Stairs House, located at 5241 South Street in Halifax, is to be restored and preserved after Halifax’s heritage committee approved a proposal by Summer Wind Holdings this week.
Stairs House was built in 1838 by Norman Fitzgerald Uniacke, a prominent lawyer and judge. It was later sold to William James Stairs, an industrialist and politician.
The house is also the former family home of Albert Lee, a historian of the Chinese community in Halifax.
Lee spoke with Moira Donovan of CBC Radio’s Information Morning Halifax outside his childhood home about how buildings like Stairs House can provide a glimpse into the history of Chinese-Canadians in the city.
There is another structure called Stairs House in the city that is owned by Dalhousie and located at 6230 South Street.
This is a condensed version of their conversation that has been edited for clarity and length.
Information Morning – NS8:28Historian shares hidden story behind a house in Halifax on path to redevelopment
Tell me about the house we’re standing in front of?
Our father bought the house in 1946, 1947, from a Chinese restaurant owner, William Lee.
It was divided into several different areas. Upstairs on the second floor there were several small one-bedroom apartments as well as a long hallway where there were three bed-sitting rooms with hot plates and sinks.
The inside of the house had some very unique characteristics.
In the area where we lived, there were two arched alcoves with marble and black wooden carvings.
We had a telephone and there were some glass chandeliers in the hallway and a fireplace in there.
Historian Albert Lee’s father purchased the house around 1947. (Jennifer Kay Lee)
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Chinese community in the city? What’s the connection there?
What was interesting was there’s a kind of an underbelly of discrimination.
Halifax was kind of unique, though. We didn’t have ghettoized Chinatowns, like in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, where the Chinese were restricted to only those areas in Chinatown, where they couldn’t do business or own property outside of those areas.
Halifax, Saint John, New Brunswick, St John’s, Newfoundland and Charlottetown allowed Chinese businesses along the main drags near the waterfront and near the …….