Green Hill Lookoff Pioneer Museum

1931

In early March 1931 Clifford Rose and A. D. Ross purchased 3 acres of land from Alex Thom Fraser on the top of Green Hill with the intention of making an attractive lookoff to promote the "scenic grandeur and natural magnificence" of the view from the hill top.

They erected a 65 foot steel tower with corner posts of 5-inch angles, with spiral-like stairways and 2 railed-in platforms from which sightseers could look over the County. To reach the tower you first had to pass through the canteen and pay a fee of .10 cents to climb the tower. Seventy-six steps led to the top. From the top the visitor could see no less than seven counties - Pictou Harbour, Northumberland Strait, Pictou Island, to the west and north the farms and fertile West River valley with Mount Thom and Dalhousie Mountain in the background. Turning around one could see Middle River settlements, Westville, Stellarton, New Glasgow, Trenton and Fraser's Mountain in the background in that direction. Further down the coast one could see Cape George and on a clear day Prince Edward Island, Sunny Brae, Cape Breton and Caribou Island were visible (Eastern Chronicle June 23, 1931 p.1 and Pictou Advocate, October 16, 1931). The tower was equipped with a telescope for better viewing and a chart was encased in glass on the top platform near the telescope.

A canteen was constructed at the foot of the tower where visitors could purchase post cards, souvenirs, ice cream, sandwiches, ginger ale, candies.and light refreshments. Mrs. Rose greeted visitors and managed the canteen. Seating and a screened in verandah were also available at the canteen.

A second platform on the grounds surrounded a flag staff. The Grand Opening took place on Wednesday, July 1st, 1931 at 2:00pm. A. M. Fraser (former Stipendiary Magistrate for the County) raised the flag, Warden Frank H. McNeil gave a speech, Hon. John Doull (Provincial Treasurer) gave an address and the Scotia Band from New Glasgow were in attendance. Remarks were also given by R.A. Douglas M.L.A. Thousands of people attended the opening and hundreds climbed the tower. Many stayed into the evening and enjoyed the attractive lighting arrangement that was installed and lit up the site.

Also at this time a new highway was being erected over the hill from the Truro highway to improve access to the "Look Off".

In the first season many distinguished visitors came to visit the Look Off and take in the splendor of the panoramic view. Including His Honor the Lieutenant Governor Frand Stanfield and party and also the Premier Hon. G. S. Harrington.

1932

Encouraged by the success of their endeavour the first year, Messrs. A. D. Ross and Cliff Rose in preparation for their second season erected a combination Dance Hall / dining room. The Eastern Chronicle May 19, 1932 also reports that "the management of the Green Hill Look Off ... have installed one of the most powerful sight-seeing telescopes in Canada on the tower...It can, on a clear day, show the farms of Prince Edward Island, and the rocky Gulf shore at Cape George, with a clearness never before obtainable." Picnic tables were made available for picnics and a large number attended the Grand Opening of the Green Hill Dancing Pavillion held Wednesday evening June 1, 1932 with the Peerless Players Orchestra providing the music. Dances were held regularly throughout the summer. The Eastern Chronicle advertises an old-fashioned square dance to be held on the evening of July 1st with a three-piece orchestra including John Willie MacDougall of Westville as fiddler and later reported that a wonderful crowd turned out - the music was spendid - Les McFadden "called off" and "the best of good order prevailed with an entire absence of intoxicants, as far as we could see." (Eastern Chronicle August 4, 1932).

1933

May 24th, 1933 marked the official opening of the Look Off for that year. The highlight of the 1933 season was the opening of the Pioneers' Museum - not as an "exhibition of antiques but as an attempt to show the industry of eastern Nova Scotia pioneers (Pictou Advocate May 18, 1933). "During the past year these enterprising fellows have dug into the historic past of Pictou County and unearthed many tokens of the past ...the implements and necessities of the pioneer life in Pictou. The treasures include many long abandoned farm implements such as plows, harrows, ox-yokes .. furnishings for the pioneer home.The old-time fire-place with its crane and cooking utensils, its skillets and andirons. An old-fashioned four-posted bed, a loom, spinning wheels, reels etc., an old-time side-saddle that was brought to Nova Scotia by a United Empire Loyalist family in the 18th century; an old-time racing sleigh with side doors, a stage coach. Pictures of old-time scenes and done by old-time artists. It is all a wonderful collection and should attract many people to this finely developed hill-top - the summit of Green Hill from which can be seen to splendid advantage one of the finest views in Nova Scotia" (Eastern Chronicle May 22, 1933 p.1). The popular dances were to continue with the opening dance to be held on the evening of May 24 - music once again supplied by the Peerless orchestra.

The Eastern Chronicle at this time also reports that the "view has become so enlarged that it is almost too extensive to take in, in one trip." (May 29, 1933 p.1)
The Pioneer Museum is further described in an article in the Eastern Chronicle July 10, 1933 as follows:

... first they built on this beauty spot a log building of ample proportions to house the spoils of solicitation. This building is unique, is well lighted, has a real fireplace, and on the outside of the large chimney is a legend in concrete telling of the museum. This structure has added greatly to the beautifying of the hilltop, and the colony of fine buildings the energetic men have set up there.
But it is within the building that one finds those things that are of continued interest. It is a conservative estimate to say that an antiquarian would value the collection at ten-thousand dollars. In its range, its antiquity and the size of the display, the observer is astounded. We would not attempt to enumerate the different articles there on exhibition, but will venture the statement that the collection is the most valuable one in Nova Scotia and tells of the early life in Nova Scotia more vividly than any other collection in the province....The Museum on Green Hill is the result of the efforts alone of Messrs. Ross and Rose and is greatly to their credit.
Any home Pictonian or any visiting tourist, who has failed to visit this exhibition has missed something of interest.

1934

The "Look Off" opened once again on May 24th, 1934. The museum is reported as being better than ever...with many new improvements to the attractions and additions to the museum "and the genial proprietors, Messrs. Cliff Rose and A.D. Ross have been polishing up their genial smiles to give you a hearty welcome.... next month new electric lights will be installed." (Eastern Chronicle May 24 & 31, 1934). A bear was added as an attraction during this season and the proprieters jokingly report that he "needs his hair combed" and since they are too busy, offer a prize to anyone who will comb the old hair out. (Eastern Chronicle July 24, 1934).

The "Look Off" was reported as not losing any of its popularity and attractiveness and that thousands visited the hill-top that year including British Prime Minister Hon. J. Ramsay Macdonald. He and his daughter Miss Ishbel Macdonald's names are signed in the Visitor's Register on July 31st. During their visit they "climbed the tower and spent some time in the museum, which greatly interested the Premier. He asked Messrs. Rose and Ross to purchase a relic of some sort and add it to the collection, leaving a sum for that purpose".(Eastern Chronicle August 2, 1934).

Labour Day saw a tremendous crowd gather on Green Hill for a New Glasgow Fireman's Gathering. Two Highland bands played, Scottish dancers performed, softball and other games were played all followed by a fireworks display. "Autos poured in for hours, and occupied every inch of space. It was a happy crowd... in fact a small circus, with Cliff's bear doing the animal act. The tower and the museum were well patronized and the dancing floor attracted the dance devotees well into the night." (Eastern Chronicle Sept. 4, 1934)

The 1934 season ended with a barn dance "Come with the Old-Timers in your overalls and your gingham gowns to the most popular dance in Pictou County...specially augmented orchestra with three fiddlers. Door prizes and vaudeville." (Eastern Chronicle Oct. 23, 1934). Later in the month the Eastern Chronicle also reported the acquisition of two new pioneer relics to the Museum. "One is an old two-wheel shay...such as our great-grandfathers...drove to church in...This shay has a curious spring arrangement. The riding box is suspended on heavy leather straps that are attached to two ash spring poles that are in turn attached to the shafts. The spring in the sticks furnished the bounce that enabled the laird and his wife to ride in comparative comfort over the gravel-less "Percy Black" highways of that day...The second relic ...is a farm waggon, built entirely of wood. The wheels are of solid wood as are the axles, but the curious thing is the wheels which are about two feet in diameter and cut from logs, and each wheel has a bearing surface of about fifteen inches. We imagine the waggon was drawn by oxen, as even though the long wooden axle was lubricated with bear's grease, it would be extremely heavy. (Oct.30, 1934)

1935

The Pioneer Museum saw the addition of a curling stone to the collection this year. The stone had been used by the Knights of the Broom in Antigonish and went through the ice on Sim's Lake about 100 years earlier. The Eastern Chronicle June 11, 1935 also reports that a young deer was added to the live stock collection vieying with the turtle and owl for attention and that the bear was much missed.

The July 16th issue of the Eastern Chronicle tells of "old documents among the new things exhibited. Two are treaties between the Indians and the British pledging peace and mutual support. The other is a ticket that was used on the old stage coach between Halifax and Pictou, ... issued one hundred years ago."

Labor Day once again saw the Scottish Gathering, hosted by the New Glasgow Firemen, held on Green Hill. More sporting events were added and "kilted Highland musicians" from Pictou, Colchester and Antigonish Counties took part.

A new bear was obtained from Anticosti Island "on the voyage last week of the S. S. Gaspesia...'He sure is a cute little fellow. He's bound to be a great attraction next summer." (Eastern Chronicle Oct. 22, 1935)

The Look Off closed in late October with a dance on Friday night which "those lucky enough to attend say was the best of the season" (Eastern Chronicle Oct. 29, 1935)

1936

A delightful outing was held at the Look Off in celebration of the King's Birthday. "The martial skirling of two Regimental Pipe Bands, the Pictou and Cumberland Highlanders... was enjoyed by all. The vaudeville team of Nicholson and Greene were given ovations of applause...an exhibition of Highland dancing was given... Supper was served by the Rebbekah Sisters of the Independent Order of Oddfellows. The Green Hill Museum and look off tower, midway concessions and amusements and dancing that lasted until the morning hours with music by the Roxy Orchestra were all freely patronized." (Eastern Chronicle June 25, 1936)

Relics of the voyage of the missionary ship "Dayspring" were added to the Museum at this time. "Spears, bows, and arrows, native articles of clothing, including a hula skirt, shells, stones for sling shots, stereoptican pictures of the first voyage taken on board the ship and other objects of interest." (Eastern Chronicle August 20, 1936)

In September of this year the Alma Green Hill Women's Institute catered the Firemen's picnic at the Look Off. Cost of the lunch was 25cents.

The Eastern Chronicle Tuesday September 1, 1936 reports the death of A. D. Ross.

The Look Off closed for the season on October 30th with a barn dance and bonfire. People were invited to come in costume with prizes for the best. Music was provided by the Roxy Orchestra.

1937

The Eastern Chronicle reports the addition of a fireman's trumpet and a piece of rail and chain from the original track of the Albion railway (first opened in 1836 connecting the collieries with the shipping pier in Abercrombie) Eastern Chronicle June 8, 1937.

Throughout this season the 85th Battalion and the famous 85th Band held their annual gathering as well as the Pictou County Alumni of Dalhousie University held a picnic at the top of Green Hill. Eastern Chronicle July 29, 1937

1938

The Look-Off opened Tuesday, May 24th with a Grand Opening Dance. Music once again provided by the Roxy Orchestra. Another bear was added to the Green Hill Look-Off "zoo". This one from Stewiacke. A "chum" for the one from Anticosti Island. The Eastern Chronicle May 24, 1938 reports "thousands who enjoy visiting the unique development of Pioneer Museum and summer attractions."

The New Glasgow Firemen handled the Scotch gathering held in September. Fun and games were held and & great crowds" gathered Eastern Chronicle, Sept. 6, 1938. As well the 85th Battalion once again held it's reunion at the Look-Off. Former commander of the Battalion, Col J. L. Ralston gave an "elequent address" and the 85th Band played and paraded the grounds.

Cliff Rose threatens to close the museum and tower because an "order had come to him from Halifax" to impose "an amusement tax ... upon all who entered the museum or climbed the tower". "Mr. Rose does pay a tax on the dance hall admittances, but to the tower where people can get a real view of this grand old County and to the Pioneer Museum, they surely are not due for individual taxation" (Eastern Chronicle August 2, 1938

1939

A "totem pole" was set up this season in the middle of the grounds. It was a shaft of white pine made from wood cut on the old Rose farm on Little Harbor Road and "makes a very fine addition to his highly deceloped amusement park" Eastern Chronicle, July 11, 1939

In August of 1939 the Eastern Chronicle reports that Rose is putting the amusement park on the market. The "difficulty is that our own people do not appreciate it and make the place the trysting spot is should be." The Pioneer Museum is filled with relics of pioneer life in Pictou County and "has a difficulty that the building is too small. Mr. Rose has many things he is unable to put on display." His dance hall and other entertainments are excellent...however... the people of Pictou County have forgotten the developement...Mr. Rose sees his foresight, his nine years of labour, his research, his wonderful collection jeopardized because of the lack of Picotu County support." (Eastern Chronicle August 15, 1939).

The "Great Scottish Gathering" was held on Labor Day with the 85th Band once again in attendance as well as pipers galore, sporting events, chopping and wood-sawing events, a rolling pin throwing contest for the ladies, a dance and the Coronation Orchestra. Fun for everyone. Admission 10cents. (Eastern Chronicle August 29, 1938)

1940

August 10th the 85th Battalion Memory Club held it's re-union at the Look-Off. The Rebekahs of Stellarton had charge of the catering. The public was invited to participate in the festivities to honour the Battalion.

Tourists Edward G. Bunyan and his brother Charles H. Bunyan from Concord, New Hampshire visited the Museum with the purpose of identifying the builder of the Concord Stagecoach. Their father John had been the coach painter for the firm Abbott-Downey Co. of Concord. After removing the red plush on the door the name Charles Wiggins was revealed written in red chalk. Wiggins was listed in the records of the 1850 directory of the Abbot-Downey Co. (Eastern Chronicle, July 9, 1940)

Mention is made in the same article about the dull weather and war conditions affecting the tourist trade at the Look-Off.

1942

Hand made laths from the Bell property on George Street New Glasgow were added to the Green Hill Museum collection. (Eastern Chronicle, March 5, 1942).

1957

Day long farmer's picnic which attracted over 500 farmers, their wives and children was held on August 14. This is reported as being an annual event put on by the Pictou County North Colchester Federation of Agriculture. Events of the day included a Garden Club demonstration, visits to Albert Christiansen's farm, Calf Club members vistied Henry Anderson and Sons farm to see hogs and Ayrshires, an Ayrshire judging class, dress making demonstration, dinner and supper were provided by farmer's wives, foot races, bag race, barrel race, rolling pin throw (won by Mrs. Lloyd MacLean of Durham), egg toss, square dancing demonstration, tug of war (won by a Scotsburn team), ball game (won by Seafoam), preformances by the Ceilidh Girls' Pipe Band and Pipe Major Fraser Holmes and a Jamboree dance beginning at 9pm with music provided by the Royal Swingsters. (Eastern Chronicle August 15, 1957).

1958

The Free Lance, July 24, 1958 reported more than a thousand gathered to hear remarks from County member H. Russell MacEwan at the annual "Tory Picnic" held on the Look-Off grounds. Races were held for the younger crowd and the Ceilidh Pipe Band performed.

The following letter written by a Cape Breton tourist about her visit to the Green Hill Look-Off appeared inThe Free Lance, July 24, 1958 and was originally appeared in the Cape Breton Post ...

"we turned our car onto the long narrow upgrade that led to Green Hill. The climb itself was well worth the trip. Along the left and looking downward was a masterpiece of Mother Nature's Art - a landscape done in natural colors on the canvas of Nova Scotia. We stopped for a while to enjoy the view.
Wooden Swan
The first thing that caught our eye as we entered the Green Hill porperty was a wooden swan which stood by the side of a pleasnat looking pond. A little further on was an ample picnic field with wooden tables and benches scattered here and there. Above this and beyond were several buildings, including a fun house, a dance hall, a store, a museum and a look-off tower. On one of the buildings we saw a sign -"Welcome to Green Hill, the grandest panorama in the Maritimes."
We parked our car in a spot set aside for the purpose and began to explore the grounds. Other cars were parked near us and several people were busy taking in the various attractions that Green Hill has to offer.
My husband and I stood with the children near the edge of a steep grass-covered hill and looked down at the lovely farms which formed a patchwork quilt so far below us. And then slowly and somewhat shakily, we began to climb the high and impressive tower for which Green Hill is justly famous. Our efforts were well rewared and we knew that here indeed was truly the grandest panorama in the Maritimes. Here, in one breathless, never-to-be-forgotten moment was spread before our eyes the magnificent beauty of the places we held so dear - Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island and the mainland of Nova Scotia.
Museum
We descended the tower and left the present day Maritime beauty to go back into the Maritime life of yesteryear - the life of the pioneer. Green Hill, here the life of the Scottish pioneer is preserved and cherished. Articles at the museum go back even to the landing of the "Hector" . There's an old iron pot, for instance, which was taken over from Scotland on the "Hector", and an old porridge ladle which also travelled on the famous "Hector". There are rugged wooden tools of pioneer life - rugged, yet durable and worthy, like the men who used them. Nor is the pioneer woman forgotten, for the tools of her trade are here also - the butter churns and spinning wheels and kitchen utensils. Even the pioneer baby is here - sleeping soundly in his little cradle, in the centre of the pioneer bedroom. And over the huge stone fireplace is the old pioneer motto - "What is a Home without a Baby?".
Besides the story of the pioneer, which is the main feature of the museum, there are other interesting stories depicted by various articles. There is the story of Anne Swan, for instance, that famous Nova Scotian giantess whose shoe is prominently displayed. There's a story of many a bonny Scottish evening, depicted in the two-handed drinking cup from the heart of the Highlands. There's a story of bravery and possible tragedy in the ancient musket used by the Scotch settlers of Cape North.There's a story of devotion told by the old Gaelic Bible. And the early attempts at education are shown in some of the old books at the museum.
Yes, there are many stories at the Pioneer Museum - stories that cannot yet be found within the pages of a book but must be searched for by the visitor within the walls of the museum. And when one reads these many unwritten stories, one comes out of the museum with a deeper respect and appreciation of the Scottish pioneer, who laid for us the foundations of the very life that is ours today.
I chatted for a while with the congenial mistress of Green Hill - Mrs. Clifford Rose. She showed me the visitors' book, which holds the names of the many tourists who come daily to Green Hill. And then she told me that Green Hill was for sale. "It needs a younger couple", she said, "A younger couple?" I thought of myself and the better half "Someone to help with the work?" I thought of those husky lads of ours - porridge fed and filled with pep. But alas, we had not the wherewithall to purchase such a magnificent setting of beauty and history.
Reluctantly we said goodbye to Mrs. Rose and Green Hill. It was getting late and the Bay was a long way off. We would have camped there overnight as many tourists often do, but clouds of rain were looming overhead, urging us on.
"But we'll be back again someday, we told ourselves. And we found ourselves hoping that the future owner of Green Hill, whoever he may be, will keep it open for the enjoyment of folks like you and me, just as the Roses have always done."

The member of the Legislature for Pictou West, Harvey A. Veniot, Q.C., proposes in the house that the government take over the lookoff. (Pictou Advocate August 20, 1959)

1959

The Free Lance August 8, 1959 reports that Cliff Rose told the news he is breaking up the Museum. "I'm nearly 71 and it's time I quit" He hadn't been able to find a buyer either private like himself or government. So he asks all who lent him old pioneer pieces to come and claim them - those unclaimed will be auctioned off by K. Y. Parker on the Look-Off grounds on August 19th. Rose had "built the museum, a solid log structure, the adjacent canteen, the tower which had done double duty as a fire spotting centre, the dance hall, funhouse and he carved a totem pole and several big wooden animals and birds as attractions. The business had its ups and downs over the years, local dances and events supplementing the income in the poor tourist months. The place was highly rated by government publication to tourists but he was left to finance the effort himself."

The Pictou Advocate August 6 and August 13, 1959 advertises the upcoming auction of over 500 relics from the Green Hill Pioneer Museum to be auctioned off on Wednesday August 19th.

The Pictou Advocate August 20, 1959 reports that "Government Buys Green Hill Lookoff". The offer by the Province of Nova Scotia for the Green Hill Look-Off and Museum had been accepted by the owner and the auction had been cancelled. The Museum closed on this day and remained closed until "the curators of the Citadel Hill museum in Halifax arrive to take an inventory". (The Free Lance August 20, 1959) Cliff Rose also commented in the same article that the steel tower was in good shape but repairs were needed on the wooden part of it and repairs were also need in the log cabin type museum. The Premier was quoted as saying "no definite plans had been made for the property or the museum but that future disposition would at least in part depend on willingness of a responsible Pictou County group to take an active interest in operating an historical museum."

The Pictou Advocate October 1, 1959 article states that the Museum was intact with the exception of a few articles to which donors had legal claim and that an inventory of the remaining Pioneer Museum contents had been made and everything was sealed pending a government decision on the operation of the resort. The Rotary Club had been one of the organizations which approached the government with a view to saving the place from public auction and was now expected to make recommendations regarding its future. The Pictou Advocate October8, 1959 reports Robert Kennedy of the Department of Education at a Rotary Club meeting suggesting retaining the Look-Off as a commercial venture and moving the Museum articles to a county museum.

1960

Green Hill Look-off was temporarily leased by Major Harold Long and was re-opened by him privately during the season. (Pictou Advocate July 14, 1960). Major Long opened the museum and tower, operated the canteen and made the dancehall available for weekly dances. The Pioneer Museum however was under the auspices of the provincial archives department and was operated by them. Extra antiques were brought in and under the direction of Don Crowdis, it was set up as a pioneer home. Major Long hoped to work with Mr. Crowdis and set up an industrial display "something of the nature of a Pictou County industrial museum and display ... There should be added things from the mining towns, shipbuilding, steel from Trenton and glass from that town, items from Pictou and New Glasgow, and something on railroading where we were another first."

Early 1960's

The Look-Off grounds became a picnic park. Contents of the Museum were moved to Halifax and to various Museum locations throughout the province and the remaining pieces fell into the possession of the Pictou County Historical Society's Museum - Carmichael Stewart House Museum located in New Glasgow. "This institution was set up on Temperance Street, in a building, a former Carmichael home, bequeathed for the purpose in the early 1960's by Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Stewart. " (Cameron, James M. Pictou County's History. New Glasgow, N.S. : Pictou County Historical Society, c1972 p. 247, 248).

The buildings on site were removed and the observation tower was replaced by a steel fire tower. The fire tower remained in service as a forest fire watching point and remained operational until the 1990's.

1984

February 16th, Green Hill Provincial Park was formally designated under Section 8 of the Nova Scotia Provincial Parks Act.

2016

Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources prepares a management plan for the Green Hill Provincial Park. See the Green Hill Provincial Park Planning Process Terms of Reference. Visit Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources for more information.