The North Baptist Church – Gottingen Street

Note: I was recently asked to become a regular contributor to the blog Spacing Atlantic. This is going to be the first in a series of posts that will be cross posted on both the Old North End and Spacing Atlantic blogs. Welcome to everyone who is visiting from SA for the first time. I hope that you find this project interesting and informative.

Photo from 50th Anniversary Pamphlet, 1898

The great thing about living in a city is that the streetscapes of busy streets are ever-changing. One such streetscape which has grown, decayed and is being rebuilt is that of the South end of Gottingen Street in Halifax. Driving down this part of Gottingen today you see construction taking place all over with new condo buildings replacing old movie theatres and shops. One building that stands out today is the large former Vogue movie theatre building prominently situated in the middle of the block between Falkland and Cornwallis streets. What people don’t know today is that this building which has been used in some form or another as a house of amusement – besides being a movie theatre it housed a community theatre, soft-core porn theatre, gay dance club and community centre and a boxing arena – it was originally a Baptist Church.

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Death in the North End – Infanticide

Unwanted pregnancies in the 19th Century led to one of two outcomes, 1) the baby was born illegitimately 2) in extreme cases women took things into their own hands. Abortion was illegal in Canada until 1968/69 and since 1988 now law has existed in Canada on the topic – though conceivable that abortion as sought out by women in the 19th Century it would have been difficult and dangerous and if discovered could have led to legal issues likely for both the woman seeking the abortion and the person performing the abortion.

In my research I have come across many instances in church records where illegitimate children are being baptised and their “status” is noted – no more is this more apparent than in Catholic Church records. An examination of just the first month of January 1857 at St. Mary’s Basilica shows that there were four baptisms of children who were born out of wedlock.

In extreme cases infanticide took place and one such case is that of Mary Slaughenwhite, aged 26 of St. Margaret’s Bay who was arrested for the act of infanticide at her residence on Woodill Street in January 1898. Here is her story:

The Evening Mail, 24 January 1898 – Case of Infanticide

Mary Slaughenwhite, aged 26, is under arrest charged with concealment of birth. The accused is a very good looking girl, and came to Halifax from St. Margaret’s Bay. She formerly stopped at the residence of Morris, the absconder. When Morris left the city Mary Slaughenwhite went to her home in St. Margaret’s Bay. It is alleged that a few days ago she was turned from her home and was taken bin by a friend who lives in the vicinity of Merklesfield, where she became a mother. She placed her infant in her trunk and subsequently moved to 12 Woodill Street. The case was reported to Detective Power, who, after making enquiries, sent a cabman to 12 Woodill street, and on Saturday evening had the trunk removed to the police station. Medical Examiner Finn was sent for, and the trunk was broken open in the presence of the doctor and Detective Power. The child’s body was found in the trunk. Dr. Finn stated that the child had been born alive. The mother was sent to the poor asylum and will be arraigned in the police court as soon as her condition permits. Medical Examiner Finn filed his report with Stipendiary Fielding this morning. It is as follows:

“I have enquired into the circumstances attending the death of the female child of Mary Slaughenwhite. at Halifax, the date of the said death being unknown to me. I have examined the body of the said child and performed an autopsy thereon. I have appended a report of said autopsy to this document. From the circumstances attending the case, I deem it advisable  to order an investigation before the Stipendiary magistrate of Halifax into the circumstances attending said death. I am of the opinion that the said child came to her death by foul means.”

The report of the autopsy annexed to the report showed that all of the organs of the body had been in a normal state, and that air found in the lungs showed that the child had lived after it had been born. It was stated that evidence has been obtained which will tend to show that the child was alive when it was placed in the trunk, and that it died from suffocation.

____________________

A sad story for both the child and for Mary Slaughenwhite. I am sure further research would be able to tell us what happened to Mary – a review of court records, the police reports and any other legal documents that might still be available. These types of stories, though sad, provide a mountain of details into the daily lives of our ancestors and should not be discarded or forgotten.

The Religious North End

Churches of the North End (photo source: Halifax, Nova Scotia and its Attractions, Howard & Kutsche, ca. 1902).

The North End could be defined as a city of churches. In just a few city blocks from the mid-1860s to the early decades of the 20th century there were 15 places of worship. These institution provided their communities with places to socialize as well as places to worship for much of the late 19th century. Of the 15 churches that populated this neighbourhood only three are still in active service and today only one of the steeples towers over the buildings and shops below. As the inner city changed and populations moved further North, into the West End of Halifax and/or out into Armdale, Fairview and Rockingham these congregations suffered declining attendance and for the most part closed or relocated. Today we are seeing that same trend throughout the city’s churches giving proof to the suggestion that history repeats itself.  The churches of the North End:

The Church of the Holy Redeemer, Brunswick Street, ca. 1899 (NS Historic Places Initiative)

– Church of the Holy Redeemer, Universalist Unitarian Church, Brunswick Street – opened 1874 sold in the 1940s and converted to apartments in the 1980s.

– Saint Patrick’s, Roman Catholic Church, Brunswick Street – opened 1843.

– Saint George’s Round Church, Anglican, Brunswick Street – opened 1802.

– Brunswick Street Methodist Church, Brunswick Street – opened 1834.

– Little Dutch Church, Anglican, Brunswick Street – opened 1756.

– Presbyterian Church, Brunswick Street – opened, moved in 1917 to Windsor Street.

– Park Street Presbyterian Church, North Park Street – opened in 1880s, destroyed by fire 1940s.

– Cornwallis Baptist Church, Cornwallis Street  – opened 1840s.

– African Episcopalian Methodist Church, cor of Gottingen and Falkland Street – demolished 1950s.

– North Baptist Church, Gottingen Street – 1860s- ca. 1913.

Underneath Scotia Square, the Trade Mart Building and the Cogswell Interchange

Garrison Chapel, Brunswick Street, burned 1910 (NS Museum)

– Poplar Grove Presbyterian, Poplar Grove – 1793-1884 (relocated to North Park Street).

– Salem Chapel Baptist Church, Argyle Street – 1845.

– Chalmer’s Church, Presbyterian Duke and Barrington 1849-1905.

– Trinity Free Church, Jacob Street (congregation moved to Garrison Chapel in 1907).

– Garrison Chapel, corner of Cogswell and Brunswick Streets demolished in 2008/09.

Over the next few weeks and months we will highlight the history of each of these institutions and how the impacted the local community. The first church in our study will be the North Baptist Church which was located between Falkland and Cornwallis streets on Gottingen.

Get to know your neighbours – The Poteri family of Falkland Street

Once a week we are going to try and post a quick little blurb about some of the families that lived in The Old North End over the years. A lot of this work will be done by using sources found online. It will act as a snapshot and won’t, by any means, be complete. So, its a beautiful day in this neighbourhood, a beautiful day for a neighbour… let’s get to know some of ours

The POTERI family of 36 Falkland Street (1935)

Ancestry.com has recently made available to its subscribers voter lists for most of the federal elections in Canada since 1935. Using the Halifax City voters list for 1935 we are able to get a snapshot of who lived on each street in the city where Census records are not available (the earliest Census available to researchers is the 1911 Census, the 1921 Census is due to be released in 2013 sometime). The 1935 voters list also allows us to see what The Old North End looked like in terms of demographic/economic make up – for instance using Falkland Street as an example it was clear from looking at the professions of those listed as being voter age or older that the majority of the people living on this street  made their living from the trades – of the 120 people listed as living on Falkland Street we have 19 men who’s profession was general labourer. The waterfront played an important role in the lives of the residences with 6 men being Stevedores/Longshoreman, 5 being Seaman and so on.

One family of particular interest is the Poteri family who lived at 36 Falkland Street in 1935.  Of Italian descent in what was otherwise an English/Irish/German ethnic community with neighbours who’s names were Boutilier, Heisler, Rhodenizer, Zinck, Cook, Nickerson, Hogan, Constable, Power,Purcell, White, Oakley, Foley and Murphy the Poteri’s stood out.

The household was led by Anthony J. Poteri who was born in Halifax on 9 January 1900 to an Scilian father Gaspero Poteri and an Irish mother Ellen Lambert. Anthony’s father Gaspero was born 22 December 1850 in Sicily, Italy he came to Canada sometime in the early 1880s. He married Ellen Lambert of Co. Wexford, Ireland who was born on 21 May 1867 the daughter of John and Mary Lambert and she came to Canada in the late 1880s. Gaspero and Ellen married at St. Mary’s Bascilica on 26 October 1896. One of the witnesses to the marriage was a Luigi Tirscornia/Lirscornia which implies that there was a small Italian Catholic community already in Halifax in the mid 1890s. Gaspero appears to have been involved in the Candy business owning a shop on the South end of Gottingen Street.

Gaspero and Ellen had the following children:

1. Anthony, b. 9 January 1900 (see below)

2. Mary,  b. 8 August 1901 she married Francis J. Sullivan at St. Patrick’s Church in Halifax on 18 May 1932.

3. Catherine, b. 30 December 1905 she married Harold J. Colyer at St. Joseph’s Church in Halifax on 16 October 1937.

4. Ellen Teresa, b. ca. 1907 she married William Patrick Little at St. Patrick’s Church in Halifax on 17 June 1930.

Anthony Poteri married Grace Charlton d/o John Charlton and Bridget Doyle of Oxford Street, Halifax on the 31 July 1928 at St. Agnes Church, Halifax. She was born 7 February 1900 to a family already of 9 brothers and sisters. Anthony was by profession a postman likely delivering mail in and around The Old North End. Anthony Poteri died at the age of 47 on 1 March 1947 leaving a young family. Grace would live well into her 80s being buried at Gates of Heaven cemetery in Sackville on 19 June 1980. The Poteri’s had the following children:

1.  Bernice Poteri, b. unknown

2. Ann Poteri, b. unknown she married Gordon Rowe

3. Brendan Anthony Poteri, b. ca. 1933, d. 16 October 1995

4. John William Poteri, b. 13 January 1934, d. 31 December 2011.

The Poteri family through John William Poteri would go on to have a huge impact outside of The Old North End as John William was one of original founders of the Centennial Arena in Fairview and would act as its general manager for over 40 years. The Poteri’s were also known locally in Fairview as having the most spectacular christmas display on Gesner Street across from Fairview Junior High School.

The Poteri family of 36 Falkland Street represent just one small snapshot of the types of people who lived in and around The Old North End.

Defining the Old North End of Halifax

The North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia is an eclectic neighbourhood that today is a mix of old late 19th and early 20th century buildings and newer condominiums and warehouses forever divided from the rest of down town Halifax by the Cogswell Interchange which was built in the late 1960s. This neighbourhood was once a bustling community where people lived above shops and businesses, where two movie theatres existed between cafes and diners, where once as many as ten different denominations built their houses of worship and whose spires towered over the houses and streets below. Today the community is coming out of nearly forty years of urban renewal efforts gone awry, mass relocation of his population and economic depression. Today this neighbourhood is half the size it was 50 years ago but its urban character is still very much alive.

The Old North End for the purposes of this blog is defined by the neighbourhoods which exist today between North Park/Agricola Streets as a Western boundary, North Street to the North, The Harbour on the Eastern side and Cogswell Street to the South. However, the old boundaries of this neighbourhood stretched a little bit further South along Brunswick Street to Duke Street and East toward the Harbour – most of this neighbourhood was razed in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for the development of Scotia Square and the Cogswell Interchange.

The goal of this blog is to tell the stories of the people, buildings, streets, and events that make up this neighbourhood’s history. Another important aspect of this blog is to provide comment on the things that are taking place today, that are reshaping the characteristic of the neighbourhood and provide insight into how these changes add to, come from and help to continue the rich history of this place. As a resident of the Old North End I walk the streets of this neighbourhood every day and as I look at the houses and buildings I always wonder who lived here, what did they do, what was this neighbourhood like? Without the ability to go back in time the only avenue available to me to help answer these questions is to dig into the archives and libraries of this city and see what stories are hidden inside.

Thank you for coming to this blog and for reading my posts. I look forward to sharing these stories with you. I hope that these stories will inspire someone to get to know where they live a little better and to become a little bit more familiar with where they live. I hope to have some guest submissions from authors, historians, genealogists, politicians, etc. who work in, walk through or just generally find this area of Halifax interesting.