Zombies, Run! 2017 October 14

I’ve been enjoying the Halloween-themed training missions for Zombies, Run!‘s Halloween 2017 Virtual Race, especially the great references to the app’s Dungeons & Dragons stand-in Demons and Darkness. 

Abel Township is preparing to celebrate its first Halloween with spooky tales of scary monsters from Sam and Janine and the Doc! But on the horizon, strange lights flicker and eldritch groans echo. What’s really going on in Abel? Who can you trust? This Halloween, anything can happen in the Zombies, Run! Virtual Race.

The Hidden Tunnels of Halifax

I first learned about the tunnels under the city where I live from a friend a few years ago. He worked at the Halifax Club and told me about one tunnel that originates there. Over the years I heard stories about them, spotted articles about the passages and have been fascinated by the mystery surrounding the tunnels that officially don’t exist.

In September of last year, Veronica Simmonds published “Halifax’s hidden tunnels” in Halifax Magazine. The piece documents an exploration of the tunnel under the Halifax Club, a history of media coverage about the tunnels and other accounts from descendents tunnels’ builders who have knowledge of their construction.

There are tunnels in downtown Halifax.

Beneath the streets, houses and businesses we see everyday, there are hidden passageways and unseen corridors. Though their existence is often denied they’re there.

“Elderly or older visitors over the years have told myself and others that when they were kids there was a tunnel they could go into in the Citadel that would take them right down to the waterfront.” He says. “The army’s official line was that it was a drain or a sewer, but some testing was done on the floor of the tunnel and there was never any sewage passing through it. Plus, there was no sewer up here—the latrines were emptied by hand.”

Thompson’s interest in the city’s tunnels doesn’t stop at the Citadel, though. In his research he’s come across mentions of a tunnel leading from the legislature to the Joseph Howe building (which the province officially denies), and he’s spent quite a bit of time thinking about the logistics underlying the rumoured tunnel to Georges Island.

Another article, “Frozen in Time: Halifax’s Secret Tunnels“, was published in January by Dorian Geiger. The article covers some of the same ground as the earlier one, but offers a more detailed description of the mundane use of the tunnel at the Halifax Club.

“It’s a service entrance from the sidewalk into the back of the building where the kitchen was and supplies were taken,” explains Skinner.

“A guy would come along with the coal, the carrots, the onions, the beef and all the rest and they’d drop it down through the sidewalk and men would come and take it along the hallway into the kitchen.”

Halifax has a long military history, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there were tunnels that were kept secret and used to move from the harbour to the Citadel and through other strategic locations. That businesses used tunnels as well seems reasonable. Hopefully the story behind this bit of Halifax’s past can be fleshed out over time, but what we know so far suggests an intriguing piece of Halifax’s legacy has been obscured by time and secrecy.

Halifax Stories: Why they named it Agricola Street

I spend a couple evenings each month at Roberts Street Social Centre, and on Sunday I noticed a poster on the wall I hadn’t read before. It detailed the history behind the naming of Agricola Street, one of the streets that defines the block where I live.

Agricola was the pen-name used by businessman John Young to write a series of letters to newspapers, between 1818 and 1822, calling for Nova Scotia to develop agricultural self-reliance. To feed itself the province has become dependent on expensive US imports and Agricola’s letters sparked a movement to make Nova Scotian agriculture thrive. 

The Acadian Reporter published 64 letters that were penned under the name Agricola. These letters attacked the belief that Nova Scotia had poor soil that was only fit to grow grass. Agricola asserted that if farmers stopped using all productive land, and instead left some fields fallow to replenish soil, they could increase their yields  He voiced many other recommendations including the use of farm equipment, crop rotations, and the establishment of agricultural societies. Agricola’s editorials were met with great enthusiasm and spurred 30 agricultural societies into existence. While John Young’s new popularity propelled him to take up important posts, he would prove to be a far better pundit than administrator or politician. 

John Young owned and farmed 61 acres of land on the ten outskirts of Halifax, before he died in 1837. By 1874, a street to the east of his land was given the name Agricola St.

The poster was from Halifax’s Missing Plaque Project, a project conducted as part of Roberts Street’s residency program in 2009. Tim Groves put together a handful of posters while staying in Halifax to mirror his Toronto-based The Missing Plaque Project. Both sets of posters are intended to reveal forgotten histories of their respective cities, and they do shed light on events that most of us haven’t seen recorded anywhere.

Tim created three other posters for Halifax: “Jibuktuk“, “Picketing the CBC for gay rights“, and “Cornwallis, planner of Genocide“, all of which detail important pieces of Halifax history. One incomplete piece, “Slavery“, had text written but no poster prepared. A wishlist included stories worth exploring.

I’ve lived in Halifax for years, but feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface in learning its history and exploring its landscape. I’m hoping to dig up some more about Halifax history to share, and I do have a Halifax walking mission underway.

Blank Ways and DIY Unvisited Places

I’ve lived in Halifax for most of the past decade, but there are still many streets I haven’t explored. I’ve wanted to become more familiar with the places in Halifax I haven’t been and I’ve been inspired to create a project to walk down every street on the Halifax Peninsula.

In August, I learned about Tom LooisBlank Ways project through Technocult‘s “A Map of Places You Haven’t Been” and Henry Grabar’s “Choosing the Paths Less Traveled? There’s an App for That“. Tom created a personal iOS app that kept track of places visited in a city as a way to direct himself to travel down streets he hadn’t yet been down.

Design your personal definition of silence, was the assignment. Tom Loois finds his silence in places where he has never been. And there are plenty of those, even in a city you have lived in for years already. Intrigued by the blank spots in his mental map, he designed a special route planner. Blank Ways keeps track of where you have been or not been and this new application will lead you to your destination via the places you have never visited before.

Months after the articles on Blank Ways appeared, it hasn’t been released yet. It may someday be ported to Android and be a great app, but I have a city I want to explore now. I’ll be using Google Latitude to track where I go and I will piece together a custom map on Google Maps to keep track of the routes I have walked. By the end of Winter I hope to have walked down every street on the peninsula.