NAMING THE NEW KENTVILLE BRIDGE (March 23/15)

It’s a tradition to name bridges after prominent citizens who have made their mark in our society.  But once the speeches are made, the ribbons cut and a bridge officially opened, the name given a new span is usually is quickly forgotten and rarely if ever used.

While an exception is the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge spanning Halifax Harbour, few know the one over the Cornwallis River at Port Williams is named after former MLA and Kentville Mayor Gladys Porter.  And except for history buffs who collect obscure trivia, no one knows the bridge over the Cornwallis River in Kentville has an official name – it was dubbed the Silver Link when it was opened in 1931.

Now, to switch gears a bit on the topic of bridge names:  Right after the announcement that a new bridge would be built in Kentville, various names were suggested.  A prominent former Kentville mayor, Wendell Phinney, was among those mentioned and if the bridge is to have a name he certainly should be considered.

A case can also be made to consider naming the new bridge after members of a once prominent Kentville family, the Lyons.  Among the Lyons, who emigrated here from Ireland just after the Napoleonic War, are a long-serving postmaster, an hotelier and a mayor.  Kentville historian Louis Comeau, a Lyons descendant, has done considerable research on the family’s role in Kentville society since their arrival here; what he has found is impressive.  Quoting from a note Louis sent me, here are excerpts from what his research has turned up regarding the Lyons:

“James Lyons, 18??-1893, bought the Stagecoach Inn* in 1830.  The hotel was located outside of Kentville at that time as the Mill Brook was (then) the town boundary.  Of note, it was here in 1884 the ‘Sailor Prince’, the Duke of York (later to become King George V) stayed while on a hunting trip in the county.  In 1875 James also built the Lyons Hotel (located on the corner of Aberdeen and Webster Street just south of the DAR station, which he operated until 1887, at which time he sold it.

“His son, Joseph R (1846-1940) was the postmaster in Kentville from 1892 to 1940 (48 years) the longest serving in Canada.  He was still working when he died.

Joseph R’s son, Gerald W (1894-1935) who was a lawyer, became the 23rd mayor of Kentville in 1932; he died three years later in 1935 while still in office.

“Also of interest is Joseph R’s daughter Lillian who married William Jones.  Their son Malachi Jones, a lawyer, was appointed to the Supreme Court Trial Division in 1970; by 1979 he became Judge of the Supreme Court appeal Division and then finally Justice of the Court of Appeal.”

In addition, Louis mentioned other members of the Lyons family who served in various capacities in and around Kentville.  He makes an excellent case for the Lyons family being considered when it comes down to deciding on a name for the new Kentville bridge.

*Situated on east Main Street and now known as the Stagecoach Apartments, the building has been recognised as “architecturally unique and historically interesting” by the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.

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