Family hopes to protect chair they believe has piece of Halifax Explosion anchor | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Family hopes to protect chair they believe has piece of Halifax Explosion anchor

A Nova Scotia woman is trying to preserve an unusual chair, shown in a handout photo, her family has long believed contains a key piece of debris from the Halifax Explosion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Katy Jean MANDATORY CREDIT
Original Publication Date July 24, 2018 - 7:56 AM

HALIFAX - It is chunky, heavy and looks like something out of a "Game of Thrones" set.

But, a Halifax-area woman says the concrete-and-metal chair that has sat on her family's waterfront property for decades may contain a key piece of Canadian history.

Katy Jean says the medieval-looking seat has a backrest made from an anchor flung there by the 1917 Halifax Explosion, when the munitions ship SS Mont-Blanc exploded after colliding with the SS Imo in Halifax harbour, killing about 2,000 people and devastating the city.

"During the Halifax Explosion, a piece of anchor — the fluke — blew into the air and into the yard and I'm sure a lot of people didn't know what to do with debris from all over the city," she said.

"It's in really good condition. I looked at the base of it and I looked at where the anchor goes into the concrete. I tried to shake it a few times and it's impressively still very solid."

Jean said her relatives bought a property on the Dartmouth waterfront in the 1940s and learned that the previous owners had made the chair with the large piece of anchor, suspecting it was hurled onto the land from the powerful blast.

Debris was scattered throughout Halifax after the blast, which levelled parts of the city in what was the largest human-caused explosion before the first atomic bomb.

Barbara Lounder, who has researched Halifax Explosion debris as part of the city's Narratives in Space and Time Society, said she has been to see the chair several times and spoken at length with the longtime landowner and there is no reason to think it's not an explosion artifact.

"I believe very strongly it could be (from the explosion) … it fits in with other fragments that were found not too far from there," she said.

But she adds they haven't studied the artifact metallurgically, and don't know which anchor it could be.

"A vessel that size could have a least a couple anchors, fore and aft," she said. "There's a lot more to figure out about it."

Lounder said she is happy the chair is getting attention, so it can be studied and protected.

Jean, 27, said she grew up playing on the chair, along with relatives who just knew it had links to the explosion despite having no official confirmation of its provenance.

"You never were introduced to it — you just knew about it," she said. "The chair has always just been a family tradition — a family gem."

Her father said his grandfather purchased the home as a summer property, and the chair became a popular feature for cousins and friends through the '50s and '60s.

"When all my cousins and myself and my brothers and sisters would come here, everyone would want to sit in the chair," John Hines told Global News. "One kid would pull the other kid out and jump in, and another kid would pull him out and jump in, and it's very iconic for the Hines family.”

Jean said she became concerned about its fate over the weekend after driving to the site with her father and finding it almost hidden in a stand of trees. Her great uncle recently sold the property to a developer, and she fears it might be demolished along with an old cottage on the land.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, the chair is gone!'" she said. "That's kind of what inspired me to try to save the chair. We had to actually go up into the woods and make sure the chair was still there."

She is trying to have it preserved at the site or moved to another spot on the Dartmouth waterfront, adding that a contractor called Tuesday to offer to move it for free.

She said she also planned to contact experts who may be able to determine its origin. Jean said she planned to approach municipal officials to see about a possible home for it.

"I would like to see it go somewhere in Dartmouth where it will be appreciated and even more people can love the chair," she said. "It is very comfortable to sit in and it fits everybody. It must have an energy about it. Everybody loves the chair."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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