Kentville’s Historical Society: Impacting the Future by Preserving the Past
By Genevieve Allen Hearn
Kings County has one. Windsor and Berwick have one. So do Wolfville, Canning, Hantsport, and Middleton. So why doesn’t Kentville – a town steeped in rich history – have a historical society? Well, they didn’t until just recently. On August 30, 2017 a group of citizens registered the Kentville Historical Society as a non-profit organization, and they are now looking to correct what they saw as a major oversight. John MacDonald, one of the society’s board members, didn’t have an answer to why Kentville lacked a historical society until now. His best guess is that because the Kings Historical Society is situated in the Town of Kentville and operates the Courthouse Museum, most people assumed Kentville’s need was covered.
What purpose do historical societies serve? According to Lynn Pulsifer, one of the Kentville Historical Society’s founding members, historical societies exist to preserve and promote the area’s history. Pulsifer states, “Because there has never been an active Historical Society that has focused primarily on Kentville’s history, a lot of our history has not been preserved. There is very little awareness of Kentville’s past or what made it the Shiretown of Kings County other than a few publications by local authors documenting the town’s history. It’s like going into a graveyard with no headstones.” Pulsifer continues, “It’s ironic that what made our town grow, prosper, and flourish in the past has been completely wiped from today’s landscape!”
Kentville has not had the best track record of preserving and protecting the town’s heritage. The town lost many heritage buildings in the postwar period and to this point only has two designated heritage buildings under the Canadian Register of Historic Places, both located at the Kentville Research Station. Major losses included the railway station and the Dominion Atlantic Railway roadhouse, which earned the town a place on the Heritage Canada Foundation’s “2008 Worst” list. The F.W. Robinson building, neglected for many years by a former property owner, is the next building of historical significance that is slated to be demolished. Hoping to turn a corner, the Kentville Historical Society’s vision begins by stating, “The Kentville Historical Society will strive to be a leader in the preservation of our shared local history”. MacDonald says, “Before we can do that, we have to make the community and its citizens more aware of our history. We hope to accomplish this through education of citizens, both young and old.”
Pulsifer, who is also on Kentville’s Town Council, sees many opportunities in Kentville for the volunteer-led society. She is interested in sharing Kentville’s past to schoolchildren at KCA, displaying artifacts and archival photographs in a public space, and placing information boards throughout the town. In MacDonald’s presentation to Town Council he also indicated that the society has received many recommendations from citizens including the creation of period murals, recorded interviews with elder citizens, and a sports hall of fame, to name a few. Before leaping into projects, however, the primary focus of the society is to get the word out about their existence. On the evening of Wednesday, November 29, the Kentville Historical Society will be hosting a membership and information night for anyone interested in learning more. It will be held in the upstairs of Kentville’s Recreation Centre at 7pm. No RSVP is required – just an interest in Kentville’s history.