Evergreen’s story arose from a tragedy. Lawyer Alexander James and his wife Harriet Hawthorn, after losing 8 children to disease, moved to the “country” to escape the unsanitary conditions of the downtown areas. James commissioned famed local architect Henry Elliot to design the new home, and Evergreen was completed in 1867. With their remaining three children, the couple began a new life where Alexander James became a Provincial Court Judge, the Schoolmaster of Dartmouth, the head of the Regatta Committee and the head of the Mechanics Institute (an early form of a trades school). Evergreen also was host to many a visit from the famous Joseph Howe as the Judge and Howe were known friends.
Evergreen House was later home to nationally acclaimed Nova Scotian folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton. In 1928, Helen began collecting the folklore of the Maritime provinces and would enjoy a career that brought her international recognition and earned her the title, “Canada’s First Lady of Folklore”. With Evergreen as her base of operations and home office, Helen collected songs like “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, along with stories, beliefs, superstitions, cures, folk ways and history. She published this wealth of knowledge in numerous books. In an age when many rural homes lacked electricity, Helen also invited local singers to Evergreen to record their songs.
Helen Creighton’s folk song collection is legendary—approximately 16,000 songs and variants, but she is perhaps best known for her collection of tales of superstition. Her book, “Bluenose Ghosts”, continues to be a Canadian best seller. Local residents still remember coming to Evergreen on Halloween and being met by Helen dressed in a witch costume and telling ghost stories. It was also here in Evergreen that she had many paranormal experiences and heard three knocks, a “forerunner” of tragedy.
In 1978, Helen Creighton sold Evergreen to the City of Dartmouth, who purchased it with the support of the Nova Scotia Museum. The house is currently interpreted in its original Victorian style and is an impressive example of a mid-Victorian gentleman’s residence. The house is furnished with period antiques from the Museum’s collection and commands a fine view of Halifax Harbour.
Today, Evergreen is both a historic home open to the public as well as the headquarters of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum administration.