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Encyclopedia of Acadian Life:
Acadian Architecture

     Homes were important to Acadians, since they spent about 60% of their time indoors. [Lebreton, Acadians 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)
     We don't 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 couldnít even tell which was the church, since it looked like a barn. 

by Claude Picard      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 in-between 
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]

     Gargas (in 1687/88) wrote the the houses were low and made of logs one atop the other.  The roofs were made of thatch.  The governorís home only was made of planks.  [Clark, p. 137]
        Menevalís 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 wasnít 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. 
     In the 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]
     Rameau, in his Une Colonie Feodale, 1, p. 95, says their houses were made of unsquared logs piled on top of each other; ďsome were based on heavy piles, driven in the ground, which were interlaced with branches and then plastered with mud.Ē  DíAulnayís and other well-to-do homes were made of large roughhewn timbers, laid down in tiers ... called pieces sur pieces.
     Speaking 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, Une ColonieFeodale, 1, p. 150]
     In looking at some detailed maps of the area in the early days, they seem to have had many small outbuildings instead of one large barn.

     In most 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. 
      By 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. 
      A typical roof was much like those in Europe, a thatch roof made of bark and reeds. 
      The 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)



     The Acadian 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.

     During and 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. [Father Anselme Chiasson, Cheticamp: histoire et traditions acadiennes, Montcon: Les aboiteaux, 1961, p. 46] 
     As time went by, sawmills were more common so board were used.  Stoves were used instead of fireplaces sometimes.  Homes began having more than one room. 

     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. 

     Some tools 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]
     Acadian 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. [Clarence Lebreton, Acadians in the Maritimes, p. 441]



For additional information on Acadian architecture, check out the following printed publications.
  •  Belleisle 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 Brenda Dunn.
  • The Acadians: Creation of a People. The Frontenac Library No. 6. Mc-Graw-Hill Ryerson Limited, Toronto, 1973 by Naomi Griffiths.
  • Belleisle, Nova 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.
The Nova Scotia Museum also has a page on Acadian homes.  It includes Azor Vienneau paintings of the inside and outside of an Acadian home.

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