The BlockHouse

The blockhouse was the basic British defensive position. Hundreds of them were built in Canada, and Halifax’s early defenses  consisted of numerous blockhouses. A series of 3 defended the peninsula from the mainland (approximately along the modern Joseph Howe Drive). The original fort at the Citadel was a blockhouse, and others were located at the Dockyard, Dartmouth Cove, and in Sackville. Blockhouses were also built in Lawrencetown and Lunenburg.


The blockhouse in Windsor NS is the oldest surviving blockhouse in the country. Built in 1750, it was named Fort Edward, and is located on a hill overlooking the Avon and St Croix Rivers. The image above was created by John Hamilton in 1753, and depicts the fort when it was only 3 years old. The blockhouse at Fort Edward was pre-cut in Halifax, and shipped to Windsor with the troops for erection. All the early Nova Scotia blockhouses were cut in Halifax, and assembled on site. It is therefore likely that the blockhouse buildings themselves were all similar to Fort Edward.


Though blockhouses across the country all differ in appearance, the blockhouse was typically a 2 story structure with an overhanging second story. The overhang allowed downward fire to be directed on anyone attempting to breach the first story. Blockhouses were constructed of square timbers laid horizontally on each other. It was the thickness of wood which offered relative security against musket balls and arrows. Long hardwood dowels or “tree nails” were inserted through the  logs at regular intervals to add strength. Small crevices between the timbers were caulked.  The interior walls were sometimes plastered; the exterior walls were either clapboarded or shingled to prevent the deterioration of the square timbers. The Fort Edward blockhouse has four portholes in the upper storey, one in the centre of each side. The original guns were four-pounders without carriages. They probably rested on swivel mountings. To give a sense of scale, the second floor window is 18″ above the floor. The ports above are for muskets, and are meant to be used while standing.

An Exact Plan of Fort Edward at Pesaquid, 1757
An exact plan of Fort Edward at Pesaquid, 1757

The Fort Edward blockhouse stood within a stockaded fort. The palisades at Fort Edward described the perimeter of the fort — a regular square 85 yards long on each side, with bastions in the four corners. A ditch surrounded the picketing. The picketing  usually was composed of cedar posts 10 to 14 feet long and pointed at the top. A trench was dug below frost level and the pickets placed into it. Wooden stringers strengthened the palisade.

Coloured photograph, postcard of Fort Edward About 1900

Today all that remains is the blockhouse and the grounds.

The Halifax Blockhouses

14 blockhouses were built in Halifax. The 3 blockhouses previously mentioned were built quickly once the city of Halifax had grown beyond the Palisades. The easiest way to defend the town from ground attack from natives or the French was with the addition of 3 blockhouses to close off the peninsula from the mainland. The middle one was documented by Harry Piers, Provincial Archivist in the 1930s.

 The middle peninsula blockhouses at Halifax, 1751, by Harry Piers; a, plan of the site of the blockhouse and stockade; b, perspective restoration looking northwest; c, general contour plan and section of the site.
The middle peninsula blockhouses at Halifax, 1751, by Harry Piers; a, plan of the site of the blockhouse and stockade; b, perspective restoration looking northwest; c, general contour plan and section of the site.

During the Revolutionary War, an octagonal blockhouse three storeys high, 50 feet in diameter and designed to barrack 200 men was constructed in 1776; it was built in a large square redoubt on the summit of Citadel Hill. Besides the Blockhouse, the defenses on the hill consisted of a maze of batteries and irregular earthwork begun in 1761.

Fort Massey and Citadel Hill Blockhouses, 1780, from Point Pleasant.
Fort Massey and Citadel Hill Blockhouses, 1780, from Point Pleasant Battery. By Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hicks, was stationed in Halifax from 1778 to 1782

There was an additional blockhouse at Fort Massey. Fort Massey was built on a small hill south of the Citadel at the corner of  South and Queen streets. This fort covered the southern approach to the Citadel and protected green-bank and barbette batteries below it.  A blockhouse designed to accommodate 39 men was built, as were 2 barracks and a small magazine.


Redeveloping the Central Redevelopment Area

After Stephenson’s 1957 report, the city of Halifax had defined a central redevelopment area. Between 1958 and 1962, the city focused on acquiring and clearing the land, clearing 17.3 acres by 1962. With Clearance well underway, the displaced residents needed homes.


Mulgrave Park was one of the direct results of the Central Redevelopment Area land clearance scheme. It was specifically developed to house the displaced people from this area. CMHC was quick to point out that the Central Redevelopment Area in Halifax, was the first project in the country to make use of the 1956 amendments to the National Housing Act, allowing commercial development as long as sufficient suitable housing was provided for the displaced residents. Mulgave Park would be that housing. Unlike previous CMHC sponsored housing projects in Montreal and Toronto, Mulgrave Park would not be located in the central area, and would not be built on the former slum itself.


Mulgrave Park itself began as a large estate in the north end. It was destroyed in the Halifax Explosion and sat as vacant land, until it was developed by wartime housing authorities for military use. In 1941, Manning Pool was built on the site.At the end of hostilities, when Wartime Housing was transformed into CMHC, the site became available for further development.

The Mulgrave Park housing project was designed by Ian MacLeman and Maurice Clayton of the Architectural and Planning Division of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in collaboration with Leslie R. Fairn and Associates, and J. Philip Dumaresq and Associates serving as Associate Architects on the project.


The architects attempted to craft a local flavor to the project –  there was an attempt to preserve the Halifax vernacular with bright colours and low gabled roofs. The project was forced to deal with an 11 acre site, with an 80 foot rise, and loose rubble and fill. Deep pile foundations would be required. The plan called for two 8-story buildings, a 4-story walk up building. and then a series of 3-story buildings. The 3-story buildings would consist of a ground level apartment, and a 2-story maisonette above.  These took advantage of the sloping site, and the maisonettes entered on the upper side of the hill, and the ground floor apartment on the downhill side.


The entire project would use a central heating plant. Low pressure steam would be run through radiators in the units. The towers were of reinforced concrete construction. The 4-story walk-up was load bearing masonry construction, with concrete floors. The 3-story buildings consisted of poured concrete construction for the ground floor, with timber framing for the upper floors. 182 parking spaces would be provided – one for every two units.


The slope of the site would require terracing and retaining walls, which were used to define parking and play areas. After its completion in October 1960, the Mulgave Park project won numerous awards for its quality.


Images below are from the collection of Norbert Schoenauer, McGill University, just after the project opened. It certainly has a modernist aesthetic with a Halifax vernacular vibe to it.

This 1960 opening was over 2 years after the expropriations and demolitions had begun, after the approval of the Central Redevelopment Area in February 1958.  Despite the size of the project, it would not accommodate all the displaced residents, and the slum clearance projects would put stress on other housing projects in the city.

With the Central redevelopment Area land acquired and cleared, it was now time to focus on what to do with it. The city’s director of planning, K.M Munnich, recommended in a preliminary report that a development including high density residential, shopping centre with large department store, and ample parking would be ideal for the site. By 1964, this report had expanded to a draft plan for the area, and included expansion of the area to include lands between Brunswick Street and Grand Parade; Cogswell Street and Rainnie Drive; and the entire frontage of Duke Street. To further guide development, the firm Canadian Urban Economics Ltd was commissioned to do two studies.

The first, the 1965  Central Business District Report, looked at expected growth between 1966 and 1986. It recommended more low and mid-cost housing in the area, and also recommended against expansive retail development, accepting that it had been lost to suburban malls. The preference was to concentrate on office space. The report also called for commercial recreational facilities such as theatres, curling and billiards, and an institutional component of museums, art galleries, a courthouse and a maritime museum, and of course sufficient parking.

In 1966 Canadian Urban Economics Ltd produced their second report, “Central Business District Economic Analysis for Redevelopment Planning”. This report suggested making the waterfront a priority for a new courthouse and the redevelopment of the ferry terminal; developing the Grand Parade from Duke Street to George Street; removing the existing City Hall to make way for a proposed department store; extending the Grand Parade toward the north to Duke Street; making Barrington Street a pedestrian maIl from Duke Street to Sackville Street; redesigning the traffic circulation; and moving parking to each end of Barrington Street.


While ever-expanding grand plans for downtown were being made, in January 1962 the city issued a request for proposals for the cleared lands. There was one submission, for the Cornwallis Centre, by Provinces and Central Properties Ltd, developed by the British Woking Group, from Surrey, England, working locally with Napier and Napier Architects .

The programme consisted of apartment blocks, which were the first priority, followed by the rotunda and hotel block, office block, market hall, the department store and finally the sports dome. The towers would sit atop a pedestrian podium. The Cornwallis Centre was to be built at grade, with the lower levels housing parking and bus bays. Escalators would bring people into the pedestrian podium.

The proposal included the Cogswell Street Extension, which would bring people into the heart of the centre, via public transit.  Market Street would remain as a service road, but all other streets within the site would be removed. The towers were aligned to preserve views from Citadel Hill.

The total estimated cost for the proposal was $48,700,000. It was immediately criticized for being too large and out of character for Halifax. Mayor Vaughan was first elected in the 1963 election, campaigning against the Cornwallis Centre (he was the manager of Halifax Shopping Centre at the time).

The Woking Group was asked to come back with something different.


Version 2 of the Cornwallis Centre was radically different. Still a multi-use centre, the plan called for 450 dwelling units; a 450-room hotel; a 22 floor office tower offering 264,000 sq ft of office space;  554,000 sq ft of shopping, including two department stores, a grocery store  and a car showroom; and parking for 2500 cars, with space for 600 more in the future. Pedestrians were still kept in a separate landscaped plane from cars, and the only surface entrances were at the hotel.


The centre was viewed as the first phase of a comprehensive planning area, so additional improvements in the area of the courthouse and ferry terminal are included. Cogswell Street was also treated differently, passing over Harbour Drive.


The residential component featured 420 units in three 18 story highrise towers, and 30 in patio terraces that made up a podium for the 3 towers. Parking and services were also held in the podium.

Apartment towers vied from harbor drive. Page is bent, hence distortion.

Apartment towers viewed from Harbour Drive. Page is bent, hence distortion.

The office tower was designed to be just under 300′ in height. It was decided that a single tower of 20 to 24 stories would give more punctuation and drama to the skyline, without impacting the view from the Citadel. Provision for an additional 100,000 sq ft of office space was made via 3 shorter linked towers that could be built later.


Cross Section. Office Tower on Right, Hotel on Left.



Overall view looking North. Office tower and additional office space centered. Note City Hall in lower right corner.

This proposal was ultimately accepted, and the city signed an agreement to proceed in October 1963. Time went on however, and no progress was made in the completion of this project. Financing was difficult to obtain and it was felt that things in Halifax had changed, and the Cornwallis Centre was no longer seen as the idea scheme. The city settled with Provinces and Central Properties for breaking the agreement. On April 30, 1965, the city announced another call for proposals for the Central Redevelopment Area.

The April 1965 call for proposals brought 3 responses. Provinces and Central Properties  resubmitted the Cornwallis Centre proposal, Ralph Medjuck’s company Centennial Properties Limited proposed Centennial Square, and Halifax Developments proposed Scotia Square.

Centennial Square was designed by the architects Elmar Tomar Tampold, J. Malcolm Wells, Michael Kopsa, and Henno Sillaste. The four phase development would take 3 years to build, and cost 21.8 million. The proposal was mainly focused on middle income, medium density residential development.

The architects present an interesting collection. Elmar Tampold immigrated from Estonia, and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1953. Henno Sillaste was also Estonian, and graduated from U of T in 1960. The School of Architecture at the University of Toronto had recruited an Estonian architect from Sweden in 1949, and as a result Toronto developed a series of Estonian Modern buildings. Michael Kopsa was from Belgrade, coming to Canada in 1951 and living in Toronto, and built many brutalist buildings including Brantford City Hall.  J. Malcom Wells rejected modern architecture in the mid 60s and went on to become known as the father of modern earth-sheltered architecture.

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Besides the residential component,  the proposal contained a hotel and a  moderate amount of retail, designed as an extension of Barrington Street.  A large park – Centennial Square – would be located behind City Hall, and 395 parking spaces and a gas station would be located underneath it. The proposal also suggested closing  Barrington Street north of Buckingham, and constructing Harbour Drive.


Ralph Medjuck himself presented the Centennial Square proposal to Council, and curiously was also retained to present the Cornwallis Centre proposal which was resubmitted. In the March 2 1966 Mail Star, Medjuck was quoted: “Our smaller Centennial Square proposal is excellent in all respects, but Cornwallis Centre is larger, further advanced, better financed and generally more in everybody’s interest”. The thought, however, was that the Cornwallis Centre was too large, and thus unsuitable for Halifax.

Conversely, criticism of Centennial Square was that it was too simple, and less architecturally unified. The Square lacked pedestrian access; the scheme lacked warehouses, showrooms and recreational facilities. Residential was seen as a positive, but there was a concern that it would overwhelm the market. Centennial Square also left much of the street network intact.

But perhaps the biggest deciding factor, was that Scotia Square would pay the highest taxes to the city. The proposal for Scotia Square was put forth by Halifax Developments.

Halifax Developments was formed in response to the request for Proposals. Its Initial Board was made up of members of the boards from Oland breweries, Bank of Nova Scotia, Sobey’s , NSLP, National Sea Products and Bowater Mersey.

Once formed, Halifax Developments obtained the services of Architect Karl Koch, and Planner David Crane from the United States, and Local architect Douglas Shadbolt. The design would be harmonious through the  use of  similar building types, and grey brick and stone for a consistent feel with the rest of the city. There was a concern to design for the human scale, and not to build massive monuments. The proposal would include 450 residential apartment units, 300,000 square feet of retail space,500,000 square feet of office space in three buildings, a 280 room hotel with conference facilities, a bank and post office, and parking facilities for 1,800 cars complete with gas stations and service centers.



Halifax Developments liked to Compare the Scotia Square development to Place Ville Marie in Montreal. They saw Scotia Square as the first step of elevating the port city to modern metropolitan. The Plan included High density residential on Brunswick Street, which was touted as “one of the most fashionable places to live in Canada to live, second only to Habitat”  It appears as though the the entire Scotia Square complex has its roots in Montreal. The Residential and office component’s were compared to Montreal projects, and the trademart concept was modeled on Place Bonaventure.


The original Proposal recognized the need for improved transportation. The developers pushed for the construction of harbor drive, But also planed to convert market street to a transit hub – in the original plan, there were to be no entrances of Barrington – users would enter the mall on the upper level from Market (Now Albemarle) Street. The city at the last minute bowed to pressure from Barrington street merchants and left the transit bub on Barrington. – making the Duke entrance the main access to the mall.

Though originally excluded form the slum Clearance area, Halifax developments was able to Get the police and Market building at the corner of Duke and Brunswick, and the block along Barrington between duke and Buckingham cleared and added to the Lot.

SS_Cleared Site

The proposal was estimated to cost 29,500,000, and was to be completed in 2 phases over 7 years. The Scotia Square Proposal was officially selected on April 24 1966, and Road closures began July 29. Construction was started in 1967.


The first Portion of the project to be built was the Trademart Building, which is now known as Brunswick place. It was meant to be a place where wholesalers could display there wares – I guess sort of like a Warehouse / mall / tradeshow space. The concept was Modeled on Place Bonaventure in Montreal.

The next Portion of construction was the Duke Tower and Mall Block, which was approved march 17, 1967. The Trade Mart opened in 1968, and the Mall, Duke Tower and First Apartment building following in 1969. 1973 brought the opening of the Chateau Halifax (Now the Delta Halifax) and plans for Cogswell Tower were developed, opening in 1975 it completed the Scotia Square project.

The 1957 Master Plan for Halifax

Besides architects and planners, the modernist town planning ideas also permeated to social welfare advocates, and politicians. In Nova Scotia, several town planning acts and municipal legislation were passed to allow towns to implement planning and zoning. This local legislation and support from prominent citizens and leaders was as much an enabler of these ideas as the architects and planners.

During the post second world war period, CMHC served as the federal government’s housing arm.Central Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) was formed in 1946 to promote and provide housing for returning veterans. It was a natural change from the wartime housing board, which was created to house soldiers and their families.

CMHC was set up as a Crown corporation to administer the 1944 National Housing Act.  The act was a piece of legislation that allowed municipalities to enter into agreements with the federal government “to assist in the clearance, re-planning, rehabilitation and modernization of blighted or substandard areas”.  The act also stated that “the federal and provincial governments may assist municipalities in carrying out urban renewal schemes which can include both commercial and residential redevelopment, and residential rehabilitation”.

In its first years of existence, Central Mortgage and Housing, provided mortgage insurance to banks to encourage them to lend money so that people could purchase homes. Later CHMC was also extensively involved in housing design and produced plan books of houses under the Small House Program. (Pictured: CHCH Small House design, look familiar?)

Parliament amended the National Housing Act in 1954. Now properties could be developed for their highest and best use, including commercial uses.  This was  a big difference over previous versions of the act, which only allowed clearance of slum housing to make way for new housing.

The act set out several conditions for federal support:

  • the proposed area must be blighted
  • the project must be in harmony with official community plans
  • make the highest and best use of the land
  • a substantial part of the area must be residential
  • fair provision must be made for dwellings for displaced families
  • the province must approve
  • the municipality must clear the land, the federal contribution will not be more then half the cost
  • the federal government shares in the revenue in proportion to contribution
  • Central Mortgage and Housing will act as agent for the federal government

The CMHC Small house program was begun In 1947. The Small House program was explicit, in that the designs were for modern suburban houses.  The housing program was attempting to be distinctly Canadian, and while borrowing from British modernism, American inspiration was rejected. this meant embracing the garden city ideals and modern planning principles. CMHC was now powered by an amended national housing act encouraging clearance of blighted urban slum areas, and a program to develop and encourage affordable  suburban homes.

IMG_9467 copy

By March of 1968, there were thirty-seven renewal projects at an estimated cost of $180 million. CHMC Architects and planners  were responsible for the design of many of the projects, including  Mulgrave Park in Halifax, and its prototype, Regent Park in Toronto. It was in partnership with CHMC, that the city undertook Stephenson’s 1957 redevelopment study for Halifax. The partnership was further enhanced by the fact the city’s Development Officer, Robert B. Grant, was a former CMHC official.

Gordon Stephenson was brought in by Halifax Council in 1957 to develop a plan for slum clearance. Stephenson was considered to be an expert in urban renewal and, as advocated by modernists like Corbusier, used scientific rigor to justify his findings. Stephenson was well educated, having studied at the School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, between 1925-1930 and the Institut d’Urbanisme, University of Paris, between 1930-1932.  His time in Paris would have been after Corbusier published “Vers une architecture” (Toward an Architecture, previously mistranslated into English as Towards a New Architecture) in 1923, so he would have been familiar with the work and the ideas it contained. Some sources suggest he worked in Corbusier’s practice.

Prior to his time in Canada, Stephenson also worked in Australia. In the Australian experience, Walter Burley Griffin laid out the capital city of Canberra based on Garden City principles in 1912. Australia was also followers of the City beautiful movement and Stephenson would have been very familiar then with the Garden City, City beautiful, and the other ideas of modern town planning. During his time in Canada, Stephenson served as a planning consultant to the cities of Toronto,  Kingston, Sudbury and Ottawa, Ontario, as well as Halifax, and taught at the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia, between 1955-1960.

It is with this resume, that he was selected by the city of Halifax and CHMC to undertake the redevelopment study for Halifax. In his report on Halifax, he made extensive use of studies and surveys to document the conditions of the city and justify its redevelopment. Stephenson’s report begins with a historical review of the city, and a collection of photographs showing the picturesque areas of the city, and finally ends with blighted neighborhoods.

In Section III, Stephenson begins to describe the problems and proposals for Halifax. He determines that the majority of growth will be suburban, however this will leave the core to remain run-down and blighted. “Here many of the worst dwellings are to be found, and with them social and economic difficulties.”

Perhaps ironically, Stephenson points out what uncontrolled suburban growth will cause:

“…the money to put them right will mount inexorably. It is estimated that it will cost $5000-6000 per house in some places to provide water and sewers to cheap houses which are now laid out in sprawling fashion on rocky land. It was cheap land – but it will be very costly land by the time the community as a whole has paid the price.”

“Clearance and re-development in the city will undoubtedly increase efficiency in the hub of the metropolitan region, and remove some of the slums in the worst parts.”

On the harbour and central area, Stephenson suggests re-developing the ferry terminal area, to bring the harbour into the urban scene, and to provide parking for 300 cars (below).

Stephenson calls George Street east of Grand Parade an architectural and financial asset to the city. It is a Wall or Bay Street in miniature. Redevelopment of the western end, however, is strongly suggested. Stephenson goes on to identify the worst end of Halifax as the central area that lies between City Hall and Jacob Street. “With the exception of the blocks between Barrington and Argyle, it is in generally deplorable condition” writes Stephenson. He suggests “the clearing of this area should have the highest priority”. (This area is today Scotia Square.) He goes on to advise that accommodation must be made for the displaced, and proposes a new 4-lane highway connecting Cogswell Street with Water Street to  help speed traffic to the ferry terminal car park, and make the development of the newly cleared site more attractive.
Stephenson identified that most traffic entering the city from the Macdonald Bridge will use Barrington Street. He suggests that Barrington Street “should become an approach road worthy of the city, and that there should be extensive clearance of old housing along its length” with new housing on the western side, and none permitted on the eastern (harbour) side.
The report makes several other recommendations about controlling growth and development on Gottingen and Spring Garden Road, and several other areas.  Stephenson describes Africville as a little-frequented part of the city…described as an encampment or shack town. Buildings and sanitation are deplorable. Stephenson recommends families be rehoused, as the land they occupy will be needed for development in the near future.
The report continues into the scientific study of the city to justify the recommendations. In part 4, he examines the human conditions in the overall city.  By doing this, Stevenson is able to show the study area to be the most densely populated, most crime ridden and unhealthy part of the city. I have excerpted his maps below to focus on the study area.

Each dot represents a person on Welfare.

Each dot represents a person on Welfare

Each Dot represents 100 people

Each dot represents 100 people

Each dot represents a child with tuberculosis

Each dot represents a child with tuberculosis

Each dot represents the home of a child appearing in Juvenile court.

Each dot represents the home of a child appearing in Juvenile court.


Stephenson basically shows by dot density how bad the study area is compared to the rest of the city. The more dots, the worse the conditions are.  In Part 5, he then goes on to look at the specific structures in the area. Part 5 was completed by a block-by-block survey which was conducted as part of the study.

the Dark ares 75% or more of buildings are in Poor condition with 2 or more major issues

The dark areas: 75% or more of buildings are in poor condition with 2 or more major issues

Houses with more people then rooms are considered overcrowded. the darkest square 75% or more are over crowded.

Houses with more people then rooms are considered overcrowded. The darkest square: 75% or more are over crowded

in the Black Squares, 30% or more of dwellings lack indoor washrooms.

In the black squares, 30% or more of dwellings lack indoor washrooms


In parts 4 and 5, Stephenson is able to use scientific factual study to justify the redevelopment of large areas of Halifax based on the human and built conditions of the areas. He then goes on to define several redevelopment areas that should be cleared.


Area 6 is what would become Uniacke Square, Area 7 would be cleared and largely remain so to this day, and Area 9 would be Cogswell and Scotia Square.  For Area 6, a new library and playground are recommended. On Area 9, Stephenson writes “There are three proposals for the City Center. The first involves sweeping away the worst housing in the City, which is in the vicinity of Jacob and Market Streets. This would provide excellently placed commercial sites, and a much needed road improvement by connecting Cogswell Street to Water Street on a new alignment.”

Given that he suggests most of the central area be redeveloped commercially,  he acknowledges that additional housing must be located for the displaced people.


The overall scheme is quite comprehensive. The central study areas are recommended to be converted primarily to commercial and industrial uses. Africville is flagged for harbour expansion (2).  Bayers-Westwood(1), Rockhead Prison (3) and Mulgrave Park (4) are suggested as a site for new housing, as is the area that would become Uniacke Square, and the Ocean Towers. The report recommends re-housing Africville residents at  the Rockhead site.

The report was presented to Council, Approved, and Expropriations and Demolitions in the Jacob Street Area (Which would become known as the Central Redevelopment Area) Began in February 1958.

The Halifax City Archives has the report available online in PDF.

The 1945 Master Plans.

The Master Plan for the City of Halifax was prepared by the Civic Planning Commission in 1945. The terms of reference for the Master Plan were issued in December 1943. The terms of reference were based on “assisting in effecting an orderly transition from wartime to peacetime conditions”.
The commission was made up of 2 architects, George T. Bates, and Harold Lawson. Harold Lawson worked in Montreal. He had several well-known commissions including the Chateau Montebello in Quebec, and locally the Maritime Telegraph & Telephone Co. building on North Street, from 1948.
 The other members included:
  • Ira P. MacNab, NS Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities
  • Mrs F.A Lane, president, Halifax Welfare Bureau
  • Miss K.W Skinner, 1st President, Halifax Business & Professional Womens Club
  • E.F Cragg, Barrister
  • Rev C.F Curran, Parish Priest
  • Allan M. Doyle, President, Cousins Ltd.
  • Frank W. Doyle, Associate Managing Editor, Halifax Herald
  • W Stanley Lee, Director, National Sea Products Ltd
  • Jack B Miller, Inspector, Royal Bank of Canada; President, Halifax Rotary Club
  • A.J Murray, Delegate, Halifax Trades and Labour Council
  • L.E Shaw, President L.E Shaw Ltd.
  • Geo. A Smith, President, Halifax Trades and Labour Council
The Introduction identifies several issues in Halifax, including “the handling of modern traffic in its narrow streets” and identifies slum clearance and housing, street changes and improvements, a vocational school, proper library facilities, and preparation of zoning bylaws as solutions. The report is structurally divided into 2 sections – streets and traffic, and zoning and development. The planning commission which created the report was following modern thought in social welfare, and was definitely using Corbusier’s ideas and theories to modernize the city.
One of the first areas addressed in the Master plan is traffic. On streets and traffic, the report makes sweeping recommendations about how to handle traffic flow, including road improvements, parking improvements, and recommendations for highway and bridge constructions. The overall proposed road layout can been seen in the master diagram blow.  In All, the Master plan makes 20 proposals and 16 recommendations for street and traffic improvements.  The report blames congestion not just on volume, but on poor road design, on street parking which interferes with the free flow of vehicles, and unnecessary interference at intersections.
The plan makes several specific recommendations for street layouts and road network changes but generally recommends
  • circulation and control of traffic at important intersections by “cloverleafs”, Traffic circles” or other means
  • Strictly regulating Curb parking to permit free movement of traffic
  • off-street parking and loading space provided in business sections
  • streets in future subdivisions be designed to serve type of traffic needed
The first proposal (Proposal one) calls for a diagonal street running from the corner of Water and George to Gottingen and Cunard, then Robie and North. The report also recommend that provisions be made for elevating this highway from Water to Gottingen streets, with rentable space below. (Image below)
In proposal three, the report suggests widening North street into 2 lanes each direction, for provision of the bridge. (Image Below). The bridge location between North St. in Halifax, and Thistle St. in Dartmouth was approved by Dominion Authorities and the British Admiralty in 1933. The report assumed that his would be the location for it, however made reference to the possibility of a bridge in the narrows, recommending that if this is the case, “approaches and thoroughfares leading to it must obviously be in scale with its importance”
Proposals 6 and 7 Were for a set of diagonal streets running from Brunswick street. One road would run from Argyle and Duke, to Brunswick and Jacob – under what would become Scotia Square. the Other road would run from George and Grafton to Brunswick and Sackville.
Proposal 8 was to extend Brunswick Street through to Spring Garden Road. – this was completed at some point, though the proposal was for a straight run through artillery park.
Other proposals dealt with improving traffic flow in the north west end – The current Fairview overpass area was also a problem in 1945, and a new overpass and traffic circle were proposed as solutions.

Proposal 19 continues Connaught Ave to Inglis as a boulevard, and becomes the principle north south connector across the peninsula to the North West Arm bridge. the North West Arm bridge is intended to assist with the “steady movement of population form the city to the suburbs, both to the east and west, in spite of inadequate transportation facilities” (below)


Improvements are also suggested for the ferry terminal area, for improved passenger and vehicle handling, which had been problematic. The full effect of these roadway layouts can be seen in the Master Plan Map at the top of the post. The use of Diagonals and traffic circles certainly harks back to the Haussmann Plan for Paris .

The master plan also addresses Air and Rail transportation in the city. The master plan identifies the existing civil airport off Chubucto road is inadequate, and recommends that it should be replaced. the 72 acres of airport land should be developed as residential.

The new airport location should be in a low priced land area, Meet the needs of aerial transportation for the next 20-25 years and permit expansion in the future. The report suggest a site west of the northwest arm, which will be easily accessible once the bridge is Built.
The report takes a dim view of rail, and cites Canadian National Railways for carrying out 2 construction programs that Introduced Blight and decay spreading over large areas and blames these programs for reducing residential value. It also blames a lack of planning for there being a North and South end terminal, thought they are not connected across the harbourfront, leaving many areas without sufficient rail coverage. The report blames the north end terminal construction for causing blight in those areas, and then again blames the construction of the south end rail cut, which blighting the south and west ends as well.
The reports recommendations for rail are that
  • modern electric or diesel motive power be used within 10miles  of the city
  • portions of the right of way visible form homes be beautified
  • present train shed, baggage, mail and express facilities be reconstructed
  • Armdale station be enlarged to offer full services.
Rail is blamed directly for being Dirty (Coal burning locomotives were) and causing blight and decay in Halifax. Air travel, still being relatively new, is seen as warranting improvement, and there is no mention of associated noise

The Second Section of the Master plan Deals with Zoning. On zoning and development, the report makes recommendations on divided zones, and rehabilitation of blighted areas. Specifically with regard to slum clearance, the report suggests that this will improve the tax revenue for the city and have even greater value by decreasing the cost for social services. On street changes and improvements, the report states they will add value to neighboring properties and reduce transportation costs and speed up traffic. Right up front the Report recommends that

  • the city be divided into zones as shown on the master plan
  • Vacant areas be similarly zoned
  • All new Sub-divisions conform to the zones
  • That a Zoning Bylaw be enacted.

In the Master Plan, zoning is purported to “promoting more healthful, convenient, orderly and attractive communities, more economical to build and operate, better adapted to the economic and social activities, thus promoting the health, safety, convenience and General Welfare of the Population”

On Business Zones, the report suggests Shopping Centers to cluster vendors of peoples daily needs, and to not let retail string out along the road, “where traffic is a hazard, and abutting properties may become blighted”. It then presents and idealized concept of such a shopping center,appearing to take queues from antiquity with colonnades overlooking a central square. (below)

On Residential Zones, The report suggests separation within residential zones, so that Single Family Homes, Duplexes, and Apartments are kept separate from each other. New developments should be planned as whole communities, and be provided with social, recreational and other facilities as par to fo the plan. The plan for the North Slope is a good example of this methodology. The Report recommends leaving Residential districts alone for the most part, except in 2 areas. These 2 areas, the report states “by reason of blight and obsolescence, should be re-planned and redeveloped”

(G) Redevelopment of Blighted Areas; Recommendation 22

“your commission recommends that the Civic Authorities Directly, or through a legally constituted body of citizens chosen for their ability and experience, undertake with the least possible delay Slum Clearance and Adequate Housing Programs”

Further on in the report, the Commission states

“the Slum is an area where buildings are structurally poor, where sanitation is insufficient, and where overcrowding of buildings on land as well as people into buildings create conditions that affect the occupants physically, mentally and morally to the detriment of not only the slum dwellers, but the city as a whole”

And that

” The Cost of providing Fire, police, medical, social and other services in such areas is always higher then for other sections. on the other hand, the tax revenue form these areas is disproportionately low. the entire community thus subsidizes the maintenance of slums”

B In the Master Plan, the 2 slum areas are defined as the area between the Citadel and North Street, which it is recommended, should be replaced with low rent apartments, due to the areas closeness to downtown employment. The Second area, is considered to be a less bad area around Inglis street in the south end, that should be replaced with apartments, and Commercial fronting barrington to buffer the residential from the industry of the port.

The report then goes on to Africville.”the residents of this district must, as soon as reasonably possible, be provided with decent minimum housing elsewhere.”

The report makes specific mention of the 1944 National Housing Act, which provides funding for slum clearance, and low income housing construction. the report tells “The city council should give leadership in inaugurating slum clearance and re-housing programs, and that at least one project may be launched as soon as possible.

Africville was located north of the railway tracks, along the Bedford Basin in an area known as the Northern Slope. The Master Plan offers a proposal for the re-development of this area, with the removal of Africville, the city prison and the old Abattoir, and the construction of a new residential community.

The proposed street plan is laid out to reduce grades, and provide 700 50′ lots. In keeping with previous recommendations that communities be planed as a whole, a shopping center is provided for, which includes shops, a park, and Community facilities.

The Master Plan commends the planing work done by Thomas Adams in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, and recommends no changes to the rebuilt parts of the North End.

The Plan addresses the North West End, which were described as the under used lands that at the time were HMCS Peregrine, and the Chubucto road air field. The plan suggests that they be planned as a community similarly to the north slope plan, with the assumption that they will become residential. (Below)

The proposal also recommends the Acquisition of blocks East of Brunswick street for future public administration buildings, including a new City hall, Police Headquarters, central fire station, and Health and Welfare offices. This public administration district would have a commanding position, and “would convert an ugly, untidy,B nondescript section into one of beauty, dignity and utility.

Finally the Master plan gives advice on its execution. The Plan advises that Halifax act on the authority granted to it by the NS Town Planing Act of 1939 (proclaimed in 1943), and assemble a Town Planning Board consisting of the Mayor, 2 Councillors, and 3 citizens, hiring of a planning director, and competent technical assistants, and the creation of a 12 member Advisory committee to advise the Planning board; 3 of the members should be architects.

“the loss of values and the problems confronting the city due to the lack of planning so clearly demonstrate the need for it that no further elaboration is necessary.”

The Plan then suggests that the planning board, in consultation with the city solicitor, Draft a zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Controls, and Implement a Building and Sanitary Code.

With Halifax developing a master plan in 1945, the town of Dartmouth felt it should have one as well, and council approached the Nova Scotia Municipal Bureau and the Department of Municipal Affairs for assistance. The department provided the funding, and the bureau produced the report.


The actual report was written by architect D.P. Reay and his wife. (The wife is only referred to as Mrs. Reay, and it is noted that she was a graduate architect). The report was limited in scope, and also a part-time effort, as Reay was still in active service with the RCAF. It was to serve as a general plan, with the aim of controlling growth, and serve as a foundation for a larger regional plan at a later date.


The plan begins with an overview of the history and current conditions of the town of Dartmouth. It highlights the social, economic, industrial and traffic conditions of the town, as well as providing a brief history of the settlement. This section of the report concludes that the main favorable parts of the town are:

(a) a beautiful site, largely unspoiled;
(b) no glaring faults in the land use pattern: the natural industrial zone along the waterfront and the main dwelling areas overlooking the lakes are kept relatively distinct

Unfavorable  features are reported to be:

(a) a high proportion of buildings and dwellings in poor structural condition and poorly laid out;
(b) the sewer system leaves much to be desired in its ability to cope easily with any future expansion ;
(c) a great deal of paving remains to be done;
(d) small playgrounds and parks are inadequate

And finally concludes by stating:

The problem then, is to find the simplest possible way to eliminate existing defects, and to enhance and develop the many inherent and existing advantages, while keeping within the bounds of financial practicability.

The plan makes modest assumptions about growth, assuming it will continue at the present rate, though may be higher if the harbour bridge is completed, and as such the plan should take this into account. The bridge is assumed to change traffic patterns, and the thought is to move residential and recreational zones to the top of the hill, and to leave the harbour front to industry, with road,rail and harbour links.
dartmouth_genThe plan recommends 2 main east-west routes coming down and joining with Portland and Octerlony Streets. Combined with Pleasant Street, these will serve as the main circulation out of the residential areas to the town centre. The plan also calls for extending the Lake Banook/Sullivan’s Pond park down to Queen Street, which would be converted to a pedestrian mall, and be the main portion of a commercial and shopping district; and suggests locating the new town hall, library and other civic buildings in this area.

The centre of Dartmouth would then consist of a long formal park strip, some old buildings on Queen Street being  preserved in it no doubt, and leading up from the ferry past the High School to the natural centre of the town just in front of the old dam at the foot of Sullivan’s Pond.

It also recommends the removal of the Starr Manufacturing Building to open that space up for recreation, and provide for a continuous park from Sullivan’s Pond. The plan makes suggestions on improving road layouts should the bridge be built, and then fills in the areas between the roads with new development. These developments are planned to be “pleasant places to live” and not “haphazard developments so common in our small towns and cities”. With this in mind the report suggests new homes be private, with a large lot, and all rooms have a pleasant view to open space. Houses should be away from industry and heavy traffic and railways, with adequate car storage, and stores within walking distance. The grid pattern is rejected, as it consumes additional space reducing taxable development and increasing costs. The report goes on to warn against blight, and how redevelopment of these areas can improve the efficiency of the municipality, warning blighted areas “breed crime and disease, and they are not democratic”.

dartmouth_devThe major advantage to a town of a well planned and socially balanced neighbourhood unit, from the financial point of view, is that its virtues are built into it from the beginning in the way of parks, quiet traffic-free streets, convenient shops, etc. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

You can read the Halifax Master Plan yourself: here (pdf) via Halifax City Archives. – The Dartmouth Plan is also Available (PDF)


The Buildings of Africville

Recently the former residents of Africville have re-launched a suit for compensation for lost property. This seemed like a good time to release a work in progress. I ran through minutes of council meetings from the 1960’s and recorded the Owners and compensation Paid to each resident.

I cannot claim to be an expert in race relations, or the very real discrimination that black people feel, but reading through the City of Halifax Council minutes – expropriation of property in the 60’s was done with an ease that the current council awards repaving contracts. Reports from experts, and support from the Federal government enabled a Canada wide program of Slum Clearance, that was reinforced by reports from social welfare experts. Hundreds of poor people, living in “slums” and “Unsanitary Conditions” were displaced and re-located, Not just from Africville, but from the areas of Scotia Square, Cogswell Interchange, and along Barrington Street to North.

The Africville Relocation Program Ran between 1964 and 1967. Each property number below corresponds to city plan P500-46A, and council minutes address expropriations by those Numbers. Properties expropriated with clear title, the owner received full value. Those without clear title were awarded 500$ +expenses.

When you click on a building, you can find out who the owners were and what was paid as compensation. Several properties had outstanding Hospital and Tax bills which were paid off as part of the package. (At this Time the city ran the hospitals, not the Province) Some properties could not be found in Minutes, or were addressed without mention of the number, so the map features some Errata.

Modern Planning Theory

To understand how we got to where we are, we need to travel all the way back to the mid-19th century, to Manchester, England. At this time, Manchester was at the height of the industrial revolution, and people were moving from the country to the city to work in factories driven by coal powered steam engines.

Friederich Engles was a German, who at the age of 22 went to work in Manchester at a textile mill. On the way he met Karl Marx, and the two become friends. During his time in Manchester, Engles sent Marx several letters describing the working conditions and the general condition of the city.

7fa7bd9a479e626eed5e73bc850c033dManchester in the mid-19th century was a dirty, crowded city. The burning of coal, to power the machinery that made the factories run, polluted the air, and soot made things dirty. People lived in crowded housing of low quality – often quickly and cheaply built to accommodate the influx of workers. They worked long hours, and because of the large population living in close proximity diseases spread quickly, resulting in a higher mortality rate among city dwellers then country dwellers.

The conditions in Manchester were so bad, Engles’ writings to Marx were part of the inspiration for Marx’s communist manifesto. Engles himself wrote a book in German titled “The Condition of the Working Class in England” in 1857. (Published in English in 1887.) He argues that people in cities are worse off – they died more frequently of disease and industrial accidents then country people.

Engles’ writing was intended for a German audience who at the time were industrializing, though several years behind England. It was meant to serve as a warning about how not to grow and develop.

Another early urban thinker was Ebenezer Howard. Howard is known for his publication Garden Cities of To-morrow (1898). Though he worked as a court reporter and journalist, he spent much time considering the human condition. He would have likely read the writings of Engles, and have been familiar with the conditions in Manchester.

Howard’s efforts to resolve the human condition attempted to resolve the issues of the city and the country. Howard decided that the city, despite its downfalls, had some advantages. By merging the town with the country the advantages of both can be obtained. He offered the Three Magnets diagram showing the advantages of the Town,the Country and the Town-Country.

Howard envisioned a city without slums and enjoying the benefits of both town (such as opportunity, amusement and high wages) and country (such as beauty, fresh air and low rents). He illustrated this concept with the Three Magnets diagram, showing the pulls of the Town, the Country, and the Town-country which he described as the ideal. Howard’s Town-country, or Garden City is illustrated below.


Ebenezer Howard proposed a Garden City as the solution to the problems of the city. Architects and planners embraced this idea and worked on concepts for practical implementations. These architects were also heavily influenced by industrial methods and production.

One of the leading urban thinkers was a Swiss architect who went by Le Corbusier. Corbusier published Vers une Architecture (Toward an Architecture) in 1923. The book is a series of essays that had been previously published on the marvels of industrial production. He described mass produced concrete dwellings that could be cheaply manufactured en masse. These consisted of both single family and multi unit developments.

In 1922 he presented his scheme for a “Contemporary City” for three million inhabitants (left). The scheme was a series of towers in a park,connected with large highways. The influence of industrial production is evident. This scheme was also included in his 1929 book “The City of Tomorrow and its Planning”. Note that on the image on the left are large towers sitting on a podium, which connects buildings to transportation.

Le Corbusier exhibited his “Plan Voisin”, sponsored by an automobile manufacturer, in 1925. In it, he proposed to bulldoze most of central Paris north of the Seine and replace it with towers from the Contemporary City, placed within an orthogonal street grid and park-like green space. It was not well received, though it did provoke discussion concerning how to deal with the cramped, dirty conditions that enveloped much of the city. (Below: Model of Plan Voisin)


In 1929 Corbusier published The City of Tomorrow and its Planning. In it he specifically refers to garden cities, and embraces Howard’s ideals. Corbusier also embraced industry and industrial production. He was fascinated with machines, and the automobile, and he is known for quotes such as “A city made for speed is made for success” and “A house is a machine for living in”.

In the 1930s, Le Corbusier expanded and reformulated his ideas on urbanism, eventually publishing them in La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City) in 1935. This eventually evolved into the Functional City, and the Athens Charter of 1943. The Athens Charter was based on the observations of many cities and was an offshoot of the Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne or CIAM.

The Athens Charter was greatly influential in the Post-war period. The charter stated that:

  • Housing districts should occupy the best sites.
  • A minimum amount of solar exposure should be required in all dwellings.
  • For hygienic reasons, buildings should not be built along transportation routes.
  • Modern techniques should be used to construct high apartment buildings.
  • Buildings should be spaced widely apart, to free the soil for large green parks.
  • It is important to reduce commuting times by locating industrial zones close to residential ones and buffering them with wide parks and sports areas.
  • Street widths and requirements should be scientifically worked out to accommodate the speed and type of transport.
  • Finally, with regards to conservation, historic monuments should be kept only when they were of true value and their conservation did not reduce their inhabitants to unhealthy living conditions.

So now we have seen how Howard’s Garden City ideals have been analyzed and scientifically studied, to result in the Athens charter, which set out the rules for modern planning. At the Turn of the 19th Century, the idea that modern planning and technology, combined with moral sensibility could cure the city of its Ills. This lead to the Board of trade forming the Civic Improvement League in 1905 to Lobby for modern planing and civic beautification. A Campaign in March 1911 was successful. Launched by Robert Hattie, the revived campaign by the Civic Improvement League included A lecture series, newspaper articles and proposed plans were all presented.

Various Design Schemes were presented, including the boulevarding of Morris St, grand parks at fort Needham, A Bridge over the Northwest Arm, and ferry terminal improvement. The illustrations were done by Architect Andrew Cobb, and the grand buildings were neo-classical in style, as preferred by city beautiful. The city beautiful movement was primarily a North American implementation of the garden city ideas, but was slightly different in its outlook. The City Beautiful movement was concerned with introducing Grandeur and beautification to cities and promoting beauty not only for its own sake, but also to create moral and civic virtue among residents. the City beautiful movement was using design to elevate the social well being of the people with superficial changes to the environment. The garden city was about using design to directly improve peoples lives by removing them from unsanitary conditions. The City Beautiful movement also took hold in Australia.

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Among the Lecturers was visit from British MP Henry Vivian, who commented that the slums in Halifax were far worse than those found in Britain, and that such conditions would never be tolerated there” he also presented on the garden city. Another lecture, presented by Thomas Mawson, a British landscape architect and planner was attended by Nova Scotia MLA for Halifax County George Faulkner. It was Faulkner who introduced the Town planning act to the legislature 4 months later.

The Nova Scotia Legislature passed the first Town Planning Act in 1912. The 1912 act was largely based on the 1909 British act. That first act however was short lived, and while it enabled municipalities to enable planning, it did not require it. and was replaced in 1915 by a new act written by Thomas Adams. Adams was pioneer urban planner. Born in Scotland, he was secretary to the Garden city association. In 1914 he took the position of town planning adviser with the federal Commission of Conservation. As part of a federal advisory commission, he had no ability to legislate land use federally, so he undertook a tour of the provinces. in Feb 1915 he stopped in Halifax, and found the 1912 act to be insufficient for the needs of the city. he then worked with city reformers to update it.

The 1915 Town Planning Act required cities to setup town planning boards, and to develop planning schemes. the act enabled munciplaities to purchase, sell and lease land, and the authority to approve or reject development of roads and buildings. Halifax Formed its town planning board in 1916, led by Robert Hattie, who recruited Thomas Adams to Develop plans. Hattie, Adams, and the City engineer Fredrick W. Doane developed the First plan for Halifax, separating the city into zones.

A large residential district was proposed along the Northwest Arm. As Estate owners passed, their estates were subdivided. In the Plan below, The Estate of Roderick MacDonald has been subdivided forming Rockliffe Street running between South St. and Oakland Road.

Adams work was interrupted however by the Halifax Explosion. Working with the Halifax Relief Commission, Adam’s Garden City ideals were crucial in the development of the Hydrostone District. With the Hydrostone Complete in 1921, and most of the devastated area under the Control of the Halifax Relief Commission, there was little work for the Town Planing Board. They developed a proposal for Connaught Ave to Parallel the new South End Rail Cut which was rejected by residents, but basically moved from a forward thinking body to one which began to arbitrate disputes and approve development.

Lack of interest, and Economic downturn led to planning stagnation throughout the 20’s and 30’s. It looks as though the Board didn’t formally meet between 1922 and 1931, and then only 4 times between 1931 and 1937. after the financial crisis, The second world war happened, which caused massive unplanned growth in the city. Halifax’s first modern urban plan was finally created in November 1945.

A foot Note.

Also of note, is that in 1910 City Alderman Clarke proposed slum clearance in the area of what is now Scotia Square. he also suggested some improvements to the road layout.untitled

All Saints Cathedral


The All Saints Cathedral is tucked away between two condo buildings on Martello Street, facing Victoria Park. It is unfinished, and her corner stone was originally laid at the corner of Spring Garden and Robie.

Proposed_All_SaintsBishop Binney (of Black Binney House fame) dreamed of a stone cathedral to serve the needs of the western suburbs.  A site had been selected at the corner of Spring Garden and Robie, and plans were drawn up by British architect Arthur Edward Street in 1888. A temporary wooden chapel was built on the site, and a corner stone and single buttress constructed after Binney’s death in 1887.


Bishop Frederick Courtney, Binney’s successor, lost interest in the cathedral project – the temporary church met the needs of the community. The bishop was seated at St Luke’s on Morris Street, since 1865, when the chair was moved from St. Paul’s. There was other work to do in the diocese, and money was tight. Courtney resigned in 1904 due to ill health, and took a rector’s position in New York. He was replaced by Clarendon Lamb Worrell, a parish priest from Smiths Falls, Ontario, and English teacher at Royal Military College in Kingston. Shortly after Worrell took over, St Luke’s burned to the ground. Suddenly a new cathedral was needed.

Cathedral comes from the latin word for chair. A cathedral contains the chair of a bishop, which is what makes it a cathedral.

The late 1800s were seeing new cathedrals built throughout the British Empire. There was again a renewed interest in such buildings, and Worrell had $20,000 in insurance money to seed the project. The street plans from 1887 were pulled out, but found not to meet the needs of the church. Local architect William Critchlow Harris, of the firm of Harris & Horton, rather self-servingly dismissed the plans, and gave Worrell the answers he wanted. By March 1906, the Spring Garden site was too small and cramped for the building and facilities Worrell wanted.


Harris was from PEI, and while he had completed several churches and public buildings in the Maritimes, he was less successful in the rest of Canada. He prepared a concept and presented it to the bishop.

Worrell now had 2 designs, and did some of his own research. He had an idea of what he wanted, and wrote to Ralph Adams Cram, principal partner of the firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson from New York. The firm had experience with chapels, and working in a “modern” Gothic style, including the commission for the chapel at the US Naval Academy at West Point. Goodhue visited Halifax and was excited by the project. He produced a couple of sketches of what he envisioned, and this probably won his firm the commission over Harris.

All_Saints_Sketch All_Saints_Sketch2

Harris was persistent, and forced the bishop to hold a competition. Basic plans were to be drawn up for a church to seat 1100, plus a chapel, organ loft, vestries, chapter room and vault, for a total cost of $150,000. The plans were to be judged by  Professor Percy Nobbs, Director of the McGill School of Architecture. Nobbs awarded the competition to Goodhue, chastising Harris in every aspect of his design except cost, writing “…it would be nothing short of a calamity to entrust a Gothic church to Harris, however competent he may be in other branches of architectural practice…”

Nobbs warned the bishop that both plans were over budget and that a great deal of work would be required to reign in the costs of the Goodhue proposal. GoodAll_Saints_1All_Saints_2hue went on to produce working drawings for the entire building, though only a portion would be built initially.

Worrell was on a tight budget. The budget was $150,000, no more. Goodhue calculated his design to come in at 169,000. Before the project went to tender, Harris was retained as superintendent of the project to work with Goodhue. The call for tenders was requested for August 1907 and called for the first construction of chancel, transepts, crossing and three bays of the nave with a temporary wooden front. Three bids were received, and all were over budget.

S. M. Brookfield, Ltd., contractors and builders, bid $155,474.00. it was an all inclusive price. Samuel Brookfield worked with the bishop to bring down costs by changing methods and materials of construction, and was able to project a reduction in costs of almost $24,000. In the end, the final construction contract was signed for $124,245.00. $15,000 was saved using concrete pillars not granite, and 1700 for substituting molded concrete trim rather then concrete block trim. Sod was turned on 26 September, 1907, and completion projected for June 1909. This was to be the then largest civil construction project in Halifax. As construction progressed, three more bays were added to the nave, financed directly from Samuel Brookfield. This left the Cathedral only one bay short of the original design, rather then 4 as stated by the build contract.

Construction progressed slowly, likely due to shortage of funds. Donations from the laity were projected at $40,000, but by 1909, only $16,000 had been collected. Goodhue was non-compromising, so Worrell often turned to the more sensitive Harris and Horton when seeking advice on cost-cutting. The church leaked, as mortar specified by Goodhue failed around the ironstone. This appears to have been a result of the condition of the stone and the mortar, and was finally solved with a new mortar formula derived by a Dal Chemistry professor, when the same problem affected buildings underway at the campus.

The cathedral was never finished as designed. Continued water issues plagued the church, and  wrongfully S. M Brookfield bore the blame for shoddy construction. Funds were required for constant repairs. There is a certain irony that Brookfield gets wrongly blamed for the issues with the church, despite him enabling it to be built.

The Martello Towers of Halifax


The Prince of Wales Tower is a well known monument in Point Pleasant Park. It was one of 16 similar towers built in Canada. Of the 16 built,  five were built at Halifax; one at Saint John, New-Brunswick; four at Quebec City: and six at Kingston. The Kingston towers are the newest, built 1846-48. The remainder were built between 1796 and 1815; Three of the Halifax towers predate the “Martello Tower” name and concept and were built between 1796 and 1799.

The Martello tower was a fortification built in the south of England during the Napoleonic wars, around 1805-1808. The basic definition is a circular tower of brick or stone construction used for coastal defence. The name is derived from a stone tower on Cape Mortella in Corsica which was defended against English naval attack. That tower was designed by Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino and built in 1565.

The standard Martello tower is stone, 2 stories high, with a terreplein on top designed to take armament. (A terreplein is the topmost horizontal surface of a fortification designed to take guns.) The towers are constructed of arched spaces around a central pillar to improve bomb resistance, and are 35′-55′ feet across depending on the number of guns to be mounted.


The Prince of Wales Tower was the first, and thus differs from the accepted design. Commissioned by Edward, Duke of Kent, it was built by Captain Straton, Edward’s Commanding Royal Engineer. The tower was intended to back up the batteries in Point Pleasant, and was begun and 2/3 complete by the end of 1796. That’s when Edward ran afoul of regulations. As a field commander, Edward had the ability to build temporary fortifications; however, permanent fortifications required the approval of the board of ordinance. Construction was halted until the end of the 1797 building season, after Edward got approval from the board. The tower was completed in 1799, but was defensible from 1797.


The completed tower is built from rubble masonry, and is 72′ in outside diameter. It is 26′ tall, and the walls are 8′ thick at the base, 6′ thick at the top. There were 2 interior stories, topped with a 3 foot thick wooden roof. The roof was supported by a 16′ diameter hollow column, that extended to the foundation, leaving a 16′ room on each level.


As built, the tower differed from what would become the standard in several significant ways – it lacked a magazine of its own, the bomb-proofing structure was not included, and its large dimensions. Work to rectify this began in 1805, with the addition of a magazine, and in 1810, the wooden terreplein was replaced with a bomb-proof arch. As originally built, entry was via spiral staircase on the exterior, and through hatches in the terreplein.  The ground level door likely was added in 1805 when the magazine was added on the ground floor. In 1862 a basement magazine was built in the Prince of Wales Tower, the idea that it would be more economical then a separate magazine, and meet the needs of the Shore batteries there. The upper door was added at this time, ensuring the tower could be accessed without interfering with the magazine.

The second tower was at Fort Clarence, where the Imperial Oil Refinery now stands. Originally intending to be a blockhouse, Edward decided to build a round tower instead. The tower was 50′ in diameter, 42′ high from foundation to parapet, with 6′ thick walls. it was completed in 1798. The tower when built was 3 stories tall, though the 1st floor was surrounded by a ditch and was below grade.  Access was via external iron staircase to the top. This tower also lacked bombproofing,  and the internal pillar was only 6′ in diameter.

ft clarence

In 1812, the external stair was removed, and a second level door added (this was ground level), reached by a drawbridge across the ditch. A magazine was built on the first level, but no bomb proofing was done.

fortClarenceBy 1867 the upper floor was removed, and the middle turned into a barracks. A bomb-proof arch was installed in the basement, for conversion to a magazine. In 1889 the barracks floor was removed, leaving only the magazine.

Duke of York Tower, 1891

Duke of York Tower, 1891

The Third Martello tower was also built by Edward. Located at York Redoubt, it was 40′ in diameter, and 30′ high, with uniform 4′ thick walls. It was built of rough quarried stone, and was completed in 1798, replacing a blockhouse. The tower may have been chosen as it could carry heavier guns than the blockhouse. The tower also featured the hollow central column. The terraplein was constructed of wood, as was the parapet – unique to this tower. A bomb-proof magazine was added after 1811, but the tower remained unchanged until the 1860s.



A 1960 renovation added caponiers on either side. Caponiers are protruding galleries that allow muskets to be fired. These can be seen in the image at the top.

A fire in the 1890s destroyed the upper level of the tower, and the lower level was integrated into other defensive improvements at the Redoubt.

Tower 4, located on Georges Island, was the first true Martello tower in Halifax. Though the island had been fortified since 1750, defences were inadequate, and comprised mostly of earthworks. Under Edward, a star fort was constructed with a blockhouse before his departure in 1800, but it too proved inadequate.  The plan for this tower was approved in 1811, and construction began in 1812. It was well underway by July, and complete and armed by the end of the year.


As completed, the tower was 42 feet in diameter, with a 5′  solid central column. It was built of bomb-proof arched construction, 2 stories tall with terreplein and parapet. Walls were 7′ thick at the base. A brick magazine was located on the first floor, and there was an entry door on the ground level.


Sherbrooke Tower was the 5th tower. It was demolished in 1944, and replaced with the current concrete light at Maughers Beach. Begun in 1814, construction was slow due to the need to move materials to the site, and faulty estimates. The tower’s construction was halted in 1816 for 10 years due to the end of the war of 1812. Go-ahead was finally given to continue in 1827.


When completed, the tower was 2 stories, 50′ in diameter and 30 ‘ high, with walls 7′ thick at the base, diminishing to 5′  at the parapet. A solid 2’ circular central pillar supported a bomb-proof arch above the barrack floor.  In 1826, the NS Legislature voted to spend 1500 pounds on a lighthouse on the beach. Gustavus Nicolls, then Commander of the Royal Engineers, suggested the completed tower could be used. It was too remote for a barracks, and the province would cover a lightkeeper who could maintain the tower, at no cost to the military. When complete, it was pressed into service as a lighthouse. The intended platform guns were installed in 1827 before the wooden lighthouse superstructure was placed on top of the tower. This light room caused no conflict with the guns, as it was balanced on a single masonry king post rising from the centre of the platform. The lighthouse began operation in April 1828.

The towers frequently suffered from moisture problems, and were fitted with wooden conical snow roofs by 1824. Sherbrooke Tower was the first to receive the roof. It was intended that guns could be fired from under the roof, though the roof would be removed in the event high readiness was required. Maintenance varied, and the towers were all considered to be in fair condition owing to the fact the Halifax towers  were attached to the British Imperial Naval Station, post-confederation.

By the 1860s the towers were obsolete. Rifled munitions were more powerful and accurate then smoothbore cannons before. In tests in 1860 on the Sussex coast,  a Martello tower was destroyed with 27 rounds of rifled munitions. Smoothbore guns had a negligible effect on a different tower.

The Prince of Wales tower was turned over, intact, to the Canadian government in 1906, on the departure of British forces. The tower at York Redoubt was also well maintained as a signal post, though the upper level was destroyed by fire. It was roofed over, and also turned over to the Canadian authorities in 1906. The Tower at Fort Clarence survived as just the magazine until after the Second World War, when it was removed for refinery expansion. The Tower on Georges Island was demolished in 1877, as Fort Charlotte works were commenced.

Amherst ICR Station in Danger


Thanks to Steve Boyko’s Confessions of a Train Geek blog for making me aware of this.

The railway station in Amherst is facing an uncertain future. Still owned by VIA, it was closed in 2012 when The Ocean went to 3 days a week. The train still stops; however, the train crew handles customer service.

There were plans  for the town to operate an artisan market in the station, but pipes burst last winter, causing $200,000 in damage. VIA is looking to sell the station to the town, but the town requires a use for it.

old_stationThe Intercolonial Railway (ICR) opened its line from Truro to Moncton on 9 November 1872. Initially the ICR served Amherst passengers from a station constructed of wood on the same site as the present-day structure. The present structure was opened on 31 August 1908 and is constructed of local red sandstone.

Several minor modifications have been undertaken to the structure in recent decades, including removing the south wing in 1975, replacing the bottom exterior stone in 1991 with stone from the Roman Catholic Church once located on Prince Arthur Street, and in 1992 new metal exterior doors were installed.

Amherst Station is protected under the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. The act responded to long-standing and widespread concern that Canada’s heritage railway stations were not being afforded an adequate level of protection. The initiative of a private Member of Parliament, the Act received support from all parties.

Since 1990, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has evaluated almost 300 railway stations, more than half of which were designated heritage railway stations. To be considered, a railway station must be owned by a railway company subject to Part III of the Canada Transportation Act; and be more than 40 years old.

The Bank of Nova Scotia


First Bank of Nova Scotia, 1832, Corner of Duke and Granville

The Bank of Nova Scotia was founded in 1832 to compete directly with the Merchants bank of Halifax. Its first branch was located in John Romans’s building at the Corner of Duke and Granville Streets.

By 1836, the bank had outgrown the location, and Purchased the lot at 188-190 Hollis St. They built their second branch there,Moving in in 1838. The bank  remained at that location until they built the new 1930 headquarters at the Corner of Hollis and Prince Streets.

1838 Branch and Headquarters

1838 Branch and Headquarters

The Bank of Nova Scotia headquarters,  was built in 1929 and designed by John M. Lyle. Lyle was trained in the Beau Arts Style in Paris, But wanted to build in a uniquely Canadian way. The building is best described as Canadian Deco, and is similar to Scotia Bank offices he also designed in Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. The Branches show a progression from the Neo-classical to a more modern form.

Ottawa Branch

The Ottawa Branch was built in 1924. It features a rusticated base, and full Doric columns leading to an entableture. By the time Calgary is built, the doric Columns have been flattened to a pilaster, though the formal composition is still very much the same.

Lyle’s Calgary branch.

The Style has again been reduced to its most simple by the time the Halifax Headquarters is built.

John Lyle, Drawing

John Lyle, Drawing

Borrowing from the Chicago style, the banking hall is rusticated, providing a stable base.the Pilasters extend through the office floors above, giving an emphasis on the vertical, and finally topping out with a cornice. Hallmarks of the Canadian Deco style include Canadian floral and fauna motifs. the beau Arts syling can best bee seen in the symmetry of the building.

(Above) The Lobby Facing the Elevators up
(below) The banking floor facing the lobby (Note the Symetry)

(Above) A depiction of the first steamship to Cross the Atlantic.
(Below) The Doors to Bank Vault. It features Squirls with nuts (hide for safe keeping), beavers (presumably symbolizing Canada, and hard work and industriousness) Wheat Chaffs For Prosperity.

(Below) Above the main door from the Lobby is this depiction that appears to be a Pontus – the Greek God of the Sea. He Has a fishing lure in his mouth.

Above the main door, is this depiction of the William D. Lawrence. She was a full-rigged sailing ship built in Maitland, Nova Scotia along the Minas Basin and named after her builder, the merchant and politician William Dawson Lawrence (1817-1886). Built in 1874, she was the largest wooden sailing ship of her day, one of the largest wooden ships ever built and the largest sailing ship ever built in Canada

Additional Floral and Fauna Motifs from the Exterior:


Building’s Entry on Historic Places register