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_gen-7745921-3065777The 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_dev-4543539-7532583The 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)


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