of Acadian Life:
important to Acadians, since they spent about 60% of their time indoors.
in the Maritimes, p. 440] Stone and wood were used,
borrowing from the half-timbered method of France. Dovetail joints didn't
come along till after the exile. [Clarence Lebreton, Acadians
in the Maritimes, p.431] Since wood was abundant,
it was the most common substance used ... though a stone foundation may
have been common.
Homes in Acadia had been a mixture of European styles, Indian methods,
and Acadian raw materials. The well-to-do in Port Royal had 2 story
homes of wood and masonry, similar to those in western France. Out
other areas of Acadia, they might have 3-4 room homes made in piece-sur-piece
style. The average Acadian, however, lived in 1-2 room homes made
in the poteaux-en-terre style. (The Founding
of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 139)
know much about the early Acadian architecture, since the English did such
a good job of burning everything down. We do have a few written accounts.
Diereville wrote in Relation du voyage de Port Royal de l'Acadie,
1699-1700, that he rented a house that had "served as a church
and was the largest in the place. It had three rooms, with lofts
above, and a masonry cellar underneath the middle room. I think that
I will have quite comfortable lodgings, considerting the country." (p.
36) He also wrote that the spaced-out houses were poorly built cottages
and had chimneys made of clay. He couldn’t even tell which was the
church, since it looked like a barn.
the logs. The home had two rooms,
with a fireplace at the end walls. There were doors at the front
and back at the center of the long walls. There was a hall in-between
the rooms. Though he was speaking of the part of New France in the
Quebec/Montreal area, perhaps their French neighbors to the east also used
this pattern . [Clark, p. 105]
|| H.R. Shurtleff
described the standard Canadian home as made of squared logs or thick planks
on top of each other. They were horizontal, set between posts embedded
in the ground. The foundation may have been of stone or logs.
Moss, clay, grass, or a mortar mixed with hair or oat straw was stuffed
1687/88) wrote the the houses were low and made of logs one atop the other.
The roofs were made of thatch.
The governor’s home only was made of planks. [Clark,
Meneval’s view of Port Royal in 1688 described 20 poor dwellings of mud
and wood, with 6 inhabitants
(families?). This was probably only the area around the fort. Saccardy
wrote that the roofs were made of shingles or boards. The fort at
Port Royal wasn’t even as large
as a house, he writes. [Clark, p. 138] It was
crumbling apart and 1/4 of it was undermined
by the sea.
final decade of the 1600s, Baron Lahontan visited the area and noted that
Port Royal was small town with only a few homes 2 stories high. [New
Voyages to North America, ed. R.G. Thwaites (1905), 1, p. 330-332]
in his Une Colonie Feodale, 1, p. 95, says their houses were
made of unsquared logs piled on top of each other; “some were based on
heavy piles, driven in the ground, which were interlaced with branches
and then plastered with mud.” D’Aulnay’s and other well-to-do homes
were made of large roughhewn timbers, laid down in tiers ... called pieces
of turn of the century homes, Rameau says that most were constructedby
driving large logs in the ground and filling the gaps with moss and clay.
The chimneys were made of posts
and pounded clay. The roofs were made of reeds, bark, and
perhaps sod. Better homes were piece sur piece ... squared-off logs,
one atopanother, interlocked at the corners. Wood was abundant. [Rameau,
ColonieFeodale, 1, p. 150]
at some detailed maps of the area in the early days, they seem to have
had many small outbuildings instead of one large barn.
homes, the main room was dining, living, and bedroom combined. Robert
Hale noted in 1731 (Journal of a Voyage to Nova Scotia
Made in 1731 by Robert Hale of Beverly) that some Acadians
had beds that were boarded all around, making something of a tiny bedroom.
A hole in one side allowed for entry and exit. The attics (garconniere)
were used as sleeping space for boys. Cellars, which were ice-cold
in the winter, would contain the produce harvested in the fall.
the late 1600s, the Acadians had incorporated Indian methods for insulating
their homes. One building method that was developed was poteaux-en-terre
walls. Posts would be bound by small branches. This made the
wall stronger and formed air pockets that helped insulation. On the
insides, walls were plastered with mud/clay to seal the home from air drafts.
The insulation was protected on the outside by weather boards.
typical roof was much like those in Europe, a thatch roof made of bark
chimneys were built in much the same way as the walls, only they were plastered
(with mud/clay) inside and out to protect the wood from the fire.
(The Founding of New Acadia, Brasseaux, p. 140-1)
section of the Archeology website for the Nova Scotia Museum has some
paintings representing Acadian homes (inside and out). It also has
information on the archeological excavations of an Acadian settlement.
Besides the Belleisle
settlement described at that website, archeological digs have been conducted
on a Melanson settlement.
Jonathon Fowler is working on several Acadian locations in Nova Scotia
and has a nice site [Northeast
Archaeological Research] describing his work.
after the deportations, we have some indications of their temporary and
permanent homes. Homes were small, rectangular (almost square), made
of a single room and stone fireplace ... constructed of square timbers.
The main tools were cross-cut saws, handsaws, broadaxes, axes, spokeknives,
and pocketknives. Nails were seldom used, except perhaps for shingles.
Oak pegs were sometimes used. Even door hinges were made of wood.
Timbers were squared with a broadaxe. Squared logs might have been used
for the floor. Furniture was simple. The table was made of
planks. Benches were used for seating. There might be a cabinet
against the wall for dishes. The beds served also as rooms and partitions.
Boards were nailed to the wooden beds to form a closed box from the floor
to the ceiling (called sac a housses). There was a single opening,
covered by a curtain. There may have been buckets of water on a bench
in the corner. A mug/cup hung from a nail on the wall for all to
use. Brooms may have been just a bundle of sticks tied around a stick.
Sometimes, nicer ones were made of linden leaves. The musket and
powder horn would be hung on the wall. Notches were made in the window
sill to tell time by the rays of the sun. There would be a hole in
the ceiling next to the wall with a ladder attached to the wall.
Things were stored there; and boys often slept up there on straw mattresses.
Anselme Chiasson, Cheticamp: histoire et traditions acadiennes,
Montcon: Les aboiteaux, 1961, p. 46]
went by, sawmills were more common so board were used. Stoves were
used instead of fireplaces sometimes. Homes began having more than
There have been some efforts at excavating
Acadian structures, which has shed some light on their homes. Two
of these sites have been the Melanson and the Bellisle settlements.
The earliest structures date back to the 1800s. The best place to
view old Acadian buildings is the Village Historique Acadien. It
is set up like an Acadian village of old, with exhibits of the life and
culture of the people.
used in house construction were: brace and hit, auger, hatchet (which also
served as a hammer), plane, and braces for the large pine logs of the framework.
An arminette was used to dress the ends of the logs. A triquet was
used to make tongue-and-groove joints after the squared logs had been smoothed
out. The logs were pegged and wedged. Mallets were used to
pound the logs into the corners. [Clarence Lebreton, Acadians
in the Maritimes, p.457]
furniture was sturdy but simple. Surviving examples only go back
to the period of migrations. Most things were made of pine.
They looked like medieval furniture, instead of the nice things being made
in America. Though simple, they did adopt dovetail and tenon joints.
Lebreton, Acadians in the Maritimes, p. 441]
For additional information
on Acadian architecture, check out the following printed publications.
The Nova Scotia Museum also has a page
homes. It includes Azor Vienneau paintings of the inside and
outside of an Acadian home.
1983: Excavations at a Pre-Expulsion Acadian Site. Curatorial
Report No. 48, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, 1984, by David J. Christianson.
Acadia: the Geography
of Early Nova Scotia to 1760. The University of Wisconsin Press,
Madison, 1968, by Andrew H. Clark.
The Melanson Settlement:
An Acadian Farming Community (ca. 1664-1755). Canadian Parks Service
Research Bulletin 250, 1986, by Andrée Crépeau and
The Acadians: Creation
of a People. The Frontenac Library No. 6. Mc-Graw-Hill Ryerson
Limited, Toronto, 1973 by Naomi Griffiths.
Scotia 1680-1755: Acadian Material Life and Economy. Curatorial
Report No. 65, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, 1988, by Marc C. Lavoie.
"La Culture Materielle
Traditionelle en Acadie". in: L'Acadie Des Maritimes, Université
de Moncton, Moncton, 1993, by Bernard Leblanc and Ronnie-Gilles Leblanc.