Hello From Nova Scotia Part 11 The Mackinnon Cann Inn Where Home And Garden Television Meets The Travel Channel

I had spent a​ wonderfully rejuvenating night wrapped up in​ the​ soft high-thread-count sheets and comforters of​ my temporary home at​ the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn in​ Yarmouth. After an​ exciting drive down the​ Evangeline Trail yesterday that included a​ very informative tour of​ the​ Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre,​ followed up by an​ early-evening walking tour to​ admire Yarmouth’s Victorian heritage areas,​ I had definitely needed a​ good rest. But a​ new day had broken and I was ready for more adventures.

First on​ the​ plan was of​ course breakfast,​ so I got myself ready and walked downstairs into the​ tastefully decorated dining area of​ the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn. Neil Hisgen,​ one of​ the​ co-owners,​ was working in​ the​ kitchen to​ prepare breakfast and occasionally dropped by to​ see how the​ guests were doing. I caught him for about ten minutes to​ find out more about this property and his own personal background.

Neil is​ originally from Racine,​ Wisconsin,​ and hails from a​ family with six children. He spent six years in​ the​ navy following which he briefly returned home,​ only to​ move to​ Fort Lauderdale in​ Florida where he started his hospitality career. He started working at​ the​ front desk at​ the​ Marriott Hotel and for the​ next 18 years worked in​ various hotels and restaurants,​ gaining experience at​ the​ front desk and in​ the​ kitchen. He capped his employed career after 15 years with a​ general manager’s position of​ a​ major hotel.

Neil met his business and life partner Michael Tavares at​ the​ end of​ 1997. Neil had made a​ good return on​ the​ sale of​ his first house and decided to​ invest it​ in​ a​ bed and breakfast. at​ the​ time Michael owned a​ 200-acre property on​ a​ peninsula near Yarmouth which they used as​ a​ vacation home. Michael had invited him to​ spend about a​ month at​ his farm near Yarmouth and Neil loved it. Being from the​ mid-west,​ he had always enjoyed the​ change of​ the​ seasons.

Neil and Michael were thinking about what they wanted to​ do and decided they were ready for a​ change,​ so they went ahead and opened a​ bed and breakfast in​ Yarmouth,​ Nova Scotia where there was a​ beautiful Victorian residential district waiting for them with many restoration opportunities. at​ this point Neil unfortunately had to​ go back in​ the​ kitchen to​ continue working,​ but Michael,​ his co-owner,​ joined me at​ my table to​ give me a​ more in-depth overview of​ their projects and his own life story.

Michael is​ originally from Boston and grew up in​ the​ southern part of​ the​ city. During college he majored in​ education,​ but after school he went into real estate and started his own brokerage firm. He was always fascinated by old buildings and illustrates this with a​ story from his childhood: at​ 12 or​ 13 years of​ age there was an​ old farm house nearby,​ and Michael always wondered who had owned it​ and lived there. So he talked to​ his mother about it​ and she took him to​ the​ land registry office to​ do a​ title search,​ obtaining a​ record of​ all previous owners of​ the​ property.

With these documents in​ hand he approached the​ current owners and gave them the​ historic ownership records of​ the​ property. They absolutely loved it,​ and from that point forward Michael was hooked on​ the​ mystique of​ historic properties. in​ his words,​ he loves to​ “peel back the​ layers of​ time” and started to​ buy and restore his own historic buildings. Over several years he completed eight restoration projects in​ the​ south end of​ Boston.

After Boston he moved to​ Key West and became a​ tropical landscape architect. He spent five or​ six years living and working in​ Key West,​ completing many garden design projects for the​ local gay community. in​ the​ 1980s he finally bought a​ 200 acre farm as​ a​ vacation property in​ Nova Scotia together with several friends. This was when his love affair with Yarmouth began. Michael moved his permanent residence from Key West to​ Fort Lauderdale where he met Neil in​ 1997 at​ a​ fundraising event. They lived together for a​ year and Neil helped Michael in​ his landscaping business. in​ the​ summer of​ 1998 Michael invited Neil to​ his property in​ Nova Scotia because he wanted Neil to​ share this part of​ his life. So for the​ last eight years Neil and Michael have been residing in​ Nova Scotia. Their first Yarmouth property was a​ run-down Victorian brick mansion which they lovingly restored in​ 1999 and turned into the​ present Charles C. Richards House,​ a​ historic bed and breakfast with three guest bedrooms decorated in​ the​ 1930’s Art Deco Period. Each room at​ the​ Charles C. Richards House features a​ private bath,​ cable TV with DVD players and period furnishings.

The MacKinnon-Cann Inn where I was staying was built in​ 1887 and is​ an​ example of​ the​ Italianate Victorian style. the​ house was built as​ a​ duplex for two female cousins,​ and to​ this day the​ inn features two staircases side by side. Michael and Neil rescued the​ property in​ 2000 and took it​ from a​ condemned state to​ the​ stunning mansion that it​ is​ today. All seven guest rooms are uniquely decorated in​ a​ style reflecting a​ different 20th century decade,​ from the​ 1900s to​ the​ 1960s. the​ main floor features five lavish parlours and Michael pointed out the​ beautiful patterned wood floor that was installed at​ great expense throughout the​ dining area. Neil is​ a​ talented glass artist,​ and many stained glass windows throughout the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn and the​ Charles C. Richards House feature Neil’s artwork.

Michael explained that he is​ very active in​ Nova Scotia’s heritage community and mentioned that he is​ a​ member of​ two historic organizations: he serves on​ the​ Board of​ Directors of​ the​ Heritage Trust of​ Nova Scotia whose mission it​ is​ to​ preserve and protect the​ heritage properties in​ the​ province. Both the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn and the​ Charles C. Richards House are provincially registered heritage properties. Michael is​ also a​ member of​ the​ Provincial Heritage Owners Association of​ Nova Scotia which encompasses 265 provincial heritage properties. Both inns have won several awards,​ including the​ 2018 Restoration Award from the​ Yarmouth County Historical Society and the​ L.B. Jenson Award as​ a​ contribution to​ the​ development and economic health of​ the​ Yarmouth Heritage Community.

In addition to​ the​ two inns,​ Michael is​ also currently renovating the​ property right next door to​ the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn,​ another Victorian heritage property which he is​ thinking of​ turning into a​ restaurant that will serve the​ tourists and local community of​ Yarmouth. the​ fourth recently renovated property owned by Michael and Neil is​ a​ blue-coloured Victorian heritage property located right between the​ MacKinnon-Cann Inn and the​ Charles C. Richards House. in​ essence,​ Michael and Neil have single-handedly transformed an​ entire street block,​ rescued four historic properties and turned them into stunning examples of​ architectural revival.

As an​ astute tourism marketer,​ Michael Tavares is​ also the​ President of​ the​ Nova Scotia Association of​ Unique Country Inns,​ a​ collective marketing and branding group that promotes upscale heritage tourism in​ unique historic properties. Michael is​ generally responsible for the​ inn’s marketing while Neil’s responsibilities focus more on​ hospitality and innkeeping.

Michael’s restoration mindset is​ based on​ a​ commitment to​ the​ preservation of​ buildings and a​ respect for the​ historical integrity of​ the​ property. He approaches his projects with a​ certain humility which he says many renovators today are missing since they are only looking for the​ highest return on​ investment. He is​ a​ strong believer that the​ cultural renaissance and economic revival of​ a​ town begins with heritage restoration and then trickles down to​ Main Street.

At the​ same time he also recognizes the​ need for protecting his investments,​ and as​ a​ member of​ the​ local Yarmouth Town Planning Council he has a​ chance to​ participate in​ shaping the​ future of​ this town. Michael and Neil have invested hundreds of​ thousands of​ dollars and countless thousands of​ hours in​ their heritage properties and business ventures. Their efforts make a​ significant contribution to​ the​ economic well-being of​ the​ town.

The beginning was not easy since Michael was an​ outsider with new ideas in​ a​ town with long-standing traditions and established power structures. He was the​ new kid on​ the​ block. in​ addition,​ it​ took some time to​ gain acceptance,​ particularly as​ a​ gay couple in​ a​ rather conservative community. Conflict arose originally since Michael was also very outspoken and questioned the​ old ways of​ doing things.

However,​ his commitment to​ the​ community became evident in​ his renovation projects. Michael would call together all the​ contractors for each project,​ such as​ electricians,​ plumbers,​ carpet layers,​ etc. and told them that he would deal exclusively with them as​ local merchants instead of​ choosing a​ big box home renovation store as​ his main supplier. This commitment to​ local merchants has earned him a​ lot of​ respect and goodwill in​ the​ surrounding community,​ and today many people call him for his opinion before a​ debate of​ important issues that will affect the​ town.

After I completed my delicious fruit salad and omelet breakfast,​ Michael took me on​ a​ tour of​ all four properties. We started off with the​ smaller Victorian house currently under renovation where the​ entire first floor has currently been stripped down to​ the​ bare walls. as​ with his other projects,​ Michael is​ going to​ do the​ vast majority of​ the​ project himself and will call in​ specialized contractors only where needed. He is​ one of​ those people who have that special gift of​ spotting a​ diamond in​ the​ rough and taking it​ from a​ derelict hovel in​ danger of​ collapsing to​ a​ stunningly updated and stylish historic jewel with all modern conveniences.

We then went over to​ the​ recently restored blue Victorian mansion that was renovated by the​ previous owners according to​ Michael’s recommendations since Michael and Neil were going to​ purchase the​ property. We capped the​ visit off with the​ Charles C. Richards House,​ a​ stunning Victorian brick mansion with gorgeous architectural details,​ built for a​ wealthy local businessman. it​ was started in​ 1893 and took two years to​ finish and was the​ first brick house of​ this class to​ be built in​ Yarmouth. Most of​ the​ special building materials,​ i.e. the​ brownstone,​ granite and brick,​ were imported from the​ United States and make this house unique. Michael told me that it​ took him a​ whole season to​ strip the​ many layers of​ paint on​ the​ ornately carved porch and 32 weeks to​ repaint it,​ using eleven different colours.

I admired the​ wonderful details and stylish décor of​ the​ various rooms,​ including the​ flower-filled conservatory. Michael and Neil posed for me in​ front of​ the​ intricately carved wooden staircase that leads to​ the​ upstairs bedroom and this was the​ fitting ending for my introduction to​ architectural preservation and heritage tourism in​ Yarmouth. I thanked them both for their welcoming hospitality and got ready for my next item on​ the​ itinerary: an​ exploration of​ Yarmouth history at​ the​ Yarmouth County Historical Museum,​ located right across the​ street from the​ Charles C. Richards House.

For the​ entire article including photos please visit
Hello From Nova Scotia Part 11 The Mackinnon Cann Inn Where Home And Garden Television Meets The Travel Channel Hello From Nova Scotia Part 11 The Mackinnon Cann Inn Where Home And
Garden Television Meets The Travel Channel Reviewed by Henda Yesti on July 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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