de Gannes-Cosby House, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
The de Gannes-Cosby House is located at 477 St. George Street, and is within the Annapolis Royal Historic District. The original house, constructed in 1708, is a rare surviving example of a pre-expulsion Acadian residence. Reflecting such characteristic attributes as wood frame, wattle-and-daub infill, and fieldstone foundation, it has been carefully restored. Many of its original interior and exterior features – including massive floor boards, beams, wall paneling, chimneys, and sections of wattle-and-daub infill – are intact. It was the home of two prominent and influential early military figures, Major Louis de Gannes de la Falaise and Major Alexander Cosby, who served as lieutenant-governor of the Fort and Town of Annapolis Royal. As such, the house bears witness to both French and British rule and illustrates the type of house built and lived in by the colonial officer class in the early years of the settlement.
Founded within Mi'kma'ki, the traditional territory of the Mi'kmaq, Annapolis Royal was once known as Port Royal and was the capital of the French colony of Acadia between 1605 and 1710. During this time, Port Royal was repeatedly besieged and captured as the French and British empires fought for supremacy in North America. The house was built in 1708 by Major Louis-Joseph de Gannes de Falaise, a French nobleman and officer with the garrison, who had arrived in Port Royal in 1701. It was reconstructed on the foundations of an earlier house which had been razed during the 1707 siege of Port Royal by the British. After the final capture of Port Royal by the British in 1710, de Gannes de Falaise returned to France and the house was forfeited to the British Crown. It later served as residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the Town and Fort, beginning with Major Alexander Cosby. Cosby and, after his death, his wife, lived in the house from 1727 until 1788.
Today, the de Gannes-Cosby House is a one-and-a-half-storey, rectangular building with an ell. The walls, which are of post and beam construction, were originally finished with clay wattle and daub. The house sits on a rubble foundation, and is clad with wooden clapboard. The house has a distinctive gambrel roof with two front side dormers topped with pediments (added in the 20th century). The ell, constructed circa 1870, features three gabled dormers with overhangs. It is intentionally painted a different, lighter colour to distinguish it from the main (1708) body of the house. The original house has a central hall plan with a full length parlour on the south side and two rooms on the north side. On the second floor there are three bedrooms (one large, on the south side and two smaller, on the north) and a modern bathroom. The rear addition has a formal dining room with summer kitchen and pantry on the main level with two bedrooms and a bath above.
In the years since 1788, the house was rented and then sold numerous times. Its current owners have spent years restoring the house and furnishing it with period pieces, and today the house's importance to the community is widely recognized.