The History of the Thinkers Lodge Building
Pugwash, Nova Scotia
By Cathy Eaton
Thinkers Lodge is located on the northern end of Water Street facing the Northumberland Strait at the mouth of the Pugwash River Estuary. It was declared a National Historic Site in 2008.
Originally, it was a 26-foot by 34-foot rectangular central hallway built by the Pineo Family and constructed in the early decades of the nineteenth century probably between 1818 and 1840. David Pineo purchased the property in 1818.
Henry Gesner Pineo (1798-1874), a successful merchant, shipbuilder and member of the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia, built the house for his daughter Mary who was married to Doctor Clay. It had a central doorway with a gabled dormer, flanked by bay windows on each side. The original rooms are now the current gift shop, Joseph Rotblat’s room, the staircase you see upon entering the front of the house and the two bedrooms at the top of the stairs.
Around 1860 the first addition was built on the east side of the house. This one and one-half storey produced an L-shaped structure. It is possible that the kitchen was a tiny house that was moved here. The other rooms included Anne Eaton’s room, the staircase and the bedroom at the top of the stairs. Around 1880 another one-and-one-half storey on the west side of the main house was built, which is now Cyrus Eaton’s room, the staircase next to it, and the bedroom above it.
In 1918, the Clay Family sold the property to Fred Dakin who ran the house as a lodge known as the Pineo Lodge. Around 1921, Frank Allan built the lobster-canning factory adjacent to Pineo Lodge. He lived across the way on Water Street in a house that burned. Eventually, Eva Webb (Cyrus’s sister) built her home on that property.
When the devastating fires of 1928 and 1929 consumed much of Pugwash, Cyrus Eaton returned to help rebuild the village of his youth. He hired local residents in need of work to remove the debris of the burnt Empress Hotel, wharves, and shops on Water Street. Then they carted in soil and landscaped the land to create Eaton Park for the residents to enjoy all year and to host the Canada Day celebrations on the stage. “Local people contributed what they could – cash and labour of course, one offer of 3 days of trucking and, perhaps more interesting 21 different residents volunteered a “team and driver” for a total of 124 days!”
In 1929 Cyrus donated the park and deeded what was formerly the Pineo property to a Nova Scotia non-profit called The Pugwash Park Commission incorporated by an act of the Legislature introduced by Raymond Bourque.
Cyrus acquired Pineo Lodge and commissioned Andrew Cobb, the renowned Halifax architect, to expand and renovate Pineo Lodge to give it seven bedrooms and bathrooms, two new public spaces, and a veranda. Cobb added the great room, the verandah, a living room and a library, which now contains the Nobel Peace Prize and the Lenin Peace Prize. Due to the skill of Cobb, the many additions were tied together to produce a coherent whole and maintain the simple elegance of the original colonial house.
The house was furnished with English and Nova Scotian antiques. Visitors frequently ask if the furniture is original. Since the lodge’s life as a B & B and later as a venue to hold conferences, the furniture, hooked rugs, and lamps would have been replaced as needed.
It had a reputation for providing wonderful accommodation and food until after the Second World War.
Sometime after 1960 the library and living room were combined into one room, while the deck and pergola was added adjacent to this new larger living room. Also, the double windows installed by Cobb were replaced by new double French doors opening to the new deck.
Originally, few windows would have looked out onto the Northumberland Strait because the harsh cold winters would have made heating difficult. If you had spent all day on the sea, the view of the sea was not as important as staying warm. According to the renovators in 2009, Andrew Cobb moved every single window to a slightly different place.
Cyrus had additional plans to bring visitors to Pugwash, help the economy and provide jobs. For examples, he hoped to build a hotel near Lighthouse Point and a golf course. These goals were never accomplished.
In 2009, the three-year renovation of Thinkers Lodge began. The Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development gave a grant in support of restoring the Lodge. The Pugwash Park Commission and the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Association worked closely with local Cumberland and Pugwash residents to make initial restoration plans. Much of the money allocated for construction was spent in the Cumberland region.
The building was jacked up, and a full-size concrete floor basement replaced the earthen, rocky shallow basement. The Lodge’s six chimneys were rebuilt from the roof up. The roof was re-shingled with western cedar and asphalt shingles, and remedial foundation work was done. The decks were replaced. Repairs were made to the dormer windows. Inside, damaged plaster was repaired, the walls, and ceilings were repainted, and the wood stripped and repainted. The tubs and sinks were enameled. The roof was replaced, and the wiring and plumbing updated.
In 1955, Cyrus Eaton decided to change the mission of the lodge. Conferences, workshops, retreats, and educational events have been held here continuously since 1955. The most famous conference was the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs in 1957 that led to a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 shared jointly by the Conferences and Joseph Rotblat, its inspirational leader. Rotblat’s Nobel Peace Prize is on display at Thinkers Lodge in the same room where the Lenin Peace Prize awarded to Cyrus Eaton resides. The Canada peace prize given to Cyrus and his wife Anne is in Anne Eaton’s room.
In 1996, an electrical fire ignited Thinkers Lodge. After firefighters from four towns battled the blaze, villagers formed a line from the back of the house to the Lobster Factory and passed hand-over-hand all the furniture, rugs, books, lamps, and treasures to safety. Bob Messenger, Lisa Betts, Wayne Smith, and Craig Mundle are four of the many firefighters who helped save the Lodge.
The restoration of Thinkers Lodge was completed in 2011 and enhanced with interpretive displays that help tell the story of how history was made here. The Lobster Factory was renovated in 2013. We are still fund-raising to restore the Staff House.
Currently, Thinkers Lodge is open to visitors mid June to early September from 9:30 to 4:30 and by appointment. Additional, conferences, workshops, and retreats are held here, bringing together educators, scientists, peace-makers, and others to share ideas and take them back to inspire their home communities. This historic building also is a lovely site for weddings.
Please share with volunteers or interns any stories you have about Thinkers Lodge, the Lobster Factory, and the events held here.
Please share with us any additional information you have about this building. Some of our information is guess work.