Last person to live in Bedford Highway's round building wants it accessible to all

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Last person to live in Bedford Highway's round building wants it accessible to all

Last person to live in Bedford Highway's round building wants it accessible to all

When Wendy Murray lived in the Prince's Lodge rotunda on the Bedford Highway in Halifax, she didn't have a whole lot of privacy. But she had access to a beautiful view of Bedford Basin.

She and a group of other local enthusiasts are now calling on the Nova Scotia government to make the circular two-century-old building accessible to the public.

That way, the view can be enjoyed by all.

"Beautiful," said Murray, 68, as she looked out at the water from the back door of the rotunda on a recent day. "It's panoramic, isn't it. Especially when there's boats out sailing."

The rotunda was built by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent when he lived in Halifax in the 1790s.

The land was owned by the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Sir John Wentworth, and the idea was to design a decorative building to enhance the duke's English garden.

The three-storey building has curved wooden walls, front and back doors, and it is punctuated by tall windows. Pillars circle the building and hold up the domed roof, which is covered in blue wooden shingles and capped with a golden ball.

Caretaker

Murray worked as the caretaker of the building from 1988 until 2008. Her mother had been the caretaker before her, for 18 years, with only a short break between their tenancies.

Murray said she only moved out when the well stopped working. She was the last person to live there.

Suzanne Rent, contributing editor at Halifax Magazine, started a Facebook group called Save Prince's Lodge Rotunda, after she met Murray and had a chance to tour the interior of the building.

The group, which had 166 members as of Wednesday afternoon, has become a place for people to swap stories and photographs of the historic building.

Public access proposed

But Rent wants to turn the discussion into action. "There is no other building like this in the country," she said, and we should "make it so people can enjoy it, while it's still here."

She said she wants the province to restore the exterior of the building and build a public access path along the water, from the China Town Restaurant at Birch Cove to the rotunda — a distance of approximately 850 metres.

Murray said she likes that option too, because a pedestrian bridge over the existing CN tracks would be "too dangerous."

She said she is satisfied with the state of the building and that the government has done a good job maintaining it.

Province responds

A spokesman for the province, Brian Taylor, said Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spends approximately $10,000 each year for general maintenance on the property, including landscaping and snow removal.

In an email to the CBC, Taylor said Rent's public access plan would be a "costly endeavour" for the province, "and there are no plans at this time of pursuing it."

Rent acknowledges it would be expensive, and would likely require investment from other levels of government, but "it's a fascinating building," she said, and that's worth celebrating.

"It's the last surviving building of the entire estate of Governor Wentworth," Rent said.

'Romantic' atmosphere

When she wasn't working to maintain the property or working at her regular job, Murray used to spend her time at the rotunda weaving on a loom, practising her harp, doing Gaelic lessons or Tai Chi on the lawn. She also often gave tours to people interested in seeing the property.

She described the atmosphere as "pretty romantic."

Murray said it was hard to leave. "I think what happens is, you get enthralled, and you hang on with your fingertips."