was possible to use clever work-arounds to retain many original elements (like using track lighting in most of the rooms to avoid disturbing the original ceiling medallions), some rooms simply had to be revamped in order to make the space functional; namely, the kitchen and bathrooms. Instead of hiring multiple contractors, many neighbours and commuity youth were brought on to do the leg work, while the Donovans managed the rest on their own.



Luckily much of the original furniture had been properly stored, and the crew was careful to preserve small but priceless details like moldings, fireplaces, light fixtures, and hardware. In fact, the real estate agent, Carolyn Davis Stewart, points to the "mantles and ornately carved mouldings" as providing a peek into the life of the nineteenth century upper crust. “The mouldings have a lot of circular little motions which would have been very tedious to do, and that’s an art that’s certainly been lost, for the most part,” she said. [3]



After it's substantial face-lift, the Donovan brothers made use of the mansion's principal rooms for business purposes, and comandeered a couple of the homes 4 bedrooms for personal use.



When the Salter Street Films went out of business around 2006, the home was sold to Jason Ross, for under market value. Ross has been using the home as a primary residence for the last decade, but feels it's time to move on. He's put the McCully mansion on the market for only $785,000 (which is less than the price of a typical 2 bedroom semi-detached home in Toronto!)

The listing touts four bedrooms, 4 baths, an updated kitchen, multiple living rooms, study, and a garage for - get this - up to 6 cars! It also boast views of Halifax harbour, and has substantial outdoor space that would make it a great home for a growing family.



Personally, I like the look of the third floor space! It would make a neat suite for nanny or moody teen!



Before you go, check out this neat-o multimedia rendering of the home and virtual tour!


We love Heritage Homes at Houseporn.ca. Check out these past posts:

The Power Cottage Conservation Project By Halifax’s DSRA Architects

The Town Of Corner Brook, Newfoundland

The Bain Housing Co-operative In Toronto, Ontario

The Heritage Buchanan House In Montreal, Quebec

Guelph Ontario Homes: Set in Stone

Unionville, Ontario: A Historic Canadian Village


~ Posted by Steven Fudge, the purveyor of houseporn.ca and proprietor of Urbaneer.com, a division of Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage.


Thanks to:

Carolyn David Stewart Team
Royal LePage Atlantic
7071 Bayers Rd.
Halifax, NS


[1] TheStar Halifax; [2]  Global News; [3] TheStar Halifax


TheStar Halifax, Realtor.ca

Posted In: Nova Scotia

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