SAINT ANDREWS – Nikki MacFarlane and David Peterson are co-owners of Niger Reef tea house in Saint Andrews. In the 1990s, to save the building from demolition, the St. Andrews Civic Trust purchased the property. They eventually sold it to the town, who after a while leased the tea house to the present owners, who were eventually given the option to buy the property. Now its current owners have won a St. Andrews Civic Trust Heritage Award, which Peterson thought was “Pretty cool.
“We love being part of the historical preservation of the town,” says MacFarlane.
The two had recently put a new cedar shingle roof on the 1926 tea house, in keeping with the historic aesthetic.
“We want to maintain the integrity of the building,” says MacFarlane. She speaks of the upkeep of an older building, saying she’s getting “pretty good,” at applying oakum, traditionally twisted hemp soaked in tar, between the unpeeled logs of the building. “I’ve learned a new skill,” she laughs.
While the exterior the Niger Reef tea house is special, it is the murals inside that put this waterside property on the historic map. “Florence Ayscough built the tea house,” says MacFarlane. “One of her artists friends, Lucille Douglas did the murals. She was a fairly well-known artist, and these are the only murals she is known to have done.”
The murals have an oriental influence, perhaps echoing Ayscough’s childhood in China and her cultural area of expertise.
“When people come in, they think it’s wallpaper,” MacFarlane says. “But when they hear the story they’re really engaged.”
The heritage awards are intended to acknowledge, celebrate, and promote architectural heritage in the community. The St. Andrews Civic Trust website says one organizational goal is “Work that which assists in preserving, restoring, building, or maintaining buildings, structures, and sites for historical and cultural purposes.”
There has been no shortage of nominees since the civic trust was formed in 1973.
“We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historic architecture,” trust President Barry Murray says. He points out that some of the first houses arrived with the Loyalist settlers who disassembled their homes and floated them from Castine, ME, to Saint Andrews in 1783.
Murray is very proud of heritage quality of the town plat. The area has been designated a Historic District National Historic Site by Parks Canada, whose website remarks Saint Andrews is “…a fine and rare surviving example of a Canadian town whose plan and character clearly reflect its 18th-century origins.”
In addition to annually awarding five owners with a Heritage Trust citation, the trust carries out other projects. The trust has directly preserved some buildings, such as the aforementioned Niger Reef tea house and the Pendlebury Lighthouse at the end of Patrick Street. “But that’s doing business the hard way,” Murray says.
He prefers to assist newcomers to town, or those who already own heritage properties, by providing them with information and images when possible.
The trust itself recently won an award of distinction from the board of the Association Heritage New Brunswick in October 2021. The trust newsletter states the award was received for the organization’s “commitment to preserving, protecting and promoting the history and built heritage of Saint Andrews.”