AMHERST – Have you ever looked at the third story windows in some of Amherst’s Victorian era homes? Leslie Childs has.
“It’s something I’m fascinated by, looking at the intricate design of those windows,” said Childs, who is a member of the Amherst Heritage Trust. “They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are stained glass and some come in semi-circles while others are circles.”
Several months ago, Childs started collecting photographs of some of Amherst’s heritage homes and other buildings for an inventory she will hopes will provide information for people on the town’s architectural heritage.
“I want to collect as much information on all these wonderful houses,” Childs said. “Many people walk by them every day and don’t give it a second thought. Every home has a story to tell and I’m hoping the community will help me tell this story.”
Childs said she got the idea from the Nova Scotia Heritage Trust’s travelling exhibit Witnesses to a New Nation that helped celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with 150 large captioned photos of Nova Scotia’s heritage buildings that were standing when Confederation brought Canada together in 1867.
“As I began to look at the show and the photographs I started to think this is preaching the converted,” she said. “Because it was from away, though, I thought the audience would be small. I asked myself how could I make it more meaningful for people here.”
This past summer, went around the community taking photographs of approximately 160 homes of all shapes and sizes. Some were built during Amherst’s heyday in the late 1800s while others were erected in the early 1900s prior to the First World War.
From the first time she laid the photos out, during the Witnesses to a New Nation exhibit in July, Childs is continuing to collect information.
While there’s lots of information out there on many of Amherst’s heritage homes, but there’s no central repository that people can go to. She understands some information has been lost, but she’s asking community to provide any information they can on each home, such as who built it, who lived there and anything newsworthy that’s worth sharing with others.
“I'm finding, in some cases, that the owners know quite a bit about their homes, but in other cases I’m finding they don’t know very much. It’s like it’s been lost to history,” she said.
She feels if people begin to appreciate the town’s built heritage and have a connection to it, there’s less of a chance the town will lose some of those buildings that played a key part in Amherst’s history.
Along with the inventory project, she has also organized a series of downtown walking tours.
As a member of the heritage trust, she spoke out against the demolition of the former BMO building in the downtown last year.
She’s hoping to eventually showcase the photos she has collected onto the Amherst Heritage Trust’s Facebook page and she hopes to sometime have separate website for the photos with information on each home.
She also wants to create a brochure featuring the homes.
“That way, if someone comes along and is doing research or wants to know more about a certain home or a collection of homes they can come to a website and find what they need,” she said.
If anyone has information on Amherst’s heritage homes they’d like to share, they can contact Childs at firstname.lastname@example.org .