Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Post 1355 - More Halifax History

I was chatting with Ted this morning.  He's an avid Bevboy's Blog reader.  He just loves this blog, so I rewarded him this morning by giving him a cheap knock off swiss army knife.  I hope you enjoy it, Ted.

Ted grew up in Halifax and can tell you lots of stories of the old days.  We started talking about Scotia Square and Bill Ozard, whom I discussed in a blog post a few days ago.  Ozard left the CJCH Phone Forum in 1969 to work on the Scotia Square development.

Everyone in Halifax knows about Scotia Square.  It's a... well, it used to be a two level shopping mall.  Now, all the retail is on the lower level, and there's much less of that retail than there used to be.  It's a bit ironic, given that SS was meant to galvanize the downtown 40 years ago.  It did this by razing, destroying, wiping out of existence, an entire neighbourhood.  Streets like Hurd's Lane, Buckingham Street, Jacob Street, ceased to be, replaced by the Scotia Square edifice. 

That was the way things were done back then.  You didn't like part of a city?  Just tear it down.  Destroy it.  Who needs it?  We nearly lost a section called Historic Properties due to this illogical zeal of 1960's-era municipal politicians.  Thank God that this kind of stuff doesn't happen any more. 

The streets no longer exist, but there are pictures of them, and I found some this morning.  Here's a link to some.  Check them out, and see what Halifax looked like back in the day. 

Are we better off today, with Scotia Square, and the loss of this community?  I'm not so sure.  Was that community a dump, or just a working-class part of the city that the hoity toity looked down upon?  I'm not sure.  I have to research this one a bit more. 

Bevboy

9 comments:

Les Muise said...

I moved from Sydney to Halifax on Boxing Day of 1967 to be here for Jan 1 when my father took over as General Manager of A.E. Fowles Ltd., the local Mercury / Lincoln / Ford Truck dealer. Scotia Square was under construction by then so that area was not much more than a large hole in the ground. My grade 11 year I worked at the Scotia Square Shell Station on the Market Street side of the parking lot. The Police Station was still at the other end of Market on the corner of Duke Street. The Peppermint Lounge was were the Delta Barrington is now & the Arrows Club was still open where the Palace now stands.

If you really want to see the remains of that neighborhood just walk down to the waterfront … all the reclaimed land stretching from the Museum of the Atlantic south to the new Power Corp Building and between Hollis Street and the harbour are the demolished buildings from that area.

For the first 20 years Scotia Square was an important shopping center but as time passed and MicMac Mall and the Halifax Shopping Center expanded the retail center of Halifax shifted and with the arrival of the ‘Big Box’ destination centers so came the death of downtown shopping.

Although most consider Scotia Square to be the ugliest structure in the region, it is a statement of the construction style of the period. It is part of this city and will always be an important complex.

Are we better for having Scotia Square rather than the run down mess that was there? YES! Are we better for having the relocated Police Station? YES! Are we better for having the Delta Barrington & the Palace? YES! Will we be better of with a new World Trade Center, the Twisted Towers, the redeveloped Roy Building & Argyle Bar & Grill? YES!

Get the hint…. Save what’s worth [historically] saving, redevelop what’s not in the style of the day NOT the style of a quaint old city.

Bevboy said...

Hi, Les. Thanks for writing.

I am just wondering if the expulsion of the people who lived on those streets, in that neighbourhood, 45 or so years ago, was handled with all the grace, applomb, finesse and dignity of the Africville one. I don't know. Do you?

Just because people were poor, were working class, doesn't mean they don't deserve a decent place to live. If that part of the city was rife with crime and slum-ridden, then why didn't some branch of government do something to help those people and that community? Destroying their homes (smaller tax base) and replacing that space with Scotia Square, the Delta Barrington, and other structures (commercial tax rate!) sure made things look better.

I agree with much of what else you write, Les. The Roy Building had character in its day, but is a ramshackle eyesore now. The twisted sisters is an empty lot, and they can start whenever they wish. The World Trade Centre? I am in agreement that we need it, too. It'd certainly be better than the 2 empty blocks there now. I wasn't that wild about the old Midtown and the Herald building was also an eyesore.

We mostly agree, my friend. I would just like to know more about Buckingham, Jacob, Starr and the other places. How did people feel about being displaced? I have no idea. Don't know anyone from that part of the city.

Thanks for writing.

Bev

Les Muise said...

......"handled with all the grace, aplomb, finesse and dignity of the Africville one." considering the general attitude of the governments of the day I doubt if Halifax dealt with the two situations differently.

I'll ask a few of my contacts what they recall .... should be able to answer some of your concerns...

You do realize who was Mayor of Halifax back then.... 1962-1965 Charles A. Vaughan... yes that's right you know his son.

kevin.tillman said...

Excellent dialog you two. Good to have it here and searchable for others. I recall a couple of years ago looking for info on this topic and couldn’t find much.

I often wonder about the “nostalgia of blight” factor that people bring up today about the past. Ie just because “it’s the way it was”, does it make it better then today ? Sometimes yes, more often no. That picture of the Corner of Jacob Street and Burnswick Street is very very cool, but I have to think if that was there today, it would be full of signs, neon lights, convenience stores and artificial siding.
But in reality, it would of likely burnt down already in a fire, like so many of those types of structures.

Bevboy said...

Les, thanks for fixing my typo with such "aplomb".

I owe you one.

Bev

Bevboy said...

Hi, Kevin and Les. I was on that wonderful course today and didn't have a chance to write. I did have a chance to publish your comments, though.

Thanks for writing.

Yeah, I know that Charlie's dad was mayor of Hali back during the period of the discussion of what to do with those streets. I don't even know if that neighbourhood had a name. But Charlie Vaughan Sr., as mayor, would only have had one vote at council, like Peter Kelly does now. Other aldermen voted in favour of this redevelopment as well. Why? What was the tipping point for tearing that area down and building Scotia Square and the Cogswell Street exchange (which was never finished)?

I have heard, anecdotally, that some aldermen bought up derelict buildings in that area knowing they would be expropriated.

I wonder what it was like for city hall of the day to debate tearing down that part of the city, when it was, in fact, right behind city hall. Was it awkward for them?

The more I think about that missing part of the city, and how in just 45 years it has slipped from the memory of all but the oldest citizens, the more I wonder why steps have never been taken to keep the place alive in people's memories. I mean, Africville will never be forgotten because of things like the Africville Genealogical Society. Why not something for Jacob Street, Buckingham, and so on?

I walked along Ablemarle Street today to get to and from my course. Is that the last living piece from that neigbhourhood? Does it pre-date this period, or is it a newly-created street?

There is so much more to know about this fascinating part of Halifax history. Les, if you can tap your contacts, I'd love to talk to them.

Kevin, I've been careful in my comments on that part of the city. It was older, and poorer, but there were drugstores. There was at least one bowling alley. I've heard that Sievert's tobacco had a second store in that area at one time, or may have even started there before moving to Barrington.

I'm by no means against change. Anyone who knows what I do for a living will know that. But I still wonder how big a story it was back then, for these people to lose their homes, for the police headquarters to have moved from the heart of the downtown to where it is now. Damnit, I can't let this story go.

Africville residents got their apology for having their homes ripped from them. When do the former residents of Buckingham, Jacob, Starr, and all the others, get theirs?

Think I'll share this link with Dawn Sloane for her comments.

Bevboy

John van Gurp said...

Great commentary! My Dad had the first TV and radio repair shop in Halifax on Duke Street more or less in front of the entrace to the current Duke Tower. He later moved to the basement of the old Picadilly at Sackville and Argyle Streets. The Duke Street store was previously occupied by Halcraft Printers (now on Robie Street).

The whole Scotia Square development is now the most horrific dead zone ever. When it was designed the idea was to build an indoor community. The designers sort of missed the mark on what a community is composed of because they likely (and I say likely because I really don't know what the demolished blocks were like) ripped a whole community out by the roots and scattered it to public housing and other places. Remember these are the same people who wanted Harbourside Drive - a 4 lane highway running the length of the waterfront. In effect a mini-downtown Toronto.

Now I know for a fact the waterfront in the 60s and early 70s was a rundown, dirty area. But to consider turining it into a major motorway was just ludicrous and arrogant. I remember the last remaining blockm of buildings where the Delta Barrington is today was occupied by the Thirteenth Tribe motorcycle gang. They were a rough bunch and the block was a dangerous area. I also recall when the city proudly announced that they had gotten the last resident of Argyle Street to move out. It was considered advancement that they eliminated residential use. Funny eh?

My siblings rented the apartment at the top of the Renaissance Clothing store at Blowers and Barrington for many years. It was a great, cheap apartment with a lot of character, and by character I mean roaches and rats lol! (They got rid of them eventually). The entrance was on Blowers and the stairs wound up to Ralph of Paris Hair Salon on the second floor before reaching their place on the third.

Well that's all for now. I'll check back as I woukld love to read more about the area displaced by Scotia Square.

kevin.tillman said...

Bev, my uncle tells me he was born where the metro centre is. I recall him telling me too that the area in the 40's and later wasn't very nice. Most people that lived there (as was much more common in those days) were renters. There were very few actually landlords at the time, but controlled most of the housing. Loans for housing, were very difficult to get for the very small middle class and unthinkable for the poor.

I'm thinking but obviously i need to know more ... but i think renewal/SQ (ugly in todays standards) was a marvel in comparison to what was there before, and likely not the same scale of upset or upheaval that was felt further north in the city.

Again.... good dialog

Bevboy said...

John and Kevin: Thanks again for your comments. Bevboy's Blog is about many things, but the posts about radio and Halifax history get the most hits.

There is a big, unwritten story about these old Halifax communities. Why not more is known of the streets displaced by Scotia Square is a mystery. I'd guess willful neglect plays a role. It's shameful that people lost their homes. I realize you can't just hold on dearly to old things and refuse to accept change, but once again, it's a damned shame these people lost their homes.

John, thanks for the background concerning the land occupied by the Delta Barrington. Wonder how the Thirteenth Tribe felt about being displaced?

Tell all your friends to read this post and post their comments. I want lots of participation.

Have a good one.

Bevboy