The Society

Africville project won’t be ready for reunion

Halifax Herald: Thu, July 7, 2011

Delayed construction means an Africville memorial project in Halifax won’t be built in time for the community’s annual reunion at the end of the month.

The development is to have its official opening Sept. 25, Irvine Carvery, president of the Africville Genealogy Society, said Wednesday.

"It’s going according to plan," Carvery said, adding that the earlier target date — about three weeks from now — was a bit ambitious.

"I think we were a little aggressive with our (building) schedule to start with."

Site preparation has begun on an Africville church museum in Seaview Memorial Park in the city’s north end. The $4.5-million project is part of the compensation deal released last year. A tender for the construction work closed May 12.

The September date was selected to coincide with an African Diaspora conference to be held in the Halifax area. This year is the United Nations’ International Year for People of African Descent.

Carvery said when preparatory work on the Africville project is finished, construction will begin.

"As soon as that’s completed, they’ll be going in and marking off (the area) and getting ready to pour the foundation," he said.

Halifax Regional Municipality is looking after servicing the lot, which is slightly more than one hectare.

Africville was the tight-knit black community on the shores of Bedford Basin that was razed in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal. The redress package announced in February 2010 included a formal apology from Mayor Peter Kelly and the renaming of the park.

It is to be called Africville.

"The (new) signage will be up for the reunion this year," Carvery told The Chronicle Herald.

Organizers are expecting a good turnout at the annual event, July 28 to 31, which leads into the Natal Day weekend in August, he said.

Africville was designated a national historic site in 2002. A sundial monument pays tribute to the area’s founding families.

The church museum, a replica of Seaview African United Baptist Church, is Phase 1 of the planned development in the park. A proposed interpretive centre is the second phase.

Daurene Lewis, board chairwoman of the Africville Heritage Trust, said money would have to be raised to build the centre. Lewis said a consultant’s fundraising study has been commissioned by the trust.

Carvery said a land-use issue with his protesting brother, Eddie, a squatter in Seaview Park who has kept a camp there for many years, has been resolved.

"Eddie’s been very co-operative and supportive of the project," Irvine Carvery said. "He’s moved his trailer off of where the church is going to be built."

When plans for the church museum were unveiled in January, attendees at an open house in Halifax were told construction would begin in March. In April, Lewis said "it is taking longer than anticipated to get all of the (building) permits in place."

Once the interpretative centre is built, exhibits to be housed in the church museum will be moved to the new centre.

"They never were destined to start at the same time," Lewis said.

Another part of the compensation agreement involves setting up an African-Nova Scotian affairs office within municipal government. City hall has budgeted for a small office, but the new service hasn’t started.

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The Africville Genealogy Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage for this project.
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