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History buff owner of B&B revels in its past

“This house has witnessed Titanic disaster and the Halifax Explosion,” says owner

5 min read
caption Smith and Switzer live at Ascendece B&B with their two children, Austin (not pictured) and Victoria.
caption Katherine Smith and Daniel Switzer live at the Ascendence B&B with their two children, Austin (not pictured) and Victoria.

The Ascendence Harbourside Mansion B&B is more than just a bed and breakfast.

Located just off the Bedford Highway, the building is also a registered heritage property — officially known as Pineo House.

It obtained heritage property status in 1999 due to the prominence of two of its former owners: William Studd and James Pineo.

Owners Katherine Smith and Daniel Switzer have learned many things about the house and its history since they first bought it in 2009.

caption Guests chat and eat french toast prepared by Switzer.
Samantha Schwientek

Smith and Switzer follow a simple formula to make it a success.

“We strive to make the beds super comfy and the breakfast great,” says Smith.

Still, she says enjoys another aspect of running the business: informing guests about the history of Halifax and Pineo House itself.

caption While making a bed Switzer says, “She’s the talker; I’m the doer.”

A history buff, Smith says she loves the house because of its history.

“We had plans for a Moroccan room and doing things very modern,” she says. “But then we saw the skeleton keys and we left most of the house as Victorian as possible.”

caption Skeleton keys in the door of the Auditor’s Suite, named after William Studd.

Modern amenities, including a jacuzzi, were added for comfort, but the desire to retain the vintage character remained.

According to the Halifax Property Program, Pineo House is “a fine example of turn of the century construction … built during an economic low (when) people built simple and unostentatious homes, which is reflected in the lack of decorative elements on this house.”

“In the summer the property is completely surrounded by leaves,” says Smith. “We have deer here all the time.”

caption Exterior of Pineo House in March.

Built in 1891 by William Studd, a wealthy banker who later became auditor general of Nova Scotia, the house is constructed in the Gothic Revival style according to the Halifax Property Program.

Although Studd was a politically significant resident, the house is named after its second owner, James Pineo. Even after research, Smith says she doesn’t understand why it was named after Pineo, whom she describes as a mere butcher.

However, in addition to his profession as a meat wholesaler, Pineo was also President of the Provincial Merchants Association. Smith says she suspects Pineo had better connections than Studd.

Thanks in part to the previous owners and her own research, Smith possesses a carefully documented history of the house.

caption Smith points to a girl whom she believes is the daughter of James Pineo and who possibly grew up in Pineo House.

“I have a lot of respect for this old house. Someone waved goodbye to the boys leaving for WWI and WWII from this window,” she says. “This house has witnessed the Titanic disaster and the Halifax Explosion.”

Smith has a story to tell guests about Pineo House’s connection to the Halifax Explosion.

A train dispatcher who was killed during the Explosion sent a message that stopped a nearly full passenger train coming in to Halifax. The people in the train avoided becoming casualties of the explosion due to his efforts.

caption Victoria looks out the front window next to an antique cabinet.

“Where did he stop the train? This is where the train stopped,” Switzer says. “So, someone in this house — and in 1917, it was Mr. William Studd — witnessed 300 people’s lives being saved.

“Danny always jokes that the first-class passengers came up to this house for tea and coffee.”

caption A guest drinks tea at breakfast one morning.
Samantha Schwientek

Although Smith says the house appears to its best advantage in summer, hurricane season can be worrisome for some guests. Smith reassures them drawing on its history and longevity when they are concerned.

“This house ain’t going nowhere,” she says.

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  1. L

    Laura Dailey

    This is a great place to stay. My husband and I stayed here on our honeymoon. Kasia and Danny were very accommodating and the crepes were AMAZING! I would recommend staying here!
  2. k

    katherine smith

    This is Katherine Smith, one of the owners. Thank you for choosing our house for your great article. We feel hounored to be featured. Only negative for me is that I got my hair done 2 days later! Pictures of my hair and the B&B in the summer to follow. We are still dissapointed that Ms. Schwientek refused to have breakfast which after all is half of our business
  3. B

    Bill Gideon

    Very nice story and pictures makes me want to go there, maybe next time we go east.
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