HILTZ BROS. BLOCK ONCE A KENTVILLE LANDMARK (September 21/01)

The Hiltz Bros. furniture store stood on the corner of Cornwallis and Aberdeen Street in Kentville, the site now occupied by the W. C Hiltz Funeral Home. Over 40 years ago when I was pounding the sales beat for The Advertiser, the store was one of my regular calls. On these occasions, I often had long conversations with the late Ray Hiltz about the building, which in its time was a Kentville landmark. Many readers will recall that the building was the site of one of the first movie theatres in the area; some readers may also remember that the building housed a pioneer retail complex, a mini-mall that was a forerunner of today’s shopping malls.

At my request, Mr. Hiltz wrote a brief history of the building from memory. I found his hand-written recollections recently while cleaning out a filing cabinet and it’s presented here, with a few comments and editing.

“The Hiltz Bros. block was rebuilt after a fire in 1895 by Margeson’s Mill (which operated from) Brook Avenue. It was especially built with a frostproof basement for fresh apple storage, sorting and shipping depot. The ground floor housed the Kings Bridge Stores, a retail complex operated by a joint stock company. The second floor contained three apartments. The third floor was a theatre and later a movie house until 1926.

“The building was purchased by Hiltz Bros. in 1911 and remodelled to the one store, while the second and third floor remained unchanged. A new movie house, the Nicklet, was opened in 1936 and again extensive remodelling of the building took place.

“In the same year the apartments on the second floor were converted into a thirteen actual room display for furniture (thirteen furnished rooms representing various areas of the household). The third floor was converted into a lounge room with recreational facilities for the Dominion Atlantic Railway staff members and was a dance hall until 1945.

“In 1945 the third floor was then converted into a warehouse for Hiltz Bros. and an electric powered goods lift was installed to move goods from the first to the third floor. Additional remodelling followed, in 1949 and 1952.”

There were additional remarks about more renovations in 1956, a year before the store was added to my account list. However, despite the renovations over the years, the upper floor of the building looked much like it did just after the turn of the century. When Mr. Hiltz showed me the third floor in the 1950s it was evident that it once housed a theatre.

As mentioned, Mr. Hiltz wrote this brief history from memory. It may have been 1913 and not 1911 when the Hiltz’ purchased the building that was to hold their store. The building was purchased by W. A. (Bert) Hiltz, who along with his brother George previously conducted business nearby on Main and later Aberdeen Street under the Hiltz Bros. name. George Hiltz died in 1906. On Bert’s death in 1960, the business was taken over by his sons, Ray and George.

In its day the Hiltz Bros. building was connected with the apple growing industry – as a warehouse and sorting area – housed what may have been the first shopping mall in the Valley and held the first movie theatre. Mabel Ferguson’s The Devil’s Half Acre, has other interesting facts about the Hiltz Bros. building and can be found in the local library.

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