Bell estate recognized
Beinn Bhreagh Hall, at the heart of the Bell estate overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake, has been the summer home of the family since 1892. On Wednesday, descendants of Alexander and Mabel Bell gathered with invited guests for the official recognition of home and grounds as a provincial heritage property.
Almost 130 years after Alexander Graham Bell first laid eyes on Beinn Bhreagh, the mountainside estate that has been the summer home to generations of his descendants has officially been declared a Nova Scotia heritage property.
For the Bell family, the recognition could not have come on a better day, as warm temperatures and blue skies fittingly appeared on a day that also saw Bell’s wife Mabel honoured by Cape Breton University
In a special convocation held Thursday afternoon at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, CBU posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate of letters to Mabel Hubbard Bell.
“We hope that in recognizing Mabel Bell, young innovative minds, in particular young women, will be encouraged to follow their dreams, appreciate the value of education and know what is possible when people persevere through adversity,” said CBU president Dr. David Wheeler.
“We hope that in recognizing Mabel Bell, young innovative minds, in particular young women, will be encouraged to follow their dreams, appreciate the value of education and know what is possible when people persevere through adversity.” Dr. David Wheeler, CBU president
While her husband may be better known because of the advances he made in a variety of fields, from the telephone to aviation to teaching the deaf, Mabel was a remarkable woman in her own right. One of her strongest motivations was to encourage women and children, especially in rural areas, to educate themselves to effect change in areas such as health, home industries, women’s suffrage, child labour and children’s education.
After the convocation, family members, government dignitaries and invited guests travelled the short distance to the Bells’ summer home at Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic for “beautiful mountain”), their mountainside estate overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake.
The Bells’ youngest greatgranddaughter, Sara Grosvenor, spoke for the family at the ceremony that saw the estate declared a provincial Heritage Property.
Grosvenor, who told some family stories to the assembled audience of about 200 people, said the descendants of Alexander and Mabel Bell are grateful the property is being recognized not only for its beauty, but for its historic value and the influence its past occupants have had on the area’s heritage.
“And to not just appreciate what our ancestors have done, but also to live in the present and to do the best you can — it’s not just frozen in time, it’s thinking of the future and inspiring others,” said Grosvenor, who like many of Bells’ descendants lives in the Washington, D. C., area.
She recounted the history of Bells’ first visit to Cape Bre- ton in 1895, when the Newfoundland- bound steamship he was travelling on needed repairs and was forced to seek refuge in Baddeck.
The Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer, teacher of the deaf and visionary fell in love with the landscape and would, in the late 1880s, purchase about 600 acres of land on the mountainous penin- sula that became known as Beinn Bhreagh.
The property, still owned by the family, is spread across the mountainside and affords wondrous views of the lake from various vantage points on the sprawling estate.
The house, built in a modified Queen Anne style, continues to be used by the family.
After the ceremony, during which Nova Scotia Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince presented the family with a provincial heritage property plaque, family members conducted tours through the 122- year- old house. Photography, however, was prohibited to protect the privacy of the family.
The 37- room structure, built with 17 fireplaces, sits majestically overlooking the waters of the Bras d’Or, while inside it is a throwback to another era. Bookcases line the walls of one of the two tower rooms, while a stately dining table sits in another room waiting to be expanded to accommodate dozens.
Both Alexander and Mabel died in 1922, but since then Beinn Bhreagh continues to be the summer home to many of their 112 living descendants.
However, the estate remains in private hands and is not open for viewing or tours.
Twenty-nine of the Bells’ 112 living descendants gathered at the Beinn Bhreagh on Thursday when the family’s summer home was recognized as a provincial heritage property.
Alexander Graham Bell himself would have been pleased to see his descendants enjoying themselves on the spacious ground of Beinn Bhreagh.