In late April 1966, I walked over to Brunswick Street and took a couple of photos of old houses. In the photo above, a boy looks back at the camera (a fixed focus Kodak) suddenly evoking the final shot in Truffaut’s touching, drama 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups). From the beginning that was the miracle of photography; to frame a view or preserve a moment. Later you might discover what it meant.
The rest of my photos that day had to age a few decades before they became interesting. I had gone to Brunswick Street because Heritage Trust was raising awareness that the street was lined with the once grand homes of wealthy merchants. I didn’t know anything about old houses so now it is interesting to see what I selected to photograph.
The quoins (cornerstones) make this robust 1859 house unusual (to my eye it looks like the roof and dormers were modernized in the later 19th century). Its first resident was John Starr who manufactured the famous ice skates in Dartmouth. Last Sunday I was part of the human river that flowed past the site of his factory on Sawmill River in Dartmouth.
The Anderson House is a good example of the most popular Halifax house form in the 19th century. A couple of years after my visit we would all learn to point at the roof and say Scottish dormers. When I posted this picture on Facebook last year many people remembered the Arsenault family that lived in the house in the 60s. One person was particularly enchanted with Mrs. Arsenault’s cinnamon loaf.
What attracted my eye here were the four flue, brick chimneys (I was so enthralled I cut off the bottom of the house). Today I would also be excited by the asphalt “brick” siding. Turned out this was the house of Sir Sandford Fleming (of Fleming Park and developer of standard time). The house became an early example of careful rehabilitation in the mid 70s and a cautionary tale when it succumbed to financial problems. It is now a half-way house.
A double house that became well known in the 70s was the Nathaniel & William West House. It was restored and then became the studio for celebrity photographer Sherman Hines. In its rundown state the house feels wonderfully French. In the 70s there was a lot of worry about how to treat windows in old buildings that were put to new uses. Often the choice was a single sheet of glass – not the best choice in this situation IMO.
Sherman Hines also operated the West House Museum and used a swell illustration of the house.
While the house was being restored I photographed the iron railing with a West family monogram in the centre. Have you ever seen so many brackets?
My memory is that this wooden flower was on the door of the West House. My older photograph suggests I might be wrong.
And here is the full image of the photo I started with. Hope Cottage is in the foreground and the Little Dutch Church is barely visible in the distance. Many of the buildings survive in this section of the street but the character has, not surprisingly, changed. Some trees have been lost and fences have disappeared. You should go walk the street and take some photos. Fifty years from now folks will be fascinated.