The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Anna Leonowens and the National School, 1740 Argyle Street
Anna H. Leonowens, Notman Studio photograph of Robert Harris oil painting; NSARM Photo Collection, O/S, Nova Scotia: People (N-0371).

11. Anna Leonowens

The building on the corner of Argyle and George once housed an art school, called the Victoria College of Art and Design. It was founded and run by the world famous author Anna Leonowens. You might recall her life story as governess and tutor to the King of Siam’s 67 children, which later was turned into a classic film Anna and the King of Siam (1946), and the even more popular Broadway musical The King and I (1951), starring Yul Brenner. Both are based on her autobiography, The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870).

For almost two decades, Anna Leonowens lived in Halifax with her daughter Avis and son-in-law, Thomas Fyshe, general manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Anna was an active supporter of the arts, education and literature in Halifax. She even formed a literary club, called the “Pioneer Book Club”, comprising of twenty-two leading community members. Anna, herself, was the only female member of the Club. She left Halifax in 1897, but her name and memory live on in an art gallery connected to the art school she began, the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design.

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