“On the main line of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, Kentville is the county seat of Kings. The small hamlet, which clustered round a ford on the Cornwallis River was originally called Horton Corner, and formed a convenient meeting and trading point for the scant population of the district. Eventually it became a somewhat important station on the old military and post roads from Halifax to Annapolis and its name was changed to Kentville on the occasion of a visit of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent.
“Gradually the little village grew and prospered with the growth of the county, but its vigorous expansion really began with the opening of the railway. It is the seat of the county municipal government, where all public business is transacted, has regular sittings of the Supreme Court and municipal courts, has a well equipped county academy, a commodious county exhibition building, and a handsome new post office building. The court house, however, is old and inconvenient, but is expected to be replaced shortly by an edifice creditable to the county and the town.”
Edited some for brevity, this introduction to a report on Kentville is from the Canadian Trade Review, dated August 24, 1900. Much more was to be said about the town in the report, all of it flattering except for the remark about the old, inconvenient courthouse (which was replaced the year the review came out).
Again edited for brevity, here’s an overview of Kentville as it was in 1900.
“Situation: Kentville is delightfully situated at the confluence of the Kentville Brook ad the Cornwallis River. The latter flows through the center of the town and being a tidal river, provides a natural sewer system. The business quarter lies along a narrow strip of intervale south of the river, and the residential and suburban quarter cluster in the little valleys and along the sloping hillsides, or are boldly perched on the bluffs.
“Amenities: The town is supplied with water from lakes some three-and-a-half miles distant. It is lighted by electricity on the incandescent system, its streets and sidewalks are broad. Five religious denominations minister to the spiritual needs of the community – the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist. There are three newspapers published in the town, two weekly (The Advertiser and Western Chronicle) and one bi-weekly, The Wedge. There are two public halls besides the halls of the Masonic, Oddfellows, Y.M.C.A and other private societies. The people are genial, warm-hearted and hospital, and their general intelligence and culture are of a high order.
“Kentville is the headquarters in Canada of the Dominion Atlantic Railway and not only is the General Manager and staff located here, but also the locomotive and car construction and repair shops. This naturally gives permanent employment to a large number of persons and has been one of the most important factors in the growth and prosperity of the town.
“There are two bank agencies, that of the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Union Bank of Halifax. There is also a Dominion Savings Bank. Under the energetic initiative of M. G. DeWolfe and G. E. Calkin, Kentville was among the first of the smaller town to organize a local board of trade.
“Until recent years, Kentville had been looked upon rather as a charming and attractive residential than as an industrial town. Its commanding situation in the centre of a populous and productive country, and its unrivalled railway and other facilities, are now being more fully recognised, and have led to the establishment of various manufacturing industries. Among them are the Nova Scotia Carriage Company, the Lloyd Manufacturing Company and the Cornwallis Valley Packing Company. The Kerr Vegetable Evaporating Company is another Kentville enterprise for preparation of a patent vegetable soup for use by the British Navy. There are also lumbering, woodworking, stave and barrel factories, marble cutting and other industries in the town.
“Hotels and boarding houses. Kentville is exceptionally well supplied with hotels and other accommodations. Special mention may be made of the Hotel Aberdeen, a spacious and elegant structure occupying an excellent open site near the railway station. Two other hotels, Townsend’s and MacIntosh’s, are commodious and high class. Special mention must also be made of Miss Webster’s Sanitarium near the centre of town. This establishment, which is open year around, enjoys the benefit of competent medical advice and is becoming widely known.”
The review of Kentville closes with mention of various prominent buildings and residences. Among the former is the Margeson block “with a commodious Opera House,” and among the latter the residence of H. H. Wickwire, MPP, on the former site of the Royal Oak Tavern. Today, this house, saluted in 1900 as a “large and handsome residence with terraced and beautified grounds,” is the Wickwire House Bed and Breakfast.