The NW Arm Bridge

Parallel to the work being done on harbour drive, Halifax set out to solve a number of other traffic problems in the city. The 1945 Master plan for the city of Halifax identified the need for a bridge over the northwest arm to connect to the suburbs in the Halifax County community of spryfield. The Harbour Drive Functional report also called on the city to build a bridge over the northwest arm, and a second harbour crossing.

The need for a crossing across the North West Arm first came to Council in October 2 1963. The first idea proposed in March 1966 was a $2million North West Arm Causeway. Part of the project involved replacing the Armdale rotary with a series of overpases. A Model requested to show to citizens, size and elevations of the project. That June, council was presented with a Letter of opposition signed by 600 residents against a causeway across the arm north of the public baths.

One of the proposals for replacing the Armdale Rotary. This proposal assumes a NW Arm Bridge by 1974.

The rotary was constructed in 1953, with a capacity of 20000 vehicles per day. The rotary replaced a 5 way intersection, but by 1963 it was seeing close to double its design capacity at 37,000 vehicles per day.

Another Proposal for the Armdale Rotary – this assumes no NW Arm bridge until 1984.

Residents were concerned that proposed improvements to the rotary would block views from Dutch Village Rd (Now Joe howe) of the Arm. There were also concerns that the causeway would delay construction of a bridge over the North West Arm, compound traffic problem rather then relive it, and render the water north of the causeway stagnant leading to its eventual infill, and render the public baths useless.

The Public Baths were located on what is know Horseshoe Island, and served as a popular bathing beach. The baths consisted of a Substantial 100 stall (50men, 50 women) change room and shower structure. The plans below are form the Halifax Archives, and show the Public Baths as they existed in 1926, with a substantial beach.

A Council committee met with minister of highways in June 1966. At the meeting, A model was on display, and reports produced by Fenco Engineering Co Ltd. The Provinces Department of Highways was against grade separation at rotary – citing concerns about aesthetics, the cost of acquiring land, and a lack of relief roads.

The city’s preferred solution was a bridge at Robie, but it was felt this would not solve rotary traffic flows. The City was also concerned that if city annexed Spryfield, city would be on the hook for bridge/causeway not province. Ther was also the matter of the outstanding Pratley study on 2 harbour bridges – NW ARM and Narrows then underway for HDBC

The North West Arm Bridge would eventually get linked to the second harbour crossing. Pratly’s report had proposed two possible locations for the crossing. A south end tunnel to Dartmouth at the foot of Morris Street, or a second bridge across the Narrows. The Functional plan for Harbour drive included accommodations for both a narrows bridge, a south end tunnel, and twinning the MacDonald with a second parallel bridge.

By August 1964, there was agreement of need for second harbour crossing was confirmed by premier. If the Halifax, Dartmouth and County councils decide on narrows crossing, the province would direct HDBC to build bridge and provide financing. later that month, Halifax Council passed a motion endorsing this, along with robie street improvements and NW Arm bridge.

The city of Halifax preferred a south end crossing, as it felt the Narrows bridge would benefit the county and Dartmouth mostly as it bypassing Halifax.

The city of Dartmouth rejected the south end option, and preferred the narrows bridge or twinning the MacDonald. A south end tunnel was estimated at a cost of $40million vs $20million for the narrows bridge with approach roads. Narrows bridge first proposed in October 1964.

In the Summer of 1965, the city of Halifax looked at its priorities. Fixing the rotary, the North west arm Bridge, were more important to the city then the narrows crossing. Halifax attempted to linking its support of a narrows bridge with the nw arm bridge. That fall, the Hdbc was instructed by the Nova Scotia Government to build and operate second crossing. HDBC chooses narrows site.

At the same time the city received a letter from Nova Scotia premier Robert Stanfield, indicating that studies into the North west arm bridge state that the bridge would not be needed until 1973, and if built prior to then would run at a deficit. He was instructing the HDBC to update the studies, and committed the province to help with Rotary improvements.

in June 1966 an examination of rotary improvements comes before council. Overpasses wont help, and will be expensive and ugly. In the end it was decided instead to add a right turn lanes from Herring cove to Quinpool, and from Dutch Village Rd to St.Margarets Bay Rd allowing traffic to bypass the rotary. They would also widen the rodary by shrinking centre circle, and widen herring cove rd from the rotary to Purcells cove rd. and install lights there. These changes would last until 2004, when the rotary took its current configuration.

Council passed a motion in September to build Narrows bridge per Plan B of Pratly report and the NW Arm Bridge per Plan C – at cost of $35 million. the next spring, with planning continuing, the approaches for narrows bridge approved Plan TT-7—l6898. council also entertains discussions about building elevated highway over railcut, so robie remains residential in the south end.

The Regional planning commission weighed into the debate in June 1967, suggesting deferring the arm bridge to later date. this suggestion goes against the cities call for simultaneous construction of the Northwest Arm bridge with the Narrows bridge. Councils rescinds its motion of support for the Narrows bridge.

“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Halifax demand, that the Halifax—Dartmouth Bridge Commission make immediate application to the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, for financial assistance necessary to start the immediate construction of the North West Arm Bridge.” 

Council, October 26,1967

The Bridge Commission had wanted the city of halifax to Pay for the Halifax approaches to the bridge. When the Planning commission suggested deferring construction, it was suggested that HDBC could build approaches for narrows bridge with funds that were intended for arm bridge. Halifax was not thrilled at paying for part of a bridge they didn’t want, while not getting the one they did.

In the end, with no Northwest arm bridge forthcoming, council sent a letter to the bridge commission indicating it couldn’t pay for the approaches to the narrows bridge.

WWII Anti-Aircraft Positions


So I went looking to see if i could find out where Halifax’s Anti aircraft positions were. I happened to find the Canadian Forces UXO legacy sites program, which provided a list of possible sites, but no further information. So I sent an email, looking for more information, and received a response.

With that information, i was able to produce the map above of WWII Anti-Aircraft positions.

At the start of the war, Halifax was defended by 2 13pdr QF 9CWT AA guns. these were installed on towers at York Redout. these guns were sent to canada with 6 others in 1920, and were obsolete. 4 3″ 20-CWT guns were sent form Kingston, and were installed at Imperoil and Burnside. The Burnside guns were moved to Connoly street when three newer 3.7 inch guns arrived, and were installed at burnside. a 4th was installed at Hartlin Point for training.

The Gun in the initial picture looks to be a 3″ 20-CWT gun in use until 1943. The Connolly Street Heavy Anti- Aircraft emplacement was setup in 1940, and would have been equipped with this gun.

The Connolly Street HAA Gun Site was located at the intersection of Connolly Street and Almon Street in Halifax; the position was sited approximately 150 yards south of Connolly Street. The site consisted of approximately 4.05 acres leased from the Eastern Trust Company.  A gun position was constructed and operational by October 1940. In June 1941, the 14th AA Bty was moved to Arvida, and the 4 20cwt guns (Connoly st and imperoil) were relocated there. The site was vacated effective 23 October 1942, and all military buildings were subsequently removed by the Canadian Army.

Most of the AA Batteries established in Halifax were built in 1942, and would have been Equipped with the Bofors 40mm Light AA gun, or the 3.7-inch Heavy Anti-aircraft gun. Halifax was aloted 28 3.7″ guns, and 16 40mm.

initial training on these guns occurred at A.23 Coast Defence and Anti-Aircraft Artillery training center in Halifax. gunners would then be sent to Debert, where additional training would occur, and they would be assigned to units.

A.23 trained light Anti Aircraft Bofors guns out of the Citadel, later moving to Connolly street. 9cwt guns on Lawlors island, 3.7 heavy guns were trained at Wrights Brook, off Navy Island cove in the Bedford Basin, later moving to Eastern Passage.

the Bofors 40mm was the primary light AA gun in use. Otis Fensom Company (the Elevator folks, with a plant in Hamilton On) built 40-mm Bofors Light Anti-aircraft guns (27,543 barrels and 2,527 complete guns by 31 March 1944) The bofors 40mm was a very common gun, and was used on ships as well as on transportable and fixed mounts. The towed Variant of the gun was commonly used for air defence in Canada During the war.

Bofors 40mm LAA Gun (Canadian Artillery Museum)

The 3.7″ gun was the Heavy Anti Aircraft gun used after the retirement of of the prewar 20cwt guns. Canadian Westinghouse built 3.7-inch Heavy Anti-aircraft guns (4,965 barrels and 1,650 mountings by 31 March 1944)

Below are a list of Anti-Aircraft Sites in Halifax, and details of each site.

Halifax Sites

This is a LAA site in Goose Bay, and likely similar to that on tower road.

The Tower Road LAA Site was located in southern Halifax, on a parcel bounded by Bridge Street, Atlantic Street, and Tower Road. In May 1942 the Tower Street site was selected as the location of a LAA battery and ultimately consisted of five (5) barrack and administrative buildings, and a single gun position emplaced on a framework tower situated on the south side of the property.

The Greenbank LAA Site was located near the Halifax Port area to the north of Point Pleasant Park and east of present day Young Avenue.  Exact dates of use are not known.

The Nova Scotia Technical College LAA Site was located at the Nova Scotia Technical College Building (now known as the Ralph M. Medjuck Architecture Building) on Spring Garden Road. In May 1942 the school site was selected as the location of an AA battery. The college building was subsequently rented by the Crown from the college at an unknown date. By February 1943 a single AA gun position was erected on the roof of the building.

Purcell’s Cove Heavy AA Battery was located between Colpitt Lake and the south shore of the Northwest Arm .  The site was operational by September 1942.  4 guns were in place, and operated by the 18 AA Bty.

Aerial Imagery suggests that remains of this site may still exist.

The Fairview AA Temporary Deployment Magazine was located in Fairview Station, north of Kent Street (now Main Avenue), approximately 1.3 kilometres south-west of the intersection with Bedford Highway. The site consisted of 10 individual magazines housed in Nissen huts covered with soil for protection; the exact location of the magazine buildings on site is not known. Dates of use were 1942-1945, with the site being declared surplus in 1946 and leases terminated in 1947.

The Prince’s Lodge HAA Site was located south of Prince’s Lodge on the western side of the Bedford Basin, inland west of Birch Cove, north of Halifax. Construction commenced in May 1942; the site ultimately consisted of sixteen (16) structures including a Temporary Dispersal Magazine, a command post and four concrete gun emplacements. the 4 guns were in operation by the 19AA bty by November 14 1942.

The Rockhead HAA Site was located in the North End of Halifax, in an area defined approximately by an extension of Goettingen Street (now Novalea Drive), Warden Street, Highland Avenue, and Leeds Street. The site was selected as the location of an AA battery during May 1942. the battery was in operation Febuary 3 1943, and consisted of four (4) gun positions and a central command post operated by the 18 AA Bty.

The Fort Needham LAA Site was located at Fort Needham in the north end of Halifax. From 1776 to 1917 Fort Needham was a military property occupied by a battery and barracks, until these were destroyed by the Halifax Explosion in 1917. A LAA battery was emplaced at the site by May 1942 , and consisted of a single gun position situated at the northern end of the property

The Lynch St LAA Site was located approximately near the northern end of Lynch Street in the North End of Halifax. In May 1942 the site was selected as the location of a LAA battery.  The battery was extant by August 1942, and consisted of a single gun position and two (2) associated barracks buildings

The Fort Charlotte LAA Site was located on Georges Island at the centre of Halifax Harbour. Fort Charlotte was constructed in 1749 following the occupation of Georges Island. An AA battery was emplaced on Georges Island before May 1942. It consisted of a single AA gun position and associated barracks constructed at the centre of the nineteenth century fortifications.

Dartmouth Sites

The Burnside AA Site was located in Burnside west of Dartmouth and south-east of Navy Island Cove. The Burnside AA Site was constructed by August 1942, and consisted of one heavy and one light AA gun positions and associated barracks

The Imperoyal sites consisted of a group of at least 4 LAA gun positions planned in January 1942, of which three positions are known to have been located in the general vicinity of the Sugar Refinery, Marion Heights, and Imperoyal North

The Marion Heights LAA Site was located in Imperoyal, Dartmouth, west of the Dartmouth Aerodrome. The site was established prior to May 1942. It consisted of a single AA gun position situated atop a framework tower, and associated barracks.

The Sugar Refinery LAA Site was located on the shore of Halifax Harbour west of Woodside, Dartmouth. In May 1942 the site was selected as the location of a LAA battery. It was completed by February 1943, and consisted of a single AA gun position and associated barracks.

The Gaston Road AA Temporary Deployment Magazine was located on 17.2 acres of land acquired from four individuals on Gaston Road, near Russel Lake, Dartmouth

The Russell Lake HAA Site was located on the western shore of Russell Lake, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The site was constructed by June 1942, and consisted of four AA gun emplacements and associated living quarters.

The Morris Lake HAA Site was located between Morris Lake and De Said Lake, along the present Caldwell Road in Dartmouth. The site consisted of approximately 10 to 12 acres. Construction of the site commenced by June 1942.  The site consisted of a grouping of four gun emplacements located opposite the north end of De Said Lake, with barracks and administrative buildings situated to the north along the roadway. 

Other Sites

There were Anti Aircraft guns at other sites, not covered above.

bofors AAA on the northwest demi bastion at the Citadel (Part of A.23)

Wrights Creek HAA battery on a small peninsula south of the South Gate of the Bedford Naval Magazine and the northern end of Wrights Cove. Some of us kids would sometimes slip around there for a look when I was growing up. There were at 4 gun emplacements, a central command building. 19AA bty put thes in operation in July and August 1943

The Strawberry battery and Fort Mcnab, both on Mcnabs island were HAA sites.


Halifax was also provided with a Ring of 12 Anti-Aircraft Search lights.
one with devils battery (hartlin Point)
Searchlights had 3 functions – dazzle enemy aircraft, assist with aircraft identification, and beacon to guide lost aircraft, a role in which they were successfully employed. they were decommisioned in June of 1944.
5 special mobile seachlight was formed to assit with RCAF Training. they traind at fort ives.

City Field

the original public works shops were located on the exihbition grounds, around morris st and tower rd. with their sale for the cathedral, a new location was required. in febuary 1908, fww doane the city engineer recommends moving the stables and workshops to the north end of the wanderers grounds. the city was allready using the area as a cement works.


CIty Field then remained at that location untill the land was need for the new provential museum.

oct 12 1967 – there was a discussion about the architects fees for the canceled Aquarium project, with regards to awarding the design for the new city field building. The firm of MacFawn & Rogers were considered (Ex principals of CA Fowler, Bauld And Mitchel) and Aza Avramovitch & Associates. after 2 votes, it was awarded to Aza Avramovitch & Associates with the mayor casting the deciding vote.

feb 1968 – terms of reference submitted for new city field building. salt storage and repair facilities for vehicles still open. repair should be left to the architect, salt storage subject to a report.

Aprl 1968 – Agreement with Aza Avramovitch & Associates for construction of new city field building. later that month plans are presented, and the usual feature adjustments are done to stay on budget.

Lowest tender submitted from Fundy Construction for $708,950.00, however there was an issue with the bid, as 2 of the 3 paving subcontractors who quoted the job had withdrawn their bids as they didn’t include additional work specified in an addendum to the tender. it thus left Fundy’s bid artificiality lower, as they had used one of the retracted bids. after some debate, council decided to award the tender to Fundy Construction on a vote of 5-4. Fundy would have to eat the paving costs themselves.

august 1969, ready to move in october.

salt facilities need work

The Deep Water Terminus


in 1872 the Intercolonial Railway reached Halifax connecting the city to the rest of North America. After becoming established, the railway began construction of a Port complex in June 1877. The contract for the work was awarded to Mr. James G Kennedy, contractor at a price of $174,000. the new terminal was designed to house 12 steamers simultaneously.

the original Pier 2 (right) and Pier 3 (left) Note the covered conveyors for the Grain Elevator.

The Intercolonial would go on to open the Deep Water Terminus, as the dock complex would become known in 1880.

The Grain Elevator in 1901

A grain elevator was constructed in 1882 at the end of Upper Water Street, and portions of pier 2 are destroyed by fire, in what is believed to have been a case of Arson.

Pier 3 from 1898 on theleft, Old Pier2 in the center, and the new pier 2 on the right
Pier 3 in 1905

The ICR go on to rebuild Pier 2, next to the 1898 pier 2, which now had the transit shed removed. The construction beginning in September of 1911 and was finally finished in early 1915. Engineer A.F. Dyer and superintendent of contracting A.A. MacDonald oversaw the rebuild project, which was done entirely in Concrete.

pier 2 in 1925

the new pier was constructed from concrete piles and piers, with poured floors and ceilings. the upper floors would serve as the immigration offices. Trains could enter the lower level of the transit shed directly.

transit sheds were of vital importance to shipping pre-containerization. Products to be ship would be hand unloaded from trucks and trains and stored in the transit sheds until the ship arrived to transport it. Cargo would then be carefully hand packed into the ship, to minimize movement, and maximize capacity – much in the same way one might pack their car trunk for a camping trip.

this is the origin of the tramp steamer. the ship would sail around picking up and discharging  cargoes as it went. Loading could take days or weeks, and in many cases, there was no schedule, so the ship arrived when it arrived.


the New Pier 2 would serve as the main immigration shed, and see many soldiers off to war. the Building was severely damaged in the 1917 Halifax explosion, but continued serving as the immigration point at a reduced capacity until pier 21 opened in 1928. the transit shed was then converted to a warehouse, which again caught fire and burned in September 1933, but managed to be repaired and refurbished in just 5 months.

In 1952, a new Pier 3 opened to replace the original 1892 Pier 3. the New pier featured 2 transit sheds,  measuring 725×90′


the navy took over the terminal for the second world war, and eventually completed a land swap to own it outright in the late 60’s. Pier 2 was eventually rebuilt by the navy, and is now known as Navy “B” (or November Bravo), and located next to the Casino. Pier 3 is still in use in its 1952 configuration as Navy “C” or November Charlie.

Halifax Fire’s First Aerial.

The Nova Scotia Board of Fire Underwriters were unhappy with the city of Halifax’s Fire Department. Equipment was old, and they were concerned that Halifax lacked any sort of aerial appliance. The Underwriters went so far as to offer a $0.05 discount on all policies in a 1904 memo to the city, should the city procure an Aerial Ladder with an 80′ turntable ladder 8 call-men crew.

The cities Board of Fire Wards had been suggesting the procurement of an Aerial Ladder for several years as well, and in their report to council of March 6, 1906 identified the need for new engines to replace old equipment, and to expand coverage due to city growth. The report recommended procuring an Aerial Ladder truck and Equipment among other equipment.

The Aerial was required due to “Electrical and Telephone wires making “Old Fashioned Ladders” of little use in the business District”, and explained that “Aerial designs are the only type that can be erected in a modern city.”  Council generally agreed with the report, agreeing to buy the equipment, but an amendment was moved to remove the Aerial ladder purchase. The vote was lost on a tie – the tiebreaking vote to proceed being cast by the Mayor. Halifax would get it aerial, and in July the City advertised tenders for the equipment.

Responses were received form several vendors, and In August, council accepted a bid from the Halifax Firm of Macdonald & Co. Ltd. to supply an 80′ Horton Aerial Truck, beating out La France and Seagrave models, subject to meeting department specifications. The cost was $4,900.

The Horton Aerial ladder was patented in 1894 by another Haligonian W.J Horton. Horton’s design was intended to “improve the construction of fire ladder apparatus in such manner as shall make them more efficient in use and so that the apparatus shall, in its construction and operation, combine the practical advantages of the ordinary hand ladder truck a main extension ladder useful at high buildings, and a substantial water tower.”

There must have been some wiggle room in the design, as in February 1907, Halifax council sends Fire Chief Broderick to Quebec, Montreal and Toronto to inspect Aerial Ladders in Use, and to assist in preparations of requirements for the Halifax Department’s ladder. Chief Broderick reported to council in a month later that he had an excellent trip, and witnessed several improvements that could be applied to the operations of the Halifax Fire Department. He also was impressed watching several aerial ladders in operation at a large fire in Montreal and commented that “the fires are fought largely from the outsides of buildings, saving the men from great hardship and actual danger”

Council was sold, and MacDonald & Co ltd. was sent a letter on 9 October notifying them of the award. MacDonald & Co responded with specifications to the Board of Fire Wards in early November, however the board felt they were “vague and unsatisfactory”. Several meetings were held between representatives of the Board and MacDonald & Co, but information supplied by the company remained vague, and they declined to supply blueprints. In frustration, The Board of Fire Wards showed up at the premises of MacDonald & Co on May 30, 1908, and demanded to see the Aerial Ladder. They left, having seen neither the ladder nor any of its parts.

The board had had enough. At the next meeting, the board passed a motion formally rejecting the plans stating that the specifications provided by the company were not suitable for the board of fire ward’s needs. the boards report to council recommended ending the contract, and buying the Seagrave 80′ Aerial Ladder for $5350.00. When council met 7 days later, the motion as recommended is put forward. As debate ensues, Roderick MacDonald requests to address council, and is permitted to do so. In his presentation, he presents a model of the Horton Aerial Ladder. The presentation was obviously effective, and prompts council to pass a series of motions granting a three month extension from that date for MacDonald & co to construct the ladder, if Roderick MacDonald accepts, otherwise to authorize the cancellation of the contract and buy the Seagrave. MacDonald accepts, and the motion passes giving him until September 10 to deliver the ladder.

In July and August, the Fire Underwriters and Board of Fire Wards recommend tests for acceptance of the aerial ladder.  Among the tests, were timing the setup of the ladder to a top South window, and moving to a north window on the Herald Building on Granville street (This building is today better know as the Dennis Building, and at the time a 4 story building, the upper 3 stories being added after a 1912 fire.), and Timing from departure of the Bedford row firehouse, to Ladder erected on the roof of the NS Furnishings building on Barrington Street. Built in 1894, the Nova Scotia Furnishings buildings was one of the Tallest and most modern buildings in Halifax.  

These tests were conducted September 30th, 1908. The timing was done by 2 city aldermen, and the Herald Building test came in at 13minutes 56 seconds, and the Nova Scotia Furnishings test totalled 23minutes, 56 seconds.  Suffice to say, the ladder was found to have failed testing, and a December 14, 1908 motion of the board of Fire Wards confirmed the ladder did not meet requirements, and the board of Fire Wards recommends the truck not be accepted, and that the city have no further dealings with MacDonald & Co on the matter.

The matter of the board of Fire Wards dismissal came before council on January 7, 1909, with a motion to reject the aerial ladder. at the meeting, Roderick Macdonald again asks to address council and is once again permitted to. After his presentation, the contents of which are not recorded in the minutes, A new motion is made to accept the aerial, and passed by a vote of 12 for to 4 against.

A further motion of council authorized payment of $4900.00 for the Aerial ladder and the chief was instructed to prepare estimates for the board on the Annual cost to commission the Horton Aerial. Citizens were also anxious for the ladder to be put into service, as the promised discount was still on the table, once proficiency could be demonstrated.

The initial estimates for horses and hitching gear came in at 1500.00 for setup, and a cost of over $2000.00 annually. By December 1909 the Department had a crew of 8 who could erect the ladder in under 3 minutes, and shift in in under one minute. It was also decided that a 9-member panel would need to be satisfied for the underwriters to honor their discount pledge. the board would be made up of 3 members each from the Board of Fire Wards, the board of fire underwriters, and the Halifax board of trade.

On March 23 the committee rendered their decision that the Horton Aerial ladder was “a workable piece of apparatus”. and the discount would be applied to all policies. the ladder went into service May 1, 1910.

A brief History of Temporary Housing in Halifax

Halifax is in the midst of a housing crisis. Rents are rising and people are living in tents in parks.

Halifax for the last several years has been undergoing a bit of a building boom. But its also experienced massive population growth over the same period. Since 2015, Nova Scotia has seen strong In migration from other parts of Canada.

We have also had strong population growth from Immigration, and have also gotten younger as a province, But housing starts have basically remained flat. Neil Lovitt, VP Planning & Economic Intelligence at Turner Drake & Partners, tweeted the graph below which nicely illustrates the issue. Neil figures we have a deficit of close to 30000 units.

People camping in parks is generally a bad option overall, but when its the best option they have, and the city seems to be able to take any meaningful action to deal with the problem, other than turning to the cops on them to remove them we have a right to be upset.

People have been claiming that the camps have been scenes of assault, drug use, public urination,the camps are littered with garbage, and that the shelters are unsafe since one suffered a fire.

Proper houses catch fire too.. Crimes also take place in proper houses, they house residents that make the neighbours cranky, and some proper houses are even unsightly and filled with garbage.

all the “complaints” people have about those in temporary shelters apply equally to all forms of shelter in this city.

if conditions are bad in the camps, understand its because the city chose not to provide the services to those citizens that it provides to folks who own or rent homes. if garbage collection stopped, your neighbourhood would be gross too. just go google photos of the last Toronto garbage strike. a dumpster and a portapotty would cost the city almost nothing, and would go along way to make the lives of residents better.

The strange thing, is the city has a proud history of Camping on the Commons, and Erecting Emergency Shelters on public lands.

Just over 100 years ago the north end was flattened instantly by an explosion, and most of the community was instantly killed or rendered homeless. The survivors were forced to seek shelter in public buildings, moved in with family and friends, or else sheltered into tents raised on the Halifax Commons.

Military reports of the relief efforts immediately following the explosion detail the following taskings:

Lieut. G.B. Isnor spent the first 36 hours after the explosion driving his car, assisting in the search for places to house the homeless, conveying nurses and doctors from the Terminals to the Hospitals, and helping with the distribution of emergency blankets clothing, etc

Lieut. L.G. Esther, on the 6th, ordered to assist in putting up tents on the Common. Relieved at midnight

Lieut. O. R. Crowell, … Spent evening till 10.00.p.m. conveying oil to tents on Common. On the 7th, assisted in boarding up Union Jack Club building for shelter.

The Tents were only temporary, and by January, more permanent temporary housing was under construction. The photos below form the Archives are dated Jan 26/18, less then 2 months after the explosion. the first shows the Gov. McCall Apartments built on the Provencal Exhibition Grounds (which were bounded by Young, Robie, Almon and Windsor streets)

This second set of buildings also housed the Halifax Relief commission, and were built on the Garrison Grounds. These buildings were basically constructed of timber and tar paper. These replaced the tents, and lasted until the hydrostone, and other more permanent accomidation could be constructed.

In the second world war, what is now Mulgrave park was known as Manning Pool. The site 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.

Apartments under construction at Manning Pool. The building is constructed on simple wooden posts. These would eventually be coverd with a plywood facing. The single family homes were also constructed on wood posts.

Wartime housing was able to quickly provide homes for service members and their families. The houses IIRC were prefab, and assembled on site. Constructed of basic Wood, they provided suitable, but temporary shelter. you can see the edges of the plywood in the photos. they were simply painted.

So what lesson do these wartime examples have for today?

In the middle of wartime supply shortages we manged to provide quality emergency housing to deal with homelessness in the first world war . During the second world war, facing rapid population growth due to the influx of service men, we were able to quickly build emergency housing.

Apparently now, with our economy once again booming, we have forgotten how to do what we have done twice in the past.

West Street Fire HQ

original idea to locate at Cunard/, maynard, agricola, and woodhill, but after discussion Site #2 in fire station replacement report be approved with the addition of civics #5684, 5688, and 5694 west st, and civics 2401 and 2405 Agricola added to the site.

June 30 1966, terms of reference approved, and a request for architects to be made. Besides the fire hall, an Maintenance shop is to be built. the building should be completed in 2 phases.

Feb 16/1967 Agreement signed with Architects Robert J Flinn and Associates


by April


, preliminary sketches are prepared. and June 29, Mr. W.F and Mrs R.M. Clements settle for $13500 for 5681 west st. By august, estimates are in  and the projected total cost is $618185.00. a completion of late 1968 is projected. Approval is given for detailed drawings to be produced.

4000 was paid to Miss Margert Meehan for 23×90′ of her property on james street for the station. (oct 1967)

March 14/68 plans approved, and tenders called for.

by aug, 1968 all properties needed were owned by the city, except for 170-172  Maynard street, which was vacant alnd assesed to margeret Grindison. As she lacked clear title to the land, the area was expropriated, and compensation of 4000$ was paid to her.

the tender was awareded to raymond L. Kaizer Ltd for $634,397.00 (aug 15 1968)

flinn graduated from mcgill in 1962. when he became an architect, he already had an established engineering practice in Halifax. His thesis was a court house for halifax.

the new west street fire station would replace  the 1896 West Street Station, the 1904 bedford row station, and the Oxford Street station, and opened tuesday Oct 18, 1969

Second Empire

The Second Empire style is most readily identified by the mansard roof combined with classicized façade. The earliest versions of this style began to appear in major Canadian cities in the late 1860s. During the 1870s, these ornate buildings took Canada by storm; but by the mid-1880s, after a rapid fall from fashion, they were no longer being built.

The term second empire refers to a revival of the style popular during the Second Empire of Napoleon III of France. at the time, however it was written about as the modern french style.

During the period that Second Empire triumphed, it was considered to be particularly appropriate for institutions and public buildings.

North Street Terminal of the Intercolonial Railway was Constructed: 1874-77. the terminal was located approximately where the MacDonald bridge cable anchorage is now located.


Contrary to the general policy of the Intercolonial Railway to build economically, the North Street terminal featured the expensive Second Empire style. Because the railway station provided the visitor with his first impression of a city, it was felt that a major urban centre such as Halifax required a building appropriate to its status. This symbolic role was observed in an 1897 publication: “Supposing one is to arrive in the city by train, he is at once impressed with the idea that he has reached an important terminal point, for he finds himself in one of the finest depots … east of Boston.”


Prominent local builder Henry Peters received the contract to build the main body of the station. The mansard roof was prefabricated in Philadelphia by Clarke, Reeves and Company, one of several American firms which mass-produced cast-iron architectural elements.

Before the Halifax Explosion.

The North Street terminal was destroyed in the Halifax explosion of 1917. many windows were blown out, the the roof of the train-shed collapsed. the Station managed to continue to be used for 2 years post explosion.

After the Halifax Explosion. Note the boarded up windows.
Post explosion view of the train shed – It collapsed.

Halifax City Hall was designed by Edward Elliot and built by Rhodes, Curry & Company between 1887 and 1890 in an eclectic late-Victorian version of the Second Empire style.

Front Elevation on Grand Parade
Argyle Street Elevation.
Duke Street Elevation

When built the Building held all the municipal functions for the city of Halifax. The first floor was for offices requiring public access with additional offices, committee rooms and council chambers on the second floor. The building also provided space in the basement for the police department, lockup and court, and for a library on the second floor. A Majority of the Third floor was assigned to the city Museum.


The City decided to hold a competition to select the Design for the New City Hall. Edward Elliot submited the winning proposal.


(Above)stain glass on main stairwell (Below) Mayors Office


(below) Council Chambers. Though recently renovated, the layout of the room was changed to reflect the setup of council as the room was built.


Another late second empaire building is the NFB building on Barrington street.


The NFB Building was built in 1891 as the St. Mary’s Young Men’s Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society Hall. Designed by James Charles Dumaresq, it was built in the second empire style, originally with a distinguished tower, howerver it lost its tower in the first half of its life, and was destroyed by fire in 1991, leaving only the front façade.

In 1907 the building became the first permanent movie house in Halifax, The Nickel Theatre, at which time the building was renovated to include theatre seating. For over eighty years the building was associated with the film industry, and in the late 1960s became home to the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada’s Halifax office.

After 20 years of Proposals and sales, Halifax confirmed that architect David Garrett and owner Steve Caryi of Ruby LLP now have the necessary construction permits, which were issued this week after applications in May.

International Style

The International style name was derived from a 1932 exhibition at New York’s Museum of modern art, though the style is directly derived from Sullivan work. The Verticallity is stressed, and the only ornamentation is the structure itself.

The most common characteristics of International Style buildings  usually consists of the following:

  1. Square or rectangular footprint
  2. Simple cubic “extruded rectangle” form
  3. Windows running in broken horizontal rows forming a grid
  4. All facade angles are 90 degrees.
  5. Open Interior Spaces
  6. Visual Weightlessness, though Cantilevers.

When new, the international style was unique, and bold. it has since developed into “corporate architecture” of uniformity.

The Canada Permanent Building is a good example if the style.

“Now Open!” advertisement from the Halifax Mail-Star, Wednesday August 22, 1962

Canada Permanent Building, built in 1961-1962, Was designed by Charles A. Fowler and Jamie Macdonald. It is Significant because it was Halifax’ s First Completed Curtain Wall Structure.

A curtain wall is an exterior wall that is hung from the structure (Like a curtain) its only function is to keep the weather out. in other forms of building the walls have a structural function, even if it is to only hold themselves up. Curtain Wall is typically made up of glass and metal panels.

The Previous Canada Permanent Trust headquarters was destroyed by fire. Though the client preferred a more traditional 3 story masonry building however the site was constrained, as the adjoining lots were unavailable. Fowler was able to convince them that the site called for a more slender lighter approach, and produced a 7 story International Style building.

Canada Permanent Trusts buildings in Toronto and Edmonton are both masonry construction (though also older) The new Style Building Fit with the expansion of services trust companies were begining to offer, and brought the company into the modern era. The Press at the time considered the building to be “an Ultra Modern Structure”

Given the slope to the site, a 2 story pentagonal atrium was built with a sculptural terrazzo stair to connect the Argyle and Barrington Street entrances. The  bank Entrance was located on Barrington, and the trust company offices off Argyle. Most of this has been lost, though a portion is still visible off Barrington Street, and in the floor of the Starbucks.

ground floor plan

Canada Permanent Trust merged with Canada Trust, and was eventually acquired by the Toronto Dominion Bank. The building now houses a Starbucks and Convenience store on Barrington Street, An Irish pub off Argyle, and the remaining 5 floors are residential. Since built, the Barrington Lobby has been destroyed,  and the Sun Screens have been removed from the Sackville street windows. Window washing rails have been removed, and the porcelain enamel panels have been painted black.

the building underwent a Restoration in 2019 to bring it back to more closely match its original appearance. The architect contacted me for the source of the original drawings, to aid in the research.