(Third in a series celebrating Kentville’s 125th year of incorporation. (Column 1, Column 2)
When William Redden died on 4 December, 1894, The Advertiser saluted him as one of Kentville’s prominent citizens. The newspaper named Redden and another longtime resident who passed away at the same time as “landmarks of a former generation (who) have passed away from the view of Kentville citizens.”
What had William Redden achieved to earn this distinction? We have to look to Arthur W. H. Eaton’s Kings County history for the answer to this question. Redden was a builder, trader, real estate developer, farmer and mill operator. As Eaton points out, Redden was “in a marked degree identified for many years with the material growth and prosperity of the town.” Apparently a large part of residential Kentville (up until Eaton published his history in 1910) owed its existence to Redden’s single-handed enterprise. “To his foresight, courage and industry, The Advertiser said, “the large number of buildings he erected are an enduring monument.”
Many of those “enduring monuments” stand today. “He bought much land and built many houses to sell and rent,” writes Eaton. Exactly how many houses and other buildings Redden built in Kentville might be difficult to determine today but some of his handiwork can be identified. As Eaton writes in his county history, “a large number of the houses in that part of Kentville known as ‘the flat’ are the result of his enterprise.”
These houses, eight in all, stand along east Main Street between the ends of Crescent Avenue. All were built immediately before and just after 1886, the year Kentville was incorporated. Once this area was farmland; but Kentville’s rapid growth created a demand for housing and William Redden obliged by building affordable single family homes along the stretch of Main Street some deeds refer to as Redden Row or Redden Road.
As we can see today, Redden constructed his houses close to the street on narrow lots, using a building style that was standard at the time. However, while they may have been average houses for the period, they were once the residences of some of Kentville’s elite business and working class people.
A census taken in the early 1890s reveals that residents of seven of the eight homes along Redden Row ranged from office workers to traditional craftsmen. Included were the general manager of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, accountants, a cooper, stone mason, a hotel clerk and a customs officer. It is believed that Kentville’s first mayor, John W. King, lived on the Row as well, at 227 Main Street. King served as mayor from 1887 to 1889.