Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Join me on a little winter ramble in the wilderness. Not the new backlands urban wilderness park but the real urban wilderness, among the Kempt Road car dealerships.

Took our car to the dealer for a recall: apparently it could spontaneously careen down a hill. VW has a new building that has the charm of an airport terminal, so it was a little bit like starting a real trip.

It was cold and blustery in a landscape manufactured not for walking. There were some sidewalks, evidence of “natural” gardens, and frequent reminders of our national disgrace.

If I was younger, maybe I could muster some interest in the theatre of car dealership architecture; the showy buildings come and go often. When so much I like gets knocked down, it is a relief to see the demolition of buildings that no one cares about. Just out of the frame there were machines knocking down this automobile stage set. From the 1990s, do you think?

Strange that even lots for expensive cars flutter with cheesy streamers. Then I remembered that the tinsel was supposed to keep birds from pooping on the cars. Imagine. Birds.

But there were some small buildings that made me pause. I’ve wanted to get up close to this one for some time, because I’m fond of 1960s buildings that have the second floor floating over surface parking. See a couple more examples in this post.

A helpful plaque (always read the plaque) provided dates, but I wondered why Gerry Regan was raising the flag. Then I recalled that A.G. Brown was a colourful cabinet minister in Regan’s government.

A little curtain wall glass cube never goes out of style. And Etcetera has done a great job brightening up their home.

Don Schelew could use some smartening, but it wouldn’t take much. In the 50s and 60s there was lots of Don Schelew advertising and it feels like their wordmark has never changed.

Walking through grim parking lots, gingerly creeping over ridges of ice, buffeted by the frozen wind, it all began to take away my smile. Then I remembered the Fairview Lawn Cemetery was just around the corner. All I had to do was get across four lanes of speeding traffic.

I had not visited the cemetery for about 35 years and it was slightly more interesting than I remembered. It was established in 1893, when Camp Hill Cemetery was beginning to fill up, and was the next advancement in cemetery design. Lawn cemeteries were more ordered than their Victorian ancestors. And lawny.

There were some attractive monuments but generally the stones are getting out of the periods I find interesting.

These days many visitors come to see the 121 graves of folks who died when Titanic sank.

That’s what brought me to the cemetery in 1984 to take a couple of photos. Since the excitement of the 1997 movie the lawn in front of the stones has been replaced by gravel, to accommodate the disaster tourism.



A bump in the road felt appropriate for the cemetery.

It was a shock to exit the peaceful and well-treed cemetery, and be confronted, once again, by this soulless landscape. Plant some trees, already.

I retrieved the car and headed down to Spring Garden Road. In the midst of mindlessly striding across Victoria Park, I was overcome by a feeling of relief to be around trees and in a narrow strip of landscape that buffered the surrounding traffic. Felt good. Then I came upon this little intervention with Sir Walter, and I smiled.


At some point on my ramble it occurred to me that as an old white man I could amble through parking lots and stop to look at building details without attracting attention or alarm. It made me sad that these simple activities that give me pleasure might not be available, hassle free, to everyone.

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.