The Old Court House Museum is located in one of the most scenic areas in Nova Scotia in the historic Shiretown of Guysborough at the head of beautiful Chedabucto Bay. The Museum has been preserved and restored by the Guysborough Historical Society and it retains the integrity of the original purpose of the public building. Since 1976 the Society has used the building to promote a better understanding of our cultural heritage and as an information centre for visitors to Guysborough County.
The Guysborough District Court House was constructed in 1842-43 in the “British Bulldog” style of architecture. During its 130 year history, the building served not only as a court house, but as a town hall, a venue for political debates such as Confederation, a polling station, a site for enlistment for duty during the World Wars, and even as an exhibition centre during agricultural fairs. In 1973 it was replaced by facilities within the newly-constructed Guysborough Municipal Building.
The architectural style of the building is typical of early court houses, few of which remain in Nova Scotia today. However, the old court house has several unique features including a projecting enclosed porch with a gable roof at the main entrance, and attractive windows arranged symmetrically around the building with their tracery pattern culminating in an unusual pointed arch. The building’s simple classic style and prominent site were chosen to reinforce its importance as the centre for justice and “to express the dignity and solemnity appropriate for the courts of law.”
The Old Court House was one of three buildings on the same site that performed civil and judicial functions in the Shiretown. The area that is now the parking lot for the Museum was home to a jail building and the Registry of Deeds Office. As seen in the photo, the building to the rear is the Court House, the jail is seen in the foreground at the corners of Church and Queen streets (Route 16), and the Registry of Deeds Office is the smaller building between the jail and the Court House. These two buildings were removed in 1975.
Numerous artefacts, which provide a glimpse of how people lived and made a living in the past, have been donated or loaned to the Museum by local residents. The Museum has a large quantity of tools and handcrafts collected from the Acadian and Black settlements in the area and other items on exhibit that emphasize Guysborough County’s long marine, agricultural and lumbering history.
Highlights of the Museum include a diorama of the three French forts built on nearby Fort Point peninsula between 1632 and 1684, small exhibits of local historical interest and displays of photographs and maps of early Guysborough.
Explore our collection online at Nova Muse
Fort Point 1634-1684
Guysborough’s Timber Trade
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Updated November 17, 2020