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Sherman Hines/Sherman Hines

659 Avondale Rd., Newport, N.S.

Asking price: $2,795,000

Taxes: N/A

Land size: 100 acres

Agent: Piers Baker (Duckworth Real Estate)

The backstory

Acclaimed photographer Sherman Hines was on assignment in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia when he spotted the ruins of a stone building in the rolling hills.

He asked his companion to stop the car so he could clamber up the slope to have a better look. There he found a tumbledown structure with no remaining windows or doors to block his entry to its mysterious subterranean passageways and rooms.

Mr. Hines travels internationally as a photographer and lecturer but he has made an avocation of renovating historic buildings in his home province of Nova Scotia.

As he explored beneath the arched doorways and vaulted ceilings, Mr. Hines recognized that the building was centuries old. He also decided in an instant that he wanted to restore it.

“I just couldn’t believe it. I thought: ‘This one is the best I’ll ever do.’ It was so incredible.”

He discovered that the relic dated to 1699 when French settlers built a mission close to the St. Croix and Avon rivers in the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaw.

The French and English controlled different parts of the province at the time, and the local abbé requested a strongly fortified building to shelter the priests who lived inside his mission and served the Acadian people.

The underground rooms, Mr. Hines learned, were used for storing ammunition.

The Acadians were expelled from the province in the mid-1750s by the British, and the lands became the property of King George II of England, local records show.

By 1760, the township of Newport was created and the property was granted to two young men from Rhode Island, according to real estate agent Piers Baker of Duckworth Real Estate.

The property changed hands again when John Chambers arrived at Newport Landing from Newport, R.I., and turned the former mission into his own home in 1761.

By the time Mr. Hines happened upon the building in the early 1980s, it had long been abandoned.

He purchased the derelict mission on 115 acres of farmland and began the arduous task of rebuilding.

The house today

  • Sherman Hines

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Mr. Hines was entranced with the building from the start, but his wife, Andrea Hines, was much more dubious.

The photographer assured her that he would handle the design and oversee the work until the house was restored to the extent that she could bake a loaf of bread in the new kitchen.

The house was built of fieldstone collected from the surrounding meadows by the Acadians, who needed to clear the land for agriculture, explains Mr. Hines.

“The stone had collapsed a little bit. It was built in 1699, so I guess it had the right to collapse.”

He was able to reclaim the original rocks and reconstruct the missing parts of the walls.

Mr. Hines estimates the transformation took about two years as he rebuilt rooms and dug down into the cellars to create nooks and hallways under the barrel ceilings.

Several rooms have fireplaces, including an original brick fireplace and bake oven that Mr. Hines restored.

“They made the brick right in the backyard, from the red clay that has always been there,” says Mr. Hines. “It’s extremely strong.”

Throughout the reconstruction, Mr. Hines researched the property and local history to discover how it looked in its day. During his travels in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and England, he collected antique materials.

“I find cow barns, hay barns and old houses,” he says. “I find the building either fallen down, falling down, or still standing.”

Sometimes Mr. Hines would purchase an entire structure.

A farmer down the road wanted to dispose of a circa 1888 church on his land, so Mr. Hines had it jacked up and moved to his property on a flatbed truck.

“It was used as a hay barn. It was full of hay when I bought it,” he recalls.

Mr. Hines was inspired by traditional farms in England, where stone barns, stores and other structures were often attached to the main house. The placement of the buildings created an inner courtyard protected from the elements.

At the Mission, Mr. Hines had an antique barn taken apart and rebuilt to attach to one end of the home. The church in turn is attached to the barn.

“The church is the party room,” he says.

Across the front yard stands a low stone building that contains the garage and Mr. Hines’s office.

The restored estate provides 8,585 square feet of living area with five bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms.

There are several living areas, casual spots for meals and a dining room for entertaining.

As the project took shape, the Hines and their two boys continued to live in Toronto and used the restored mission mainly as a summer retreat. Eventually, they moved to Nova Scotia.

Along the way, Mr. Hines added several outbuildings, including a chicken coop, a gift shop and a log cabin that stands next to the pond as an homage to his father’s hunting cabin.

Outside, the land includes woods and walking trails. The hay grown in the fields is given to local farmers.

There’s also a tennis court, an in-ground pool and an air jet tub.

“We have a swimming pool hidden in the back – it’s not period.”

Mr. Hines has spent much of his career capturing images of the country’s natural beauty. He has published more than 100 books, including the coffee table tome Extraordinary Light: A Vision of Canada. He currently has five more in progress and continues to photograph his surroundings every day.

“I took a picture this morning of three deer outside my window eating apples,” says Mr. Hines.

Mr. Hines has carved out 15 acres of the property that will be kept for the family. A stand of woods between the main house and the parcel will maintain the privacy of the new owners.

He plans to build another log cabin that he and Ms. Hines can visit in retirement.

“My two boys wanted to make sure I save a piece for them.”

The best feature

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The home's renovated kitchen.Sherman Hines/Sherman Hines

A few years ago, Ms. Hines was feeling cramped cooking in the small kitchen and the couple decided to create a larger and more luxurious space.

Mr. Hines had one wall taken down to extend the house and build a kitchen with wooden cabinets, a chef’s range, an island and a built-in desk. There’s also a sitting area with a fireplace.

To build the walls of the addition, Mr. Hines found fieldstones around the perimeter of his land that had been piled up by the Acadians and left in place for more than 300 years. Where they had settled into the earth, he had them dug out.

“I got the stone from the same place they got the original,” he says. “It’s a perfect match. We have enough piles of red rocks around here, we could build another house.”

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