When Cyril White commissioned artist Edwin Hollett to paint a mural of the Kentville train station on the old warehouse adjacent to his business several years ago, he noted that he’d made White’s Funeral Home the repository for historic town images.
White has continued to do this with yet another mural with a historical theme called Kentville’s Memory Lane. Also painted by Hollett (on the opposite side of the warehouse wall showing the train station) the mural depicts Kentville as it was at various times over the past 150 or so years. Approximately 20 meters long by about 2 meters high, the mural has 15 panels with 23 scenes of old-time Kentville; most of the scenes show buildings that have long since vanished.
Coincidentally, the warehouse the murals grace is also of historic interest. The warehouse was built next to the railway line by the British apple exporter Herbert Oyler when the apple growing industry was booming; the warehouse had it own spur line beside the main track. Later, after the apple industry collapsed, the Oyler warehouse was purchased by the P. R. Ritcey Co. Limited, a grocery wholesaler fronting on Aberdeen Street near the railway station. Ritcey used the spur line to receive shipments into the 1960s. When Ritcey’s store was demolished in the 1980s the Oyler warehouse was converted to a branch of Cleves Sporting Goods; when this closed in 2013 the building was purchased by White’s Funeral Home.
Now that you have the warehouses’ history, let’s look at some of the scenes on the latest mural on its north wall:
The centrepiece of this magnificent mural features the Oakgrove Cemetery, which was established in 1817 when the Peck family set aside a half acre of land for a public burying ground.
The illustration to the right of the centrepiece, the Aberdeen Hotel, was built in 1892. Privately owned at first, it was purchased by the D.A.R. in 1920 and renamed the Cornwallis Inn. The hotel was demolished after a new Cornwallis Inn was built on Main Street in 1930.
The Blanchard Fraser Memorial Hospital – opened in 1938 and serving until the Valley Regional Hospital opened in 1992 – and the Nova Scotia San which opened in 1904, are illustrated on the left on the centrepiece. The grounds of the “San” is now the site of the Valley Regional Hospital.
Little is known about the history of one old building illustrated on the mural – the Kentville Exhibition Building. Louis Comeau, who has a photograph of the building, dated circa 1890, in his book Historic Kentville, writes that it was constructed in the mid-1880s (and possibly in 1879) but gives no other details. The building burned to the ground in 1900.
One of the most interesting buildings illustrated in the mural is the Nova Scotia Carriage Factory, which began to manufacture carriages and sleighs in 1868 and was located where the county municipal building now stands. Few people know that the McKay Motor Car was also manufactured there between 1910 and 1912.
Also illustrated is the three-story post office that was built on Aberdeen Street in 1899 and served the town until 1962. The Bank of Montreal and various office suites, including this newspaper, now occupy the site.
Among the other buildings shown in the mural are the D.A.R. roundhouse, Kentville’s fire station (the building also housed the former Town Hall), the Kings County Courthouse (built in 1904 or 1905 depending on which source you are consulting) which today is headquarters for the Kings Historical Society and the Red Store, which opened in 1828 and operated continuously for 132 years on the corner of Main and Cornwallis Street. Several now-defunct retail stores and car dealerships are included in the mural as well.
All in all, the mural is an extraordinary capturing of many of Kentville’s long gone historic buildings. With this second mural, Cyril White’s intent to make his place of business a repository for historic Kentville images definitely has taken a step forward.