It’s November and we’re still in our annual subscription drive. As you may have noticed, we’ve been sharing stories from subscribers about why they subscribe and what they enjoy about the Examiner. It’s been interesting to read their insights. I think one of my favourite stories was from Vel Oakes who said she enjoyed the comments on the Examiner because people weren’t “nasty” to her. That’s so refreshing and nice to hear, since so many comments elsewhere (er, social media) are just the opposite. I always say “never read the comments” but that doesn’t apply to the comments here, which often add to our stories. So, thank you readers for keeping the discourse interesting, lively, and civil. If you don’t already subscribe, you can sign up here.
1. Gordonstoun and a “dead duck” council
Remember hearing about a Gordonstoun school being built in the Annapolis Valley? Well, Jennifer Henderson has a story about how a Supreme Court judge must decide if the Municipality of the District of Annapolis overstepped its authority in selling land to a private developer just weeks after council was ousted from office. Henderson writes:
The Municipality of the District of Annapolis had paid $600,000 to buy the former Upper Clements theme park with the intention of transferring the title to Ed Farren, the promoter of a proposed Nova Scotia franchise of the Scottish private school attended by the late Prince Philip and Prince Charles. The estimated cost of the Gordonstoun school venture was $62 million.
One week before the newly elected Annapolis County councillors were scheduled to take the oath of office, the outgoing councillors and former Warden Tim Habinski passed two motions: one transferred the theme park property to E.A. Farren Ltd. The second motion gave Farren a 99-year lease on a smaller piece of adjoining property for $300,000.
The incoming council under Warden Alan Parish asked the Supreme Court to quash both decisions on the basis the old council did not have the authority under the Municipal Government Act to make those decisions.
I say bring back Upper Clements Park. My kid and I had some good times there.
2. Let’s talk about vaccines
Starting today, COVID-19 Resource Canada is offering free workshops called Vaccine Conversations where people can safely talk about their questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. Yvette d’Entremont has that report. She writes:
COVID-19 Resources Canada co-founder Tara Moriarty is an infectious diseases researcher and an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Moriarty said this is a common situation, noting that every day those involved in vaccine outreach work, meet, and speak with many people who remain unvaccinated because they’re afraid.
“It’s not because they’re dead set against them. There is a substantial amount of fear…I think most of us know from our own personal lives that there are quite a few people who still really need a lot of support,” Moriarty said in an interview late Monday afternoon.
She said they’re not trying to reach the five to 10% of those determined to never get the COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, they want to focus on people who are unsure, hesitant, or afraid.
From a Halifax Examiner subscriber: Mark Rushton
I began in the news business in 1990, bearing a diploma in broadcasting and a lot left to learn about reporting. I talked my way into a gig at CHNS/CHFX Halifax that lasted, on-and-off, for more than a decade, but gave me skills that informed much of my later endeavours. But it wasn’t investigative journalism. Unlike The Halifax Examiner, this was radio news that reported things that happened. Too often it was little more than rewrites of press releases. It was never controversial, nor did it pretend to be.
Many years later, and with much more perspective and life experience, I am able to appreciate what The Halifax Examiner represents as an independent, non-corporate, beholden-to-no-one effort to give us the good, the bad and the very ugly… but always, what we need to know. I have watched the centralization of decision-making in media —be it broadcast or print— that decimates local newsrooms. Staff cuts and transitions to stringers in the far-flung corners, expected to cover territories the size of the Louisiana Purchase… this does not meet even minimal standards for reporting of local events, much less journalism that informs communities.
The Halifax Examiner doesn’t purport to reach every nook and cranny in Nova Scotia, but damned if its coverage isn’t important to everyone in this province. Subscriber-funded, there are no threats of having purse strings cut by powerful people offended by things that are brought to light. And wow, has this team brought things to light!
The stories that have come to light over the past few years, be it matters of wrongful conviction, corporate and government malfeasance, environmental racism, the ass-covering (ongoing) following the province’s worst mass-murder case in its history, the pie-in-the-sky fleecing manoeuvres of municipal leaders pushing for fantastical shipping developments or even the insane heights of space launch facilities…. all of these have fallen under the critical eye of an amazing team of journalists who can work, guided by their skill and journalistic morals instead of the writing-while-worrying about who they might offend, and at what risk to their employment.
I subscribe to The Halifax Examiner because it offers voices without compromise, a critical assessment of what those in power think we should be told, and then digs deeper to provide analysis and informed comment. It’s also refreshingly irreverent, a must when dealing with individuals in positions of power who feel they are safely above the fray.
The Halifax Examiner — not always pretty, but always relevant and important.
3. COVID-19 update: 3 more people have died from COVID-19
Three more Nova Scotians have died from COVID-19 bringing the total death count to 105. As Tim Bousquet reported here, all three deaths were in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone. Two — a man and a woman, both in their 80s — were residents of the East Cumberland Lodge long-term care home in Pugwash. And the third was a woman in her 60s, although she wasn’t a resident of long-term care.
All of the numbers are up and it’s not good. There are now 16 people in hospital with the disease and seven of those people are in ICU. In the last COVID update on Friday, there were 10 people in hospital and one in ICU. This is a large increase from 10 and 1, respectively, reported on Friday.
4. Black-owned businesses at Christmas at the Forum
Matthew Byard has this story on six Black-owned businesses who are new vendors at Christmas at the Forum. As Byard writes, this is a record number of Black-owned businesses taking part in the annual event:
Kordeena Clayton is founder, organizer, and vendor consultant for Takin BLK, which is described on its Facebook page as “a grassroots business initiative born in the north-end of Halifax Nova Scotia, founded by two Black queer women to support Black-owned businesses.” It was Clayton who helped get the ball rolling for the involvement of Black vendors at this year’s event.
“I was contacted by the organizer for Christmas at the Forum [and] they wanted to collaborate and wanted folks to participate in their event,” she said. “All I did was pass along his info and he agreed to make arrangements with vendors in regards to accessibility.”
The other vendors include Taya Ties, Simply Go Natural Cosmetics, Save Me Save We, Michnat Fashions, and Rocks from my Bra, which is the best business name ever. The forum is hosting pop-up shops until the weekend of December 3 to 5.
The houses Henry J. Harris built
Mimi Fautley has lived in a house on Maynard Street between Harris and Woodill streets in Halifax’s north end since 2002. Fautley was always curious about the history of her house, but finally got down to work researching that history after her divorce, when she became the sole owner of the home last year.
Fautley, who owns The Loop on Barrington Street, also found herself with some downtime when her shop was closed because of COVID lockdowns.
She started her research with the Hopkins’ City Atlas of Halifax of 1878. She said, “Everyone who owns an old house in Halifax knows Hopkins’ City Atlas … because you can see your house.”
In the Hopkins’ City Atlas, Fautley’s house is one of eight houses attached in pairs. They are the only houses on Maynard Street on the block between Harris and Woodill streets. On that atlas, Henry J. Harris’ name is written on the lots.
But she also wanted to know how long her house existed before 1878. She then came across the McAlpine Nova Scotia directories, which were first published around the 1860s.
If you know the name of a person, you can look up their address, and the civic number will be the old civic numbers. You can find your address and find out who lived there. That’s what I did. I started in 1878 and went backward until my house disappeared.
Fautley had an ambitious plan to find out about all the previous owners of her house. But she went further.
There are the eight of us stuck together and we all date from around the same time. And we’re all next to each other in the McAlpine street directory, so why don’t I just do it for all the houses?
On Thursday, Fautley is sharing some of her research on her house and the others built by Harris in a talk hosted by Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.
As for all that ambitious research, Fautley she said it was easier because of the resources that are online. During COVID, the Halifax Public Libraries made some of its resources available, including its Ancestry.com account. That gave her access to census information and other genealogical records. She put together a huge spreadsheet of the houses and created a timeline of all the residents of the houses.
Through records at the Registry of Deeds, she got the story of the building of the houses. She learned Harris also built the houses across the street and the row of houses that line up with her row of houses on the west side of Creighton Street.
Harris was born in the UK and came to Halifax and bought, built, and sold properties on Brunswick Street before starting the project on Maynard. Other owners in the area included the Woodill brothers, who Fautley said sold chunks of their land to Harris, who then built homes and sold them.
What Fautley finds interesting in her research is the financial dynamics of the development of these lots. In the 19th century, she says, when someone took out a mortgage relating to property, that mortgage was taken with a person and not a financial institution. In the 1860s, that person was more often than not the person you were buying the property from. The terms were specified as a year, although it took longer to pay it off. Harris took out mortgages with the Woodills to finance the construction of the houses.
What you see in the Registry of Deeds is this pattern of land is mortgaged, and a piece of the land is released from the mortgage in exchange for a payment and the money for that payment originates in the sale of the house that’s being built on that land. Harris starts building houses, finds a buyer for a house, that buyer gives him money, and he hands over that money to whichever of the Woodill brothers he has a mortgage on that land, and then that guy releases that land from the mortgage. And it happens piece by piece. And it looks like a literal Monopoly board when it’s happening.
Fautley said Harris likely made rent income from the houses he built, but hadn’t yet sold. But she called this a “high-risk dance” of ownership. Her presentation on Thursday is the story of this pattern.
Fautley said as she looked at the records over the years, she could see how the nature of financial transactions, nature of trust, and the fortunes of the neighbourhood changed. The mortgages outlived the Woodill brothers, so the estates were eventually handling the mortgages.
The era of the gentlemen’s agreement ended with the gentlemen in question. Now we’re dealing with widows and people who weren’t messing around.
Eventually, Harris starts to default on the mortgages, and he loses the houses before he can sell them.
But the story of Fautley’s house and the other houses on Maynard is a story of the history of ordinary houses in Halifax. These aren’t the houses of the wealthy — the houses are quite simple in their design. Fautley says she’s been thinking about questions of heritage, and where does physical heritage end and culture heritage begins.
What we do have experience in is renting, buying, selling, building, living in houses. And we’re all part of that story. Architectural heritage is more or less static and maybe one day it is or isn’t knocked down. But the fluid element is the people moving through that physical heritage, that architectural heritage. It exists because it was created by humans, humans live in it, and make decisions around it.
While the houses on Maynard were consequential for Harris, Fautley says they were also consequential for the people who lived in them. She finds those stories more interesting than they physical aspect of the houses themselves.
We think of heritage as preservation, but this is a story of how it never stops. There’s never a point at which this story ends. It’s a story that’s ongoing.
Fautley talked a bit about some of her house’s previous owners, including the first person to live there, James Charles (JC) Dumaresq, an architect who designed Tower Cottage in the Public Gardens, the groundskeeper’s cottage at Point Pleasant Park, and many homes on Young Avenue. He’d eventually move to Saint John to help rebuild that city after the fire of 1877. Fautley says she suspects Dumaresq was overseeing the construction of the Maynard houses. And he designed the building where she finalized the mortgage on her own. During her research, Fautley connected with architect Sydney Dumaresq, who is the great, great grandson of JC, whose firm, SP Architects, designed all sorts of buildings across Nova Scotia, including Pier 21, NSCC campuses, and the Dingle Tower memorial.
For Fautley, researching the story of her house and the others on Maynard is not just about the architecture.
What I am trying to convey is that there is a development story in these houses that we don’t think of. We think of them as someone builds a house, moves into a house, and lives there. Before this, I thought a house got built because someone wanted a house because someone wanted to live in it. But that’s not the way houses are built now. It’s not the way they were built then. Houses get built because someone has the money to build them. And that’s the story this tells. It’s part of that continuum. I am not implying that that’s a natural continuum. It’s a flawed process. It was flawed then and it remains flawed. This is the weird way we go about it. And that is part of our cultural, economic, and architectural heritage.
You can sign up for Fautley’s talk here. It’s an online session on Thursday night at 7:30pm.
Anna Carvery, a writer in Toronto who sometimes tweets out thoughts about COVID, shared an interesting thread about the ways in which the virus has changed the world and how we might all be doing things a little differently from now on. Like wearing masks during flu season and getting booster shots each year.
But this bit really stood out to me: apparently we now have main-floor bathrooms because of the Influenza pandemic of 1918/19. Carvery shared this interview from Short Wave on NPR with Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and journalist who tells host Maddie Sofia about the ways in which infectious disease have shaped bathroom design. (It’s a 12-minute interview and there’s a transcript on the page, too.)
Sofia and Yuko talk about the evolution of bathrooms from outhouses and chamber pots to indoor bathrooms and the movement away from using wood and textiles to enamel that’s more hygienic.
Now, here’s the bit about the main floor bathrooms:
YUKO: So after the 1918 flu epidemic, which also coincided with high levels of tuberculosis, there was an idea of having a second bathroom on the ground floor of your home. And this is in wealthier homes, where, you know, you had an indoor bathroom, let alone two. And the idea here was that because you were getting daily deliveries of things like ice and coal, you had this delivery person who was traipsing around your neighborhood, going into all of your neighbors’ homes, picking up who knows what type of diseases and then coming into your home. So if this person needed to wash their hands or use the restroom while they’re in your home, they could do so right on the ground floor without having to go up the stairs and use the family’s personal bathroom and spread germs up there.
SOFIA: Which is so brilliant. I mean, it’s like – it makes so much intuitive sense to me. And I guess I never really thought about, like, the powder room being a bathroom for the stranger. I thought about it in, like, weird – I don’t know what kind of, like, weird Puritan things are going in my mind. But it was, like…
SOFIA: …A bathroom away so you don’t have to use my bathroom and I don’t have to be embarrassed. But it makes way more sense that it’s, like, a bathroom that keeps people from coming all the way into your house.
As for how the COVID-19 pandemic might change bathroom design, Yuko said she interviewed Lloyd Alter from the Ryerson School of Interior Design who said we may see a rise in vestibules in homes so people can wash their hands as soon as they arrive in your house. They also chat about those fuzzy rugs and toilet seat covers that were big in the 70s and which I am guessing some homeowners still have.
You can listen and read the whole bit here.
Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — also livestreamed
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — also livestreamed
North West Community Council (Wednesday, 3pm) — livestreamed; Case 20401: Updating the Planning Documents for Bedford West Sub Area 10, Kearney Lake Road, Bedford and Halifax
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — organizational meeting
Implementation findings from the PriCARE Program: A nurse-led case management approach in Primary Health Clinics in Nova Scotia (Wednesday, 12pm) — via Zoom
2021 Women in STEM Alumni & Networking Event (Wednesday, 6pm, Prince George Hotel, Market Street, Halifax) — The theme for the discussion is “Work-Life Balance and Living in a Hybrid World,” featuring four leaders from the Dalhousie community: Sophia Stone, Dalhousie; Courtney Pick, Milk Moovement; Joanna Mills Fleming, Dalhousie; and Anne Marie Colbert, Michelin North America (Canada). Info and sign up here.
Waves of Change Training: Basic Bystander Intervention (Tuesday, 3pm, Seminar 7, Arts and Administrative Building) — Hosted by Jordan Roberts, King’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Officer, this training module introduces participants to the issue of sexualized violence on campus. Participants will learn about the law and sexualized violence in Nova Scotia. Participants will also be introduced to the concept of bystander intervention and will be taught various intervention techniques.This training is free, open to all members of the King’s community, and will have snacks!
Positive Change for Public Good: Michener Awards Laureates Live (Tuesday, 6:30pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — also livestreamed on YouTube.
The Michener Awards, Canada’s highest award for Public Service Journalism, and the University of King’s College, Halifax, are pleased to co-host an intimate conversation with recent Michener laureates to hear about the real and immediate change their stories have made. In a world of wrongful accusations, systemic racism, online predators and injustices against our most vulnerable, these journalists have gotten to the heart of the story and made positive change for public good. Join Canada’s top journalists for a behind the scenes glimpse into how they made it happen. Featuring:
Kenneth Jackson and Cullen Crozier – APTN
Kathy Tomlinson – The Globe and Mail
Gabrielle Ducharme and Caroline Touzin – La Presse
Tim Bousquet – Halifax Examiner
Ethan Cox – Ricochet Media
Mask and proof of vaccination required.
In the harbour
08:30: Navios Unite, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
09:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
10:30: Contship Leo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
16:00: MOL Maestro, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
16:30: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland
13:00: Glovertown Spirit, barge, and Beverly M I, tug, sails from Sydport for sea
17:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, transits through the causeway south to north from Halifax en route to Montreal
Yesterday after I wrote the story about my Cape Breton grandmother and the Golden Girls, I got comments or messages from people, including a second cousin whose grandfather was my grandmother’s sibling. And another reader who collects some of my Examiner articles since her family is connected to the Rents in Nova Scotia.
I must be related to everyone.