In 1833, Thomas Chandler Haliburton began the process of purchasing the property that would become his estate. Construction of the house was completed around 1837, and he named the estate Clifton. Haliburton, with his wife Louisa Neville and seven of their children lived there, surrounded by gardens, farmland and a gypsum mining operation.
Tragically, Louisa died at the age of 48 in 1841, but Haliburton remained in windsor until 1856, when he auctioned off the estate and moved to England.
Clifton then passed through a number of owners and tenants, some of whom made additions and alterations. Among them were Senator Ezra Churchill of Hantsport; Daniel K. Hobart, a retired U.S. consul; W.H. Smith, a retired sea captain who ran a hotel; Beckles Willson, a writer; and Norman C.G. Corstorphan, who made several of the exterior alterations.
Despite its numerous owners AND occupants, the house sat vacant by the late 1930s and there was concern that it would fall into decay. The Government of Nova Scotia stepped in and purchased the property in March of 1939. The official public opening and ceremony was held on July 4, 1940.
The Department of Highways and Public Works operated the museum until the 1960s, when responsibility was transferred to the Nova Scotia Museum.