Our Wright stuff

The Coast - - THIS WEEK -

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

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