The Davison House

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87 Aberdeen: The Davison House

 

     Both Frank (Francis) and Edward Doran Davison Jr. bought property around their father's home on Elm Street in 1885 and it was later divided up among some of E.D. Davison's sons and grandsons.  87 Aberdeen Road was the home of Frank Davison, E.D. Davison Sr.'s third son.

     Frank was an office man at his father's firm of E.D. Davison & Sons, after successfully attending commercial college.  He continued working at his father's business even after it was sold to an American firm following his brothers' death and renamed Davison Lumber Company Limited.

     Though he spent his winters in Toronto, Frank remained active in the community of Bridgewater. He was a member of the school board and implemented plans for the new school as well as helped to acquire the property for the new building. Frank was also a member of the Royal Conservation Commission in 1907 and donated generously to various organizations, churches and schools, including Mount Allison and Dalhousie University.

     In 1899, Frank Davison took on the momentous challenge of being Bridgewater's first mayor. The task fell to him to unite the town after the Great Fire of 1899 devastated both King St. and Lahave St. He rallied the community to rebuild its commercial district despite extensive damage.

     His home was a gracious and stately house on Aberdeen Road.  It was both impressive in its architectural detail and imposing in its size.  Constructed in the Late Victorian Modified Gothic style in 1889, the house had three large dormers on the front, each unique in size.

davison_prospect

Davison House, 95.4.9 DBP3B, c. 1890.

The home and property of Frank Davison. Built around 1889.

 

     The right dormer was the widest and had a gabled roof and a three sided recessed bay window just above the roof of the veranda. Ornamental brackets supported a decorative shelf complete with a circular-themed decorative bargeboard and dentils just below it. The pedimented dormer sat over the recessed bay window and was trimmed in the same circular-themed designed moulding as the shelf below it. Just below the small window was a scale shingle design.

     The middle dormer might have also been called a tower and had a three-sided bay window, although it was not recessed and was smaller than the rightmost dormer. The tower was topped with a three-sided hipped roof. The tower itself incorporated the same decorative bargeboard as the right-hand dormer, tying the two together with this architectural detail. A pedimented window hood adorned the two windows and an unusual Dutch gable roof topped off the central dormer.

     The dormer on the left was the simplest of the three. It was complete with capital pilasters and possessed some of the dentil decoration that was present on the other dormers.

dawson_house_in_detail

Davison House, 95.4.9 DBP3B, c. 1890.

87 Aberdeen in detail. Three different dormers gave this home a very unique style. 

     While each dormer was constructed in a different manner with diverse architectural details and different methods of construction, they were united by similar details, like the dentil woodwork and the decorative bargeboard. The three dormers were imposing as well as beautiful and created an interesting asymmetrical facade that worked well with the house.

     The house featured a veranda that wrapped around one side of the building. Pediments above the front entrance of the veranda, and on the side entrance of the veranda added a small decorative detail that fit well with the overall style. There was a slight overhang, on the left-hand side of the top floor roof, built to protect the square oriel window which projected from the wall below. The house stretched out towards the back of the property with a large ell, built with as much detail as the facade of the house.

     It is said that the house was made with all local woods, which is not surprising considering that Frank Davison was a part of Nova Scotia's largest lumber manufacturer.  What is impressive, however, is the fact that it was rumoured to contain 3,000 square feet of solid oak flooring throughout the house and about 60 windows. The house was located on a large property in the middle of a more recently developed section of Aberdeen Road, creating an odd juxtaposition between the old and the new.

     After the death of Frank Davison, the house passed to his wife Ella Davison and then to their only son Reginald Davison.  After Reginald's ownership, the home left the Davison family. The mansion was an excellent example of late Victorian architecture that survived for a hundred and ten years.

 

Edward Doran Davison Sr. –The Lumber King

E.D._Davison

E. D. Davison, Sr., 95.17 DBP137, c. 1855.

E. D. Davison Sr. as a young man.


     Edward Doran Davison Sr. was born in 1819 in Mill Village. E.D. Davison Sr. grew up in Queens County under the guidance of his maiden-aunt Catherine Doran, a woman with a savvy business sense and management skills who operated the lumbering, farming, and fishing business. Given his guardian's character, it is no surprise that when E.D. Davison Sr. inherited the business (at the young age of 18) he became a successful businessman in two counties (Lunenburg and Queens).

     After inheriting his grandfather's property in Queens County, Davison married young at 20 years of age. His first wife was Desiah Mack, a cousin and native of Queens County. The couple had a total of ten children, seven of whom outlived their father. His second wife, whom he married in 1887, was Martha Hopkins Campbell. They had no children together.

     Edward Doran added to his successful business and many productive acres of woodland in Queens County by purchasing land and mills along the upper reaches of the LaHave River, and in 1865, he moved to Bridgewater to manage his newly acquired mills. With the help of his three sons Charles Henry, Edward Doran Jr., and Francis Doran, E.D. Davison & Sons rapidly flourished.

     In fewer than 20 years, E.D. Davison & Sons hired more than 350 men and employed at least 50 teams of oxen running five mills. By this time the total amount of property owned by E.D. Davison & Sons was an astounding 200,000 acres. There is no doubt that the E.D. Davison Company was a successful venture; it employed many local men and gave E.D. Davison Sr. the opportunity to give generously back to the community.

     A passage from History of County of Lunenburg reads: " 'At the time of [E.D. Davison Sr.'s] death, he had fairly earned the proud distinction of having the largest lumber business in the Province, and one of the largest in the Dominion' ", adding that, even with age, Davison never lost any of his "abundant energy".

     His home was located on what is now Aberdeen Road and Elm Street.  On the church map, dating from 1883, the Davison home is listed as Oak Hill.  When his grandson Fred Davison inherited the property, he demolished the original structure and built a home of his own in 1915.

davison_family

Members of the E.D. Davison & Sons firm, 668.1 DBP137, c. 1890

E.D. Davison Senior is in the centre. Frank Davison is located in the lefthand corner. Photographed by G.W. Hazen

 

Bibliography

Allison, David. History of Nova Scotia, Vol. III, 1916, 146.

Barkhouse, Murry. Famous Nova Scotia. Lancelot Press, 1994.

Bees, Bill. "Ancient Manor Monument to Gracious Living in N.S. in the 19th

Century," The Chronicle Herald.

Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society. Vol. XVIII. Halifax: Wm,

MacNab & Son, 1914.

DesBrisay, M. B. History of the County of Lunenburg, 3rd ed. Bridgewater: The

Bridgewater Bulletin Ltd., 1967.

Freeman, F.T. "In A Reminiscent Mood." March 3, 1964.

"A Lumber King of Nova Scotia," Halifax Herald. November 11, 1913.

Marshall, William E. "Davison, E.D." Bridgewater, N.S., 1894. From Archives

Community File, Biography and Index MG1, Vol. 255.

Plaskett, Bill. "26 Elm Street," Built Heritage Files. September 26, 1985.

Plaskett, Bill. "87 Aberdeen Road," Built Heritage Files. September 26, 1985.

Prass, Catherine. "Davison, Edward Doran," Dictionary of Canada Biographies,(2005).

Sheppard, Tom. Historic Bridgewater. Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Limited, 2008.