On the evening of Tuesday, February 18th a group of men, drunk, and with little to do, began what would turn into a two night riot and would result in tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to stores and restaurants in the Old North End.
North Park street is a relatively short street. Only two blocks stretching from the intersection of Cogswell and going North toward the intersections of Cunard and Agricola streets. However, it’s a street with a lot of history. One spot along this road that has always intrigued me is the parking lot located on the corner of North Park street and a tiny little lane called Armoury Place which runs alongside the Halifax Armouries, formerly called John’s Lane.
In the above photo you can clearly see a granite stone wall that runs along the length of the parking lot. I notice these things when I walk around town and it always has me asking when is a parking lot more than just a parking lot?
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.
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.
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.