Robert Pallen Patterson, the son of a banker and a banker himself, retired in the mid-1950s to open an antique shop in Toronto and concentrate on his passion for English furniture, ceramics, silver and glass of the Georgian period (1714–1830). He formed a large personal collection over the years, and in 1964 he purchased a small house in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia, to showcase it.
The property he bought was granted to Benjamin Rumsey in 1764 and was known as the Rumsey Farm until the early 1800s. The Amberman family also owned the property for many years. When Mr. Patterson bought it in 1964, it was, in fact, known as the Amberman house. He renamed it North Hills, after the North Mountain, which rises behind the property.
The original house was a small, square, wood-framed structure. It faced south, overlooking the waters of the Annapolis Basin, and there were only two windows on the north wall, out of respect for the climate. Many changes have been made to the house during its history; the two major additions were a one-storey summer kitchen on the west wall, and a one-and-a-half storey extension on the east side. The original fieldstone masonry of the dining-room chimney and the exposed brickwork flues on the east wall upstairs remain. The original pine woodwork is retained in the dining room mantelpiece and built-in cupboard - also the mantelpiece in the adjoining room, used as a library. The long living room was re-designed in 1964 by Mr. Patterson to be in keeping with his collection — a Georgian style mantelpiece was installed — and also a wooden cornice, adapted from a cornice in the Bailey House in Annapolis Royal.
In 1974, the house and furnishings were bequeathed to the Nova Scotia Museum. The collection of furniture, ceramics, glass, silver and paintings has been retained in the house, objects placed as they were when Mr. Patterson lived there. The furniture in the house represents, particularly, three characteristic English furniture woods — oak, walnut and mahogany. The silver gleams, the glassware sparkles and the sunlight filters through the rosy red curtains in the living room. Mr. Patterson would approve!