At first glance it appears that a parade is definitely taking place on that long ago day along a wet, unpaved Webster Street in Kentville. While some details are unclear in the old photograph, the parade obviously is led by dignitaries in top hats who are in a wagon to which a magnificent white horse is harnessed. Just behind the wagon is a marching band, their brass instruments glinting in the sun. More wagons with more white horses and people afoot are strung out behind the band; spectators are lined up on both sides of the street.
While it appears to be slightly out of focus in places, the A. L Hardy photograph reproduced here is a wonderful glimpse of Kentville in the early 1890s. Similar photographs of 19th Kentville, all taken by its famous photographer A. L. Hardy, are found in the Kings County Museum’s website. (Look in the Hardy archives on the website if you’re curious and would like to see more of his work).
Like the one reproduced in this column, the photographs in the Hardy archives give you a reasonable idea of what Kentville looked like before streets were paved and when horses were still the main source of transportation. Note the hitching posts here and there along Webster Street in Kentville, hitching posts you’ll find in the same time period in Canning, Wolfville and other county villages.
The photograph shown here has a caption in the Hardy archives and it reads: “Horse Show parade, Webster St. Kentville, NS c1890-1910.” However, two items narrow down the time period the photograph was taken. The photograph probably wasn’t taken in 1890 or 1891. According to various writers and researchers, Amos Lawson Hardy arrived in Kentville to set up a studio in 1892 so the picture was taken after that. You can see hydro poles to the left in the photograph and Kentville didn’t have electricity until 1892, which again indicates the shot must have been taken after that.
Several early Kentville businesses can be indentified in the photograph. The most obvious, since the store’s name boldly stands out on its rooftop, is the firm of A. E. Calkin. According to Mabel Nichols in the Kentville history, The Devil’s Half Acre, Arthur E. Calkin opened his store in 1881and operated it until 1921. Calkin ran a men’s clothing and footwear store. Two detailed photographs of the A. E. Calkin store, one showing the exterior, the other the exterior, can be found in Louis Comeau’s book, Historic Kentville.
Another business that can be identified is Ross’s Book Store. Looking up the street, you can see the Ross store sign on the left. When the photograph was taken, William J. Ross had been in operation in Kentville for at least a decade, opening according to Mabel Nichols in 1882. Now, Nichols say Ross opened first on Main Street and seven years later moved to Webster Street. This could mean that possibly, (just possibly if Nichols is right) that the circa 1890-1920 caption on the photograph is correct since the Ross store was operating on Webster Street in that period.
On the right looking up the street, just before the A. E. Calkin store, are buildings Louis Comeau identified for me. The prominent, three storey store located immediately on the right was operated by a merchant identified as E. J. Bishop in Nichols book. Today, we know this store, sans the upper storey, as R. W. Phinneys clothing store.
In the foreground on the left, just before Ross’s Book Store, is a business identified in Price’s map of Kentville simply as the Simpson Brothers building. Beyond it, opposite A. E. Calkins, is the Scotia Block which was destroyed in a fire. Scotia Block was built by one of Kentville’s most prominent citizens, George E. Calkin, who served as Kentville’s Postmaster from 1867 until 1876. The office building of another prominent Kentville citizen and historian, Probate Court Judge E. J. Cogswell, can be seen in the distance, the small white building at the far end of Webster Street.