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Dendrochronology helps date a building by looking at the “cut dates” of the timbers used in its construction. The “cut date” is not necessarily the construction date, which could be a year or two later, depending on construction procedures. This is a particularly important distinction for the Ruggles-Munro house, as you will see.

Sampling results show that timbers for the basement and first floor of both the main house and ell were cut between 1816 and 1819. Timbers for the second floor of both the main house and ell were cut between 1823 and 1827 and those for the attic were cut between 1832 and 1833.

Timbers In 1818, the property belonged to John Robertson, and the deed notes there were buildings on the land when he purchased it. In 1826, the property was transferred to Lewis Bliss through bankruptcy proceedings. In 1829, Israel Ruggles became the proud owner.

So, now that we know the age of the timbers from the Ruggles-Munro house, do we assume that John Robertson knocked down the “dwellings” mentioned in his deed and built a new one-storey home around 1819? Did Halifax merchant Lewis Bliss add the second storey with its ballroom in 1827, only to sell the property two years later? Or did Israel Ruggles build the second storey in 1829 with “old” timber, only adding the attic when either his family or his fortunes expanded? Unless we find letters or other written documentation, we won’t ever know.

Timbers We did, however, uncover many clues during work on the house. We found evidence that it was constructed in the Georgian style, with five windows on the upper front storey, and four windows and a door on the lower front. We found dates - June and July 1873 - written in pencil on the back of the bay window mouldings in the ballroom, which lead us to believe that Walter Grey and his wife decided to renovate the house to their Victorian taste, replacing eight of the original front windows with bays. For whatever reason, they did not touch the interior of the ballroom, and it retained its mantelpiece and the original Georgian mouldings. These are still intact today.

We still have no idea why the front door is not centered in the downstairs hall, why the staircase, with its very old banister, seems to be pointed in the wrong direction, and why the ballroom has two doors of different sizes!

My thanks to the Annapolis Heritage Society and Mount Allison University for including the Ruggles-Munro House in their ongoing dendrochronology research of the buildings in and around Annapolis Royal.