A Brief History of Seely Hall

Seely Hall was built to be a general store, warehouse and shipping office on the ground floor, with a public space above. It is unclear when it was built. Some say about 1840, by Caleb Seely (1787-1869) who lived in Liverpool in what is now known as Perkins House. Caleb was a privateer who captained the famous Liverpool Packet during the war of 1812. After the war, he began exporting timber and fish out of Port Medway to Newfoundland, New England and Great Britain. In 1838 he built Superior, at 862 tons the second largest ship ever constructed in Nova Scotia up to that time. Caleb had a branch of his business in Port Medway from about 1820.

Others think the Hall was built about 1860 by Caleb’s son, Edwin Collins Seely (1830-1881). In the late 1850s, Edwin, living in Mill Village, began selling timber and fish from Port Medway to the West Indies. By the 1860s he was Port Medway’s most important ship owner and exporter. In 1871 Edwin’s shipyard built the biggest ship ever launched at Port Medway, the 950-ton square-rigger Nyanza that was lost off the coast of Newfoundland on her maiden voyage to England with a load of lumber. There was no insurance. By 1879 Edwin Seely was insolvent. He died in 1881.

At age 21, Edwin’s son, Arthur Yelverton Seely (1860 -1944), inherited the Hall and the business from his father. He operated the business on a smaller scale for about ten years before selling out to Captain John Hutt, who operated coastal schooners. Arthur Seely went to Blaine in the state of Washington in about 1891, in search of better economic opportunities. He died in Bellingham.

In the 1920s and 1930s Seely Hall was put to a variety of uses. The local weekly newspaper, the Advance, reported an evangelical meeting in October 1920; a Boy Scout’s pie sale in March 1921; a Conservative political meeting in November 1921; a school concert in December 1922; an Anglican Sunday school concert in December 1926 (Mrs. Chas Johnson fell coming down the stairs!); a United Church pie sale in May 1927; and “commercial entertainments” in March 1929. On March 21, 1934 the Advance reported, “Seely Hall is about to take on repairs and to be put in shape for use.”

After World War Two the Hall was bought by Keith Baker MacConnell, who used it for a radio repair business. His daughter Nancy reports that her father also wired houses for electricity, and probably wired most of the houses in Port Medway. William White bought the Hall in 1950. White used the ground floor to keep fishing equipment, and rented out the second floor for dances, political meetings, theatrical events, concerts, movies, weddings and funerals. An older resident of Port Medway wrote in about 1990, at the bottom of a picture of the Hall, “This is where I did my dancing in my teens.” The two-room office downstairs was occasionally used as a polling booth during elections.

A historical photo of Seely Hall.
Seely Hall as it appeared prior to 1950, when it was owned by electrician and radio repairman Keith Baker MacConnell.

Archie Smith used the building to store fishing equipment in the 1960s and 1970s. Alan Comfort bought the building in the early 1980s and undertook major repairs to offset many years of neglect. He used the Hall as a cabinet shop and a land survey office. Comfort sold Seely Hall as a working cabinet shop to Ian Startup in the early nineties. Startup sold the Hall to Paul Lewis who used it for a kayak-renting business and a small antique store. In 2016 Cynthia Wine and Philip Slayton bought Seely Hall from Lewis.

(With thanks to Suzanne Morton, Bob Whitelaw, Marianne Weeks, Nancy MacConnell Bourque, and Alan Comfort. If you have any corrections to this brief history, or something to add, let us know at [email protected])

The video on this page that is visible when the site is viewed on larger screens was taken by Tim Reeves-Horton of Picnic Studios.