Charles Macdonald Concrete House - Historic Places Days

Charles Macdonald Concrete House

Centreville, Nova Scotia
House Museum/Homestead
19 Saxon Street, Centreville, NS, Canada
Get directions
Wednesday to Friday 11-5, Saturday and Sunday 10-5 (Open July 1 to August 31)

The quiet town of Centreville, located in the scenic Annapolis Valley, is home to one of the most unique houses in the Canadian Maritimes. The bright yellow house and yard full of fanciful lawn sculptures serves as a delightful cultural landmark in the community. The Charles Macdonald House was built by artist, socialist, and visionary Charles Macdonald and is valued for its preservation of Charlie’s ambitious life story.

Charles Macdonald was born in Steam Mill, Nova Scotia, a rural community between the town of Kentville and Centreville. Early on in life, Charlie started drawing- often to the dismay of his schoolteachers who did not appreciate him drawing in class. By the age of 15, Charlie left school to spend the next decade of his life working in and around Kentville as an apprentice to a coffin-maker and then to a wheelwright. He also found plenty of time for artistic pursuits. 

From 1998 until 1902, Charlie went away to sea, working as a carpenter aboard various ships. As a carpenter, Charlie was not subject to the strict schedule other seamen had to follow and was able to devote plenty of time to creating art. Throughout his travels, Macdonald recorded his experiences through poems, letters, drawings and watercolour. He also read omnivorously and valued his self-education. While in Santos, Brazil, Macdonald encountered colonial Portuguese architecture that may have inspired the unique style of the Concrete House. 

In 1908, Macdonald traveled to Vancouver where he worked as a carpenter and joined the Socialist Party of Canada. While in British Columbia, he also gained experience working with concrete. He stayed there until 1910 when he returned to the Cornwallis area of Nova Scotia with a head full of ideas about how to shape an ideal life. 

In Centreville, Macdonald built a small building out of reinforced concrete to serve as his concrete factory. Until a tiny room was added, which is now the powder room, Charlie camped outside in a tent. Kentville Concrete Products, Charlie’s concrete company, operated following his socialist philosophy. It was a cooperative operation; workers did not receive wages but drew what funds they needed from the proceeds of their work. Macdonald believed so strongly in social progress that even company advertising material promoted concrete as one part of a larger movement of social change. 

The original one-storey factory was converted into a two-storey house where Macdonald lived with his wife Mabel for over 40 years. Even decorative interior and exterior elements were made using concrete, including fences, garden sculptures and the bathtub, reflecting Macdonald’s artistic skills and creative use of concrete.

Charlie also constructed five concrete fairy cottages at Huntington’s Point, a small area near Hall’s Harbour on the Bay of Fundy. The cottages served as a make-work project for his workers during the great depression. The cottages are admired for their colourful stonework and imaginative design. Currently, The Blue Cottage, one of four remaining cottages, is owned by the Charles Macdonald Society and available for organization members to stay in overnight.

Charles Macdonald’s artwork, sculptures, and paintings provide a record of rural life and give importance to the landscape and values of Nova Scotians in the middle part of the last century. His views on labour and democracy make his story one particular to his times, and of interest to us today. His philosophy resulted in improvements to the quality of lives of his workers and to the community to which he dedicated his life. Keeping with Charles Macdonald’s legacy, admission is free. 


  • Family-Friendly
  • Guided Tour
  • Parking

Fun Facts

  • Charles Macdonald was neighbours and close friends with Roscoe Fillmore, a notable a Canadian political activist, horticulturalist, and author
  • Charlie’s wife Mabel was also an artist. She created beautiful hooked rugs to keep them warm on the cold concrete floors
  • When Charlie retired from Kentville Concrete Products, he handed the factory keys to the foreman, rather unexpectedly, and proclaimed “It’s yours!”


19 Saxon Street, Centreville, NS, Canada
Get directions


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