KENTVILLE, WOLFVILLE – 20th CENTURY VIEWS (October 19/15)

Writing in the Wolfville history, Mud Creek, the editorial staff describes the town as being in a “growing period” in the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century.  In this time, they say, Wolfville was booming and could boast of “twenty streets, five churches, sixteen stores and hotels …. several boarding houses” and as was typical of the times, a couple of  taverns.

Wolfville continued to prosper as different kinds of retail stores and service firms moved into town around the turn of the century.  For a time the town was the headquarters for the W. & A.R. Railway.   But owing to a “lack of co-operation from owners of land” in Wolfville, reads the Mud Creek book, the railway moved it headquarters to Kentville.  Said town then prospered in turn, as Wolfville had earlier.  Thanks to the railway, Kentville  soon became the busier and more bustling of the two towns.

Before the railway arrived in Kings County, Wolfville was a larger and busier commercial centre than Kentville.  However, this changed when the railroad set up its headquarters in Kentville and built its repair shops, car construction sheds, roundhouses and freight sheds there as well.  The railroad’s arrival and especially the building of the Cornwallis Valley Railway from Kingsport to Kentville also diminished Wolfville’s role as a port.  Another blow was the removal of the law courts from Wolfville and relocating them in Kentville, solidifying the latter’s claim to be the capital of the county.

However, while it outshone Kentville and other county villages retail-wise at first, Wolfville eventually became more renowned as a university town rather than a commercial centre.  The Mud Creek editors acknowledge this in the Wolfville history, noting that its reputation as a university town was established early and this reputation spread well beyond the confines of the Annapolis Valley.

What’s interesting about Kentville and Wolfville is how various prominent residents pictured the towns in the early years of the 20th century.  Sketches published in a regional magazine in 1916 described Kentville as the “commercial metropolis of the Annapolis Valley” and Wolfville as a college town and a favourite residential centre.  The Kentville sketch was written by a leading Kentville retailer, George E. Calkin, the Wolfville sketch by the editor of The Acadian, B. O. Davison.

Oddly, Calkin and Davison both saw their towns and the surrounding countryside as tourist resorts.  Only Calkin stressed that his town was an industrial and commercial leader that boasted a nearby military camp, the Dominion Experimental Station, the first ever “Provincial Hospital for the cure of tuberculosis” (the N.S. Sanatorium) and, of course, the railway that spurred Kentville’s retail and housing boom.

B. O. Davison waxed on in the 1916 review about all the tourist attractions Wolfville offered, that it was a “centre of historic interest,” and most of all that it was the “best residential town in eastern Canada.”  The university and the town’s large retail section are mentioned in passing.

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