Halifax, Nova Scotia

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Halifax Central Library | 10am - 3pm

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2019 Word on the Street Halifax Schedule

WoTS Halifax Festival Line-Up Updates as of September 1st.

Historical Nova Scotia

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM

Brenda Thompson – A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia

Brenda Thompson’s poignant treatise on the treatment of the poor in Nova Scotia and the evolution of private and government-subsidized poor houses. None of these 32 buildings remain. This is a very important book that makes us pause and ask serious questions.

Brenda Thompson was raised in the Hippie era of peace, social justice and acceptance. Having grown up in that environment, Brenda became educated in social justice issues, earning an MA from Acadia University. Brenda worked for many years (both paid and volunteer) for non-profits in the area of human rights. Now (finally) mortgage-free, she became self-employed to concentrate on her passions of writing, social justice and history. Brenda is married to a very patient man and has two amazing daughters. She lives in a geodesic dome in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia.



Joseph M.A. Ballard – Historic House Names of Nova Scotia

Mount Uniacke, Acacia Grove, Winckworth, Saint’s Rest, Spruce Tree Cottage. Ever wonder how Nova Scotia houses got their names? The better-known names are largely connected with prominent historical figures who resided in commodious homes with sprawling grounds, but the naming tradition was far more prevalent than that. In this book, the author explains that a “hurst” is a wooded eminence, a hillock, or a grove, and this suffix lends an air of nobility to a property—Springhurst in Maitland, Lindenhurst in Halifax, and the ubiquitous Elmhurst, which appears in various communities.

Named houses have a certain essence and vitality about them. Named or not, places do possess character—and putting a name to something that exhibits character makes sense on some level. Historic House Names of Nova Scotia provides a fascinating look at the house-naming tradition in Nova Scotia. What sorts of names did Bluenoses create, and what did the names mean? Author and historian Joe Ballard has amassed a wealth of historical information and photos on the subject.

Joseph M. A. Ballard is a senior preservation consultant with the cultural resource firm, Vineberg & Fulton Ltd. and VP market development with the MIRCS Institute. Joseph has associations with several heritage organizations including past-president of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, member of the Town of Truro Heritage Advisory Committee, past-president of the Colchester Historical Society, director with the Friends of the Little White Schoolhouse Museum, steering committee member of the Nova Scotia Provincial Heritage Conference, and member of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. His articles on Nova Scotia’s cultural and architectural heritage have appeared in Saltscapes and Edifice. He is the recipient of the 2012 Town of Truro Heritage Award and 2016 Helen Creighton Folklore Society Research Grant. Joseph had two books published in 2018, Fairy Dells and Rustic Bowers (SSP Publishing) and Historic House Names of Nova Scotia (Nimbus Publishing).


Devonna Edwards – Sawbones: Hospitals, Institutions, Medicine and Nursing

A fascinating non-fiction history in photography & prose by nurse/author Devonna Edwards of the evolution of hospitals and related institutions in HRM (oldest & most specialized hospitals in NS). 269 years from the founding of Halifax to 2018; parallels the story of disease & medicine and how medical doctors and nurses evolved as professions to cope with the ever-changing threats from ancient and modern diseases, catastrophe and war. Follow the evolution of societal attitudes towards less fortunate souls who were often victims of circumstance, tragedy, discrimination or disability. Contains 230 photographs/sketches of historical structures, many of which no longer exist; plus fascinating anecdotes: poems, ‘grave-robbing’; ‘saved by the bell’; ‘ghost’ stories at the Halifax Infirmary, the Nova Scotia Hospital & George’s Island tunnels … more.. Bonus chapters: temporary hospitals of the Halifax Explosion and WWI and WWII hospital ships. A most comprehensive book: accurate, sad, inspiring, shocking, and revealing.

Born in Halifax, N.S. as the eldest daughter (seven girls and three boys) of ten children to John and Mary O’Brien, Devonna was raised in the village of Fairview (then a suburb of Halifax) in an Irish and Acadian household.

Inspired by her pharmacist father, she chose nursing as her profession, going on to graduate from the Halifax Infirmary on Queen Street as a nurse (; she would work in her chosen field for over twenty-five years.

Today she lives in suburban Halifax with her husband of almost fifty years, Don, who calls Devonna a ‘history junkie’ and she suggests that she is likely guilty as charged, for there is nothing she enjoys more than scouring old newspapers, journals, maps and visiting old bookstores and libraries in her spare time. Her appetite to learn about the past became insatiable. It always amazed her to see how far society has progressed in the field of health and medicine … and how institutions and patient care have dramatically evolved over the years. It was on one of her many visits to the Provincial Archives (NSARM) that she first began to gather and collect old photographs and information on the many institutions within the Halifax-Dartmouth area (HRM). As the collection began to build, she soon realized that uncovering a wealth of information was, in a word, fascinating. That research led her to develop and hone her passion for writing historical publications.