Our Wright stuff
The house at 989 Young Avenue, on the Inglis Street corner, does little to reflect its fascinating history. Paint peels on the double-door entrance that incongruously announces an herbalist within—PLEASE RING DOORBELL—as an embossed card offers opportunities for “day renters” and the reality of 2018 warns of an electronic security system. Past the doors, a Government of Canada plaque honouring Edith Archibald (1854-1936) dominates the front entranceway. But none of these notices tells of George Wright, the house’s dynamic original owner.
Wright was the sportsman/benefactor of the YMCA and YWCA; community planner who developed the neighbourhood of charming houses around Wright Avenue and Morris and South Park Streets; and Titanic drowning victim. At the house, however, he is remembered by only a single modest black-and-white photo in the corner of a meeting room, while a warren of closed doors, forbidden hallways and unseen grand staircases hints at the jewel of architect J.C.Dumaresqu’s 1896 design.
Yet that beautiful building yells at us! It reminds us of why we live in Halifax and how visitors see us. Its status is enshrined in the opening lines of the February 15, 1896 bylaw An Act Relating To Young Avenue, which tell us “Young Avenue forms the main Entrance to The Park.” It is our shame that not even a plaque honours George Wright at his now-shabby house. As cruise ship passengers descend in April, gawkers wander in during Doors Open Halifax in June and Halifax’s hosting of the 2018 Titanic International Society convention bring a global audience to Titanic-related sites around the city, eugenicist Edith Archibald will get more notice.
Haligonians and George Wright deserve a painted, properly maintained house. Right now, the house passes for someone else’s lazy indifference. But the Wright house should be like a mini Fleming Tower—“an instructive object lesson,” to quote Sandford Fleming, “to foster in the minds of the youth and future generations a worthy pride in their past.” We can do better, Halifax. —Bill Jordan, Halifax