The Kentville Agricultural Centre (or the Research Station as it is commonly known) was the largest Dominion Experimental Station east of the St. Lawrence, and is located on the south side of Main Street, one mile east of the centre of Kentville. It was established through the efforts of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association, and was first proposed in 1895.
In 1910, two hundred and fifty acres of land were purchased by the Province (for the Station). In 1911 the property was taken over by the Federal Government and constitutes a part of the present Station property. During the winter of 1911 and 1912, lumbering operations were carried on and much lumber for the dairy barn and the Superintendent’s house (now Blair House Museum) was milled at Margeson’s Mill on Mill Brook.
The total area in 1923 was four hundred seventy-three acres, a large part fell within the boundary of Kentville with an entrance to the property on Main Street. This Experimental Farm was originally intended to be a horticultural, and more particularly, a fruit research station.
In 1918, insecticide and fungicide research resulted in the development of “Bordeaux Dust”, which was soon used all over the world. The Plant Pathology Division was established in 1924, a Chemistry Lab was established in 1937, and an Entomology Lab was established in 1951.
The sign at the entrance to the Station proclaimed that it was the “Dominion Experimental Farm”, but in 1959, with the amalgamation of the Experimental Farm Service and Science Services, the name was changed to the Canada Department of Agriculture Research Station, or “Kentville Research Station” for short.
On June 15, 1981, a new Agricultural Centre was opened to replace nine buildings on the property. Most of the offices and laboratories of the Nova Scotia Government are located on the first floor. The science laboratories are grouped on either side of a central service core that runs vertically from the basement to the upper storey. Seven greenhouses feature double glazing for maximum energy efficiency.
Every June since 1967, the Research Station has selected a Sunday for the public to come and view the wide display of rhododendrons and azaleas. Rhododendron Sundays draw many visitors from all over the Maritimes.
The Dairy Barn was built in 1912. It is built of wood and is clap-boarded with pine siding. The barn is one of the few original buildings of the Research Station that remain today, and was to remain as a heritable landmark. It bears a historic property plaque near its doors. The upright silo that used to stand next to the barn is no longer in existence.
Work in the barn began at six in the morning, with the milking, and ended at six at night. After an outbreak of bruccellosis in 1950, the remaining healthy dairy cattle were eventually sold off for beef in the following two years, and the barn was used for housing steers. The barn was used up until the 1970’s.
Kentville Agricultural Centre
Main Street, Kentville, N.S. B4N 1J5
Phone (902) 678-1093
Fax (902) 678-1567
June 1 to August 28: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
September: Self guided tours
The Nova Scotia Fruit Grower’s Association (N.S.F.G.A.) was established in 1863 under the leadership of Dr. Charles Hamilton and Lt. Col. Robert Grant Haliburton. The primary goals of the association were to promote Nova Scotia apples internationally, as well as to collect information on new varieties, diseases, insects and other data to pass along to the growers. Nova Scotian apples were displayed by the Association in many world exhibitions, and were praised and rewarded for their fine quality. The Fruit Grower’s were leaders in establishing the Kentville Experimental Farm in 1910.
On May 29, 1981, during the celebration of the 50th Apple Blossom Festival, the N.S.F.G.A. opened the Blair House Museum to the public. The museum was created to preserve and display the history of the apple growing industry and the research station. The Blair House Museum, located on the Kentville Agricultural Centre grounds, offers both an interesting and educational look at the history of the apple industry in Nova Scotia, as well as the modern research being performed at the Kentville Agricultural Centre.
The museum is named after the station’s first superintendent, Dr. William Saxby Blair. Constructed in 1911, the house served as the superintendent’s residence until 1979. The house was built to accommodate more than a single family with the station office in one room, and a spare living room, extra bedroom, and bathroom for visitors from Ottawa.
The N.S.F.G.A. wing of the museum tells the history of the apple industry in Nova Scotia through numerous pictures, stories, and artifacts. Apple barrel making tools, apple baskets, apple peelers – even an old sprayer, show how things were done over a half-century ago. The collection includes an original Scotian Gold cider jug, a pictorial demonstration of apple barrel making, and a peek inside a turn-of-the-century apple evaporating plant.
The Agriculture Canada wing offers a look at both the past and present research performed at the station, through informative photos and scientific instruments. One room delves into the history of scientific research at the station by means of photos and original equipment from each area of study. Enjoy the history of an old camera, balance scales, and microscopes. A second room boasts new and colorful pictures that show the current research being done on the grounds. All these rooms complement each other in a way that offers the visitor a well-rounded look at the apple industry — past and present.
Canada. Education and Culture. Museums, Archives and other Heritage Resources 2000. Halifax: Government of Canada, 2000.
N.S. Fruit Growers’ Association. Blair House Museum. Brochure. Kentville: N.S. Fruit Growers’ Association, 2001.
“Agricentre opens Monday.” Homestead. June 11, 1981: pg. 15.
Agriculture Canada. Advancing Agriculture – A History of the Kentville Research Station. Canadian Government: unknown place of publication, 1986.
Nichols, Mabel G. The Devil’s Half Acre – A Look at Kentville’s Past. Kentville: Kentville Centennial Committee, 1986.