The mystique of the Curry Mansion
BY CLARE CHRISTIE
The Curry Mansion lives on. The fabulous large white house on the Tidnish shore with its formal flower garden, boat house for its 85 foot yacht, and provisioning farm have been gone for decades but people still treasure items from the house and stories continue to be recounted.
The estate was constructed about 1905 by Nathaniel Curry, President of Rhodes-Curry, the construction company. Mr. Curry was Mayor of Amherst in 1894 and appointed a Canadian Senator in 1912. He served until his death in 1931 although he had a stroke after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
In 1997, 90-year old George Brundage of Tidnish was written up in The Citizen after talking to the students of Northport Elementary School. It was his grandfather who cut and milled the wood to build the Mansion. (It was George himself who tore it down, probably in the late 1940s.)
At a time previous to electricity, water was piped downhill approximately three miles from a spring. Reg Weeks wrote “8 inch piping…got smaller as it got closer to the house (also large barn) creating enough pressure to give running water on all storeys of the house. An elephant was used in laying the larger pipe”.
One of the features of the estate that most fascinated local people was the swimming pool that jutted out into the Northumberland Strait. At high tide the swimming pool would fill with salt water which was prevented from draining out as the tide fell.
Thank you to Faye Webb Pike for identifying her cousin, Donna Smith, as the author who wrote lyrically: this seemed like a luxury above all luxuries. But it never assumed the trappings of needless luxury in my mind. I have always thought of it as a wise investment; that solitary, private spot where one could bathe in the salt ocean, hear the sounds of the wind in the trees on the shore, hear the lapping of the water close by, smell the salt air, and refresh one’s soul and do it whenever one wanted to.
Donna’s account, and pictures, may be accessed at schools.ccrsb.ednet.ns.ca/ncon/nces/currymansion.htm. Google McCully photographs, Tidnish, to see a 1931 aerial photo of the estate.
Donna and Faye’s grandparents managed the Curry farm. Her grandmother’s loyalty to the Currys was still evident in the 1940s when the house was no longer being used. It was at this time that Donna toured the mansion as a young person.
In a video taken about 2007 by his hosts, Roy and Sharman Smith, Dr. Hugh Christie (now deceased) related to a group of Tidnish cottagers the history of their cottages. Included in the account is his recollection of dumping crabs in the swimming pool. In the same video, Ruth Trenholm (also now deceased) reminisces about her annual invitation to the Mansion when the Curry grandchildren were visiting. She and other local girls were invited to swim and then to go inside the Mansion to be served sandwiches. If the boys had been included, would there have been a crab problem?
Thank you to Jim Milner for many of the leads to this information.
The 85 foot yacht, the Milicete, had two gasoline engines, only drew four feet of water and so could transport Senator Curry back and forth to Ottawa, including up the Rideau Canal. It flew a swastika, the native symbol for good luck that was later appropriated by Germany.
Donna Smith recounts her aunts’ memories: By the time we were there exploring, the boat house was gone but it was not difficult to imagine the scene described by the sisters: the yacht coming towards shore, the hired help waiting to winch it up and out of the water to rest safely undercover until needed again. Railway tracks were laid on the shore to assist in moving the yacht on its wheeled trestle.
There was also a sailboat, the VELIR, named after the five Curry sons, all born in the 1880s: Victor, Eric, Leon, Ivan and Rene.
Thank you to Ray Dixon who presently lives on part of the property and who presented an informative slide show to the Tantramar Seniors’ College in February.
An auction was held before the mansion was torn down. Our family acquired a polar bear rug that three generations of young children have been fascinated by. At first we are scared by the snarling mouth, even though toothless as the years have passed, and later we want our pictures taken on it.
This is such a small part of the story. Please look at the pictures.
A Good Place: A Season in a Cottage Community, my first novel, is being launched on Monday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Tidnish Community Centre. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
A Good Place, reprints of two Amherst Shore anthologies previously only given as gifts, and my three booklets are available at the Train Station Gallery at the Curling Club, the Cumberland County Museum, the YMCA, and at Flying Colours in Maccan.
Clare Christie is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.