Captain Molly Kool Heritage Centre

Raised timber frameFundy National Park, New Brunswick

TimberhArt disassembled this important heritage timber frame, restored the frame in our shop and re-raised it in a new location.

Text by Mary Majka

Here is a brief story of the childhood home of Molly Kool, the first female sea captain in North America and second in the world (the first one being a Russian who got her license four years earlier).

The new building site
Molly was born in Alma, the second child of Captain Paul Kool, a Dutchman who settled in the small but busy seaport and married a local girl. He and his wife raised four daughters and one son.

Molly was ambitious and enterprising and obtained her mate's papers at the age of 21 and her master's certificate at age 23, after attending a marine academy in Yarmouth.

platform for timber frame
New platform waiting for the frame

She sailed her father's scow (a workhorse of a vessel) on the difficult, often dangerous,  Bay of Fundy. Later on, after marriage, she settled in Maine, USA, but came to visit her home village quite frequently.

raising timber frame wall
Raising the second wall

Her sister Jean, after whom the scow was named (since she was the oldest child), lived in the house, married a local man and slowly modernized the dwelling. However, after Jean's death, the house was abandoned. The next owner decided to get rid of the dilapidated building, since it was in the way of his busy gravel pit operation. He was about to bulldoze it, when an entrepreneur approached him with an offer to take it down to salvage the old lumber.

fastening timber frame wall
Fastening the second wall

An alert individual in the village noted the activity around the old Kool home and called the president of Albert County Heritage Trust, Mary Majka. Mary happened to know the entrepreneur, who was surprised to hear about Molly Kool.

"I know, I know," he told Mary, "You wouldn't want me to take down something historic. If you pay me what I had to pay, I will leave it alone."

Fitting beams into posts
Fitting beams between the walls

Mary contacted Ken Kelly, an Alma native, whom she knew would be interested, since he had organized a heritage organization a few years previously. With combined efforts, the two organizations looked for a place in Alma where the house could be relocated, but their negotiations with the village council failed. Luckily, a prime location was later secured in Fundy National Park. A longterm lease was signed.

Timber frame

The question then was how to get the house there. There were various suggestions, but eventually it was decided that it was in too poor shape to be transported in its entirety. The New Brunswick Heritage Branch was consulted and agreed that in those circumstances the best avenue to follow was to dismantle, repair, and reassemble the structure at its new site.

Placing coins under post
Mary places coins under a post

This decision made, there was a search for funds. Politicians, government agencies, private business and individuals were approached.  We received good advice from the people responsible for the carriage factory in Sackville, NB, who were familiar with a Nova Scotia business, who had very professionally handled their historic reconstruction. We approached TimberhArt Woodworks and after receiving an OK from the Atlantic Canada Opportuniies Agency (ACOA — from whom we had negotiated a grant), in mid-November the house was carefully disassembled, its parts marked and taken to the TimberhArt shop. It was not only repaired, but cleaned, washed, fumigated and treated with linseed oil.  Funding had been approved from ACOA and the New Brunswick Heritage Branch, along with donations. We were able to move ahead.

Mary Majka and Dan Reagan
Mary and Dan

The original Kool house consisted of the main building as well as a "summer kitchen," a very common addition used during summer for cooking. We were anxious to find such a structure and were fortunate to find one, thus making the house as it was when Molly lived there. 

Raised timber frame
Mary, Ken Kelly,
Harold, Allan and Dan
celebrating completion
of the frame

On the 15th-16th of June 2010, the frame of the Kool house was standing up again, this time at the Alma entrance of Fundy National Park.

Mary Majka was fortunate to learn about Molly's 10-years-younger sister living near Sacramento, California. Martha's mind and memory are still very clear. Mary, who had previously visited Molly in Maine in 2008 had got some information from her before she died. However, it was Martha who provided Mary with a wealth of information and details, concerning the life of the family and especially details about the house.

Historic timber frame from across the harbour
As seen from Alma

One important thing that Mary found out was that when the Kools moved into the house, they did not have electricity. Consequently there were only kerosene lights, a wood stove, an outhouse, and there was no running water inside the house. (A spring above the house provided water through a wooden pipe that filled a barrel outside the house.) All those and other details, photos and other mementos will be of great assistance in development of the heritage centre.

heritage timber frame partly boarded in
Partly boarded in

As a parting gift to Mary, Martha presented her with an original box inscribed "Molly Kool, M.S. Jean K., Saint John, N.B., 1937."  Inside was the sextant with the help of which Molly navigated.

timber frame partly boarded in

The house is being readied for an official opening in summer 2011. It is envisioned that the exterior will be ready this summer, with the interpretive work done during the winter and spring.

boarded-in restored timber frame

We hope that our efforts will have created a fitting memorial to Molly Kool and an interesting and educational place for visitors.

Mary Majka, president,
Albert County Heritage Trust
10 July 2010

Mary, Allan, and Dan Reagan
waiting for dinner at the Parkland
in Alma


Final note: Later, we received a lovely e-mail from Mary Majka which you can read on our Testimonials page.



TimberhArt Woodworks (formerly Acorn Timber Frames)
L. Daniel and Kimberley Reagan
195 Fuller Rd., Hantsport NS B0P 1P0
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