Gone: The Halifax Infants Home.

The Halifax Infants Home, now known as Bethany House, is located at 980 Tower Road, on the corner of Inglis St. It was built to accommodate the Halifax Infants Home (from 1900 – 1959) and subsequently sold to the Salvation Army, who ran it as the Bethany Home for unwed mothers and their children (from 1960 – 1998). The house was purchased by Saint Mary’s University in 1998, the building has accommodated educational uses.

It was designed by J. C. Dumaresq for the Infants Home, and replaced an older structure on the site. Done in the Second Empire Style, the Home features unique tower like features along the Inglis Street facade.

(Above) Article pre-construction, Halifax Morning chronicle, June 19 1899, Incidentally, the Ball they mention was held in the (then) brand New Halifax Drill Hall

Interestingly, this new home, replaced Belvidere House, also located on this site. At the time, Heritage advocates were arguing in favor of Saving Belvidere House, for its historical status as one of the oldest buildings in Halifax. It was demolished due to wear and needed repairs.


The Nova Scotia Infants Home came down on . Apparently the HTNS was notified of this by on June 24, and a Facebook post was made on the 25th on a group to save the building. No time lines were given by SMU for demolition, however it seems that the date was chosen – a Friday before a long weekend, a, nice quiet time when no one would notice.

a plaque now commemorates the building, affixed to a fence in a field.


The Works of Andrew Cobb


The Tramway Building was built in 1916, after a fire destroyed the previous building on the site. It is named Tramway, after its tenant, the Halifax Electric Tramway Company, Which operated Halifax’s streetcars until they were converted to trolley coaches in 1949. The 2 Storefronts are original to the building, Housing Tip Top tailors 1921-41 until they moved next door, and then Chas brown Furriers from 1942- 1983.

Designed by Andrew Cobb, in a Modern Neo-Gothic Style. It was one of the first all concrete buildings in Halifax (The first being the 1903 A.M. Bell Building on Granville St.) Cobb studied at Acadia , MIT and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and Setup Shop in Halifax in 1909. He also worked as a partner with S.P Dumerasq. Cobb had his office in Tramway from 1938 until his death in 1943.

The building features a clear hierarchy of forms, separated by wide concrete banding, which separates the Retail street level from the second floor, and again form the second floor to the roof line. Octagonal turrets line the top of the building, though the Barrington street ones have been removed due to their poor condition.

Full Listing at DOAC

Gone: The Tip Top Tailor Building

We know that a 1915 fire destroyed everything between khyber and barrington/Sackville Streets. (Even this is odd, as HRM heritage documentation states the fire was between the Khyber building and Blowers, though those structures still survive and date to the 1880’s)

Tiptop was housed in the Tramway building 1921-41. Its thought the site was originally the rear entrance for Reardon’s store on Argyle. The photo left, is Dated 1950’s however it shows the site as a 1 story building with tiptop Occupying it.

therefore this must have been taken between 1941-and 1951. HRM Assumes that the building was renovated in 1941/42 when tiptop moved, however HTNS created a presentation which features an ad for the grand opening, From the October 10 1951 Herald Newspaper.

The Store was Designed in 1951 By Allan Duffus, who was inspired by Modern art of the time, resulting in a geometric facade. Faced with granite, and a Large Light up Sign where i/o would alternate in Tip Top, the fenestration offered lots of display space to the street.

Compare the Above rendering to a more recent Pre-demolition photo. The facade is largely intact, although poor maintenance, material choices in subsequent renovations and signage have marred it since tip top vacated the property in 1980.

(Above image from ourhalifax.com)

Below, Front Elevation, and Second Floor Plans from HTNS Presentation.

The Robie Street High Service Reservoir.


A recent Noticed in Nova Scotia post touched on the aesthetics of the Robie Street Reservoir. Stephen Archibald mentions that the reservoir was built in 1913, and it has received new roofs twice – once in 1946, and again in 1999. Curiously, this simple tank has been quite the source of innovation.

Proposed original Waterworks.

Proposed original Waterworks.

The original water system for the City of Halifax was installed by the Halifax Water Company which was incorporated  in 1844. The water supply was, at the outset, drawn from Chain Lakes. The Chain Lakes were connected with Long Lake by an open canal, through which water was drawn from that lake. In July 1849, this was replaced by a buried conduit of wood. A dam was constructed at the south end of Long Lake by which the surface of the lake was raised 25 feet above its natural level. Dams were also erected at the east end of the Chain Lakes with waste weirs, later raised to the same elevation above tide water as the waste weir in the Long Lake dam, namely 206 feet. From Chain Lakes a 12″ main was laid into the city to the intersection of Robie Street and Quinpool Road and the water was first turned on in the year 1848.
In 1861, the city purchased the Halifax Water Company for $150000, after it was unable to provide sufficient water to fight the great fire of January 12.  That fire destroyed most of George and Prince Streets, Bedford Row and Cheapside, and extended into Hollis Street. The city operated it as a separate entity with a 3 man board, Consisting of appointed aldermen.  Charges of corruption and mismanagement finally brought the water supply under the city works department in 1894.
Pressure and water quality continued to be an issue, and several reports were issued to address the issue. New Mains were run from the supply lakes, and the lakes themselves were cleared of vegetation that affected quality. New pipes were laied, and methods to remove sediment and buildup were pioneered.


Halifax Water System, 1906

Halifax water works on a high pressure and a low pressure system. Water is gravity fed in 24″ and 27″ mains for the low pressure system, and in 15″ mains for the high. In the Map above, the Yellow line divides the high and Low Service Areas.

Original Construction, Circa 1913

Original Construction, Circa 1913

The Robie Street High Service Reservoir was built in 1913 to provide supply and additional pressure to the high service. The site selected was known as Hungry Hill, and was the highest locally available spot.  The reservoir has an interior diameter of 160′, and is 25′ deep. The walls are 3′ thick at the bottom, tapering to 18″ at the top. The roof was almost flat, and was a 4″ slab supported by radial concrete girders and 53 18″x18″ posts.


By the mid 1940’s the Halifax water system had just about lived its normal life and was due for replacement. The population had increased from 70,000 to 130,000, and there were again issues with water pressure for firefighting.  An engineering report of the system was produced, and the Halifax Water commission was formed and set out fixing the system. The Robie Street reservoir included.


Spalling on the exterior


Underside of original roof. Note shear crack at column

The reservoir was in bad shape. By 1945 the roof was close to failing completely, and chunks had fallen into the reservoir. The girders supporting the roof were failing at the shear points with the columns. The inside wall was worn down to rebar due to ice action. Ten inches of slime covered the floor of the reservoir. The outside wall suffered from spalling. The Water Commission decided to undertake repairs.


Exterior wall repair

The old roof was removed, but the columns were retained. Loose material was chipped away from the inside, and the areas sand and water blasted.  Steel wire mesh was then anchored in place, and multiple layers of gunite were shot in place. Once the inside was done, the same process was done on the exterior.

Gunite was, at one time, a trademarked name that specifically refers to the dry-mix shotcrete process. In the dry-mix process, the dry sand and cement mixture is blown through a hose using compressed air, with water being injected at the nozzle to hydrate the mixture, immediately before it is discharged onto the receiving surface. The concrete mixture is by pneumatic pressure from a gun, hence “gun”-ite.


Forming for the roof dome


Applying gunite to the roof dome


Section of the dome and wall connection

The roof dome at the time was the largest pre-stressed concrete shell in the world. At 3 inches thick, it was cast in place on forms, after the edge ring was cast. The dome took 5 days to pour, and work progressed around the clock, with two 12 hour shifts. The pre-stressing was accomplished by applying 180,000psi of force on a 0.162″ steel wire, and wrapping it around the ring 360 times, in 5 layers. A coat of gunite was applied between each layer, and in all 42 miles of wire were used.


Winding the pre-stressing cables

The outside of the reservoir was finished with a white cement brush coat.

By 1999, it was time to replace the roof again. This time a lightweight aluminum geodesic dome was chosen. The existing roof was removed with explosives, which were also used to release the pre-stressed ring beam. Charges were set around the perimeter.

Placing charges

Roof removed. Not the original columns

With the roof replaced, the Robie St. High service Reservoir can continue to serve the people of Halifax.