The Victoriana Steeves Homestead is a sprawling one-and-a-half and two-storey Carpenter Gothic residence from the mid-19th century located on Pleasant Street in Hillsborough. Reverend John Hughes built this house in 1860 while he was minister of the Hillsborough Baptist Church.
The heritage value of the Victoriana Steeves Homestead Bed and Breakfast rests with the impact its second owners exerted on the mining industry throughout Atlantic Canada and for its architecture.
Captain James Blight Sr., (his title, ‘Captain’, is a Cornish term for, ‘contractor’), was a tin mine developer who emigrated from Cornwall, England to Boston, circa 1848. His American employer, Fowler and Co., transferred him to Hillsborough in 1845 to manage their gypsum quarries. In 1870, Rev. Hughes accepted another ministry and the Blight family acquired his house and made it their home for the following century.
Captain Blight became keenly interested in Albert County’s albertite deposits. However, the deposit at Albert Mines was very confined and already under heavy development. For ten years he prospected for a new rich vein, even employing a revolutionary tool, the diamond drill, but was unable to locate the mineral in sufficient amounts to warrant a mine. His coal mining interests bore more fruit. He located and developed the Dominion Coal Mines in Pictou, and the Fenwick mine in Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia.
James Blight Sr. died in 1890. His son, James Blight Jr., born in Hillsborough in 1856, followed in his father’s footsteps. Working with J. B. King Co., New York, he developed the gypsum quarries in Windsor, N.S. In 1890, he began developing a body of white plaster, or Plaster of Paris at Demoiselle Creek near Hillsborough. It was pure, hard and brilliant white enough to be used straight from the quarry to mould statues, figurines and pottery.
In 1920 the third generation of the Blight family moved to the fore. James S. Blight studied engineering at Mount Allison and McGill and became manager of the Albert Manufacturing Co. which, by that time, had taken over his father’s gypsum operation. George and Barry Blight were superintendents at the plaster mill. The family sold the house in 1969.
The Victoriana Steeves Homestead Bed and Breakfast is also recognized for being an excellent example of Carpenter Gothic residential architecture. When Rev. John Hughes built this house in 1860, he employed a style that was not only reflective of rural churches of the time, but was also widely used for presbyteries and other religious residences. The Carpenter Gothic style is expressed in such traditional elements as the steeply-pitched gable roof, the elaborate gingerbread trim and the steep cross-gables. The later one-and-a-half storey additions reflect the style and design of the original residence.
Since acquiring the property in 1971 the present owners have worked to restore the spirit of Rev. Hughes’ original flights of architectural fancy. The devotion they have applied to their task shines like a new coat of paint, but penetrates much deeper. Each of the 12 rooms reflects keen attention to historic detail and the grounds are groomed to perfection.
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