This was supposed to be a simple post about a plate I found at the thrift store. But it has taken me down a historical rabbit hole. It’s fun and I love reading the documents that contain interesting stories and tidbits and looking at photos from the past. Nevertheless, I wanted an easy story! Oh well. Here we go.
Acadia University at the thrift store
A patch of grass in the Edmonton thrift store caught my eye. The green lawn was on a white china plate but there was something about the landscape that I recognized, something familiar. It reminded me of U Hall at Acadia University. Did I dare look at the whole scene?
Yes! There it is – University Hall. (Since this is nice china, I guess I’d better call U Hall by it’s formal name.) How lovely to see a piece of Nova Scotia in Alberta. The picture shows University Hall much like it is today – a large building with Corinthian pillars framed by tall elm trees. There wasn’t a nick or chip or a crack in the plate. Vintage perfect.
Of course, I bought the item. It was a little more than I usually would spend at a thrift store, $10.50, but I splurged. Here’s a piece of history that is combined with my history – I attended Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. During my first week there in the early 90s, I gathered with a crowd of frosh on the steps of U Hall. It was a rite of passage for any first-year student then (and today?) to be reminded of the hard work it would take to walk up the stairs four years later, as a graduate.
When U Hall’s lawn turned white, I spent many a winter night’s tobogganing down the hill. Living in Seminary House, an historic building in its own right, the view from my window for three years was the back of U Hall. It wasn’t as majestic as the pillared front facing Main Street but it was still grand with its large windows and clock tower.
When convocation time came, I didn’t get to walk up the University Hall steps. There was a snowstorm the day I graduated and we had to line up in the hall’s basement. Still, I walked across the stage and grabbed my diploma. This is all recent history.
Acadia University Hall history
Delving into the older history of University Hall itself, I can’t seem to find much. This is what sends me down a rabbit hole in the university archives. It looks like there were two “College Halls” before University Hall. The first hall was built in 1844 and burned down in 1878. The second College Hall come down in another huge blaze in 1920. So was U Hall built in the 20s?
I’ve found a document in the Acadia Archives that says Leslie Fairn, a graduate of Acadia, was the architect of University Hall but then it mentions the second College Hall. Hmm. I’d like to know who designed U Hall. As well, I never gave much thought to what the building was made out of until now. Stone? I do know the china plate is made from clay and probably mixed with bone. (Bone china.)
Royal Winton Acadia plate
The plate I bought was made in England by Grimwades Limited, Royal Winton. Grimwades is the company that created the piece and Royal Winton is the brand. The company was started in 1885 and in the 1980s, Grimwades was acquired by Coloroll. The company has since changed hands many times again.
The backstamp on the plate matches a backstamp I found online from the 1950s. There has to be more of these plates around but I haven’t seen any on the internet. Harvard University has some Royal Winton plates with the Harvard name on it but the backstamp is different. I wonder if Acadia commissioned Grimwades to produce plates. I’ve submitted a request for information to the Acadia Archives about the plate and University Hall. I’d like to stick a fork in this plate, I mean story.
I’ll update the story next week!