By Christie McNeil
Have you noticed all of the comings and goings at 84 Charlotte Street during the last few months? This house, known as the Liscombe House, is the first project for the Sydney Architectural Conservation Society. We believe the house at 84 Charlotte Street was built about 1860 by Edward Liscomb (1811-1901). A.F. Church’s Sydney map of 1877 shows a building on the corner of Charlotte and Yorke as belonging to an “E. Liscomb.” A blacksmith by trade, Edward Liscomb was one of the founding members of the Sydney Temperance Hall Company, established in March 1850. He was also involved in many activities in the Old Town, including the early musical life of its citizens. Edward married Margaret Oliver (1816-1898) in 1838. Among their eight children was Frank J. (1847-1926) and Frederick (1859-1939).
Frank took up blacksmithing and carried on his father’s business after Edward died in 1901. The family forge is believed to have been located in the backyard of the 84 Charlotte property. Frank married Susan Kate Howie (1866-1946) and they had five children – Harry (1892-1913), Olive (1895-1971), Francis Gerald (1896-1919), Rebecca Emily (1898-1901), and Ella (1902-1969).
Life for the Liscombes was difficult in their early family years – Harry passed away at 21 years of age after a long struggle with tuberculosis, Rebecca Emily died as a child, and Gerald died of influenza overseas after the First World War.
Neither Olive or Ella married or had children. Ella worked as a bank clerk at the Bank of Montreal, as a stenographer at the Dominion Steel Company, and for S.H. Stevenson, a local contractor. Olive worked as a secretary for the law firm of Crouse and Ross. Ella kept a series of diaries that outline the daily routine of a single, clerically employed female in Sydney during the first half of the twentieth century. She also wrote a series of travelogues and took photographs during various trips to the Bras d’Or Lakes, Ingonish and the Boston States.
Shortly after Ella passed away on March 22, 1969, Olive collected Ella’s diaries, notebooks, photographs, and letters and donated them to the Beaton Institute.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, ca. 191-. MG 12.59 Liscombe Family fonds: 93-46-24020. Photograph by C.H. Woodill Studio. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.
This photograph was taken inside of the Liscombe House. Frederick Liscombe, second standing from left, was a prominent Northend citizen – a Professor of Music, an accomplished pianist, and a member of the City Band and the Sydney Philharmonic Society. Ella, Gerald and Olive Liscombe are also pictured above.