Description of Historic Place
Keith Hall is a three-storey sandstone and brick building fronting on Hollis Street in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. The north side of the building is joined with a modern brick commercial building. Located behind and downslope from Keith Hall is the Brewery which is a complex of two, three and four-storey ironstone and brick warehouses arranged around an interior courtyard and facing Lower Water Street and the Halifax harbour beyond. The interior courtyard was converted into a glazed atrium in the early 1980s as part of a major adaptive re-use project. Both Keith Hall and the Brewery complex are prominent buildings in this part of downtown Halifax.
Keith Hall and the Brewery are valued for their association with brewmaster Alexander Keith and for their architectural features. Keith Hall is valued for its association with architect William Hay; while the Brewery is also valued for its age and its current use as a community market and meeting place.
Alexander Keith bought this building in 1822. Born and trained in Scotland, Keith gained brewing experience while working in Edinburgh and London. In 1821, he began working in Halifax at a brewery on Argyle Street. Keith purchased the brewery on Lower Water Street because it was big and would allow him to brew on a large scale. Keith established his own brewery on the property, brewing many beverages under his name, including strong ale, porter, ginger wine, table and spruce beers. In 1837, he built the current ironstone brewery building. It is not clear if Keith tore down the original brewery building or incorporated it into the design of the new building.
The popularity of beer grew steadily in Halifax during the 1830s and 1840s in response to the abolition of the slave trade in the West Indies in 1833, which reduced the availability of sugar for making rum—the traditional beverage of choice for Haligonians up to this point.
His brewing aside, Keith was a respected citizen of Halifax, serving as mayor in 1843 and again in 1853-54. He was also president of the Legislative Council in 1867, serving in that role until his death in 1873.
Today the Brewery remains a subsidiary of Oland & Son Ltd. and is still an active operation, producing beer under the Alexander Keith’s brand. The Brewery complex is home to various restaurants, stores and offices. It has also become a unique retail and meeting place on Saturday mornings when a variety of vendors and artisans from Halifax and across the province congregate in the interior and exterior premises of the brewery to sell their wares as part of the Halifax Farmer’s Market.
Architecturally, the Brewery has retained elements of the Georgian style of the original warehouses and brewhouses, which include symmetrical façade(s), ironstone construction with granite quoins and trim, and multi-paned six-over-six and eight-over-eight windows. Like many other historic warehouse properties near Halifax’s waterfront, the architecture of the Brewery complex is sturdy, functional and unadorned.
In September 1863, Keith laid the cornerstone for his new three-storey residence on Hollis Street, just behind his brewery. Known has Keith Hall, the large Italianate building was designed by Scottish architect William Hay. Before coming to Halifax around 1862, Hay was a successful architect in Toronto and designed St. John’s Cathedral in Newfoundland. He came to Halifax having formed a short-lived partnership with architect David Stirling. Together they designed Halifax Club (1862) and a new provincial building designed for use as a post office, customs house and railway department (1863-1868), which is now the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Architecturally, Keith Hall showcases Italianate architecture, including its symmetry, its many ornate window surrounds, and its elaborate pillared portico with an urn-topped balustrade.
Source: HRM Community Development Department, Heritage Property Program, Keith Hall and Brewery file.
The character-defining elements of Keith Hall include:
- three-storey building height with flat roof;
- symmetrical five-bay façade;
- smooth sandstone exterior;
- rooftop entablature with projecting bracketed cornice, dentils and projecting corner mouldings;
- cement rear façade;
- quoins on corners;
- elaborate portico with urn-topped balustrade linked with moulded stringcourse above ground floor windows;
- Classical entablature caps over second-storey windows with carved sandstone floral pediments;
- stringcourses connecting window sills on second and third storeys;
- plinth along base of front façade.
The character-defining elements of the Brewery include:
- proximity to Halifax’s waterfront;
- symmetrical façades;
- four-storey grey ironstone building with:
- front façade with simple rectangular massing, flat roof and minimal detailing;
- contrasting light grey granite quoins on corners;
- granite lintels, lug sills and quoins on windows;
- recessed six-over-six windows;
- two large archways and loading doors trimmed with granite;
- stringcourse between third and fourth levels;
- granite plinth along base of front façade;
- ironstone masonry wall along south portion of front façade;
- three-storey grey ironstone building with:
- hipped roof with large dormer (former loading hoist) on north side;
- contrasting light grey granite quoins on corners;
- recessed six-over-six windows with granite lintels, lug sills and quoins;
- wood panelled and glazed entry doors;
- corner tower in ell connecting with adjacent two-storey ironstone building;
- two-storey ironstone building with:
- flat roof;
- eight-over-eight windows on second floor with granite lintels and sills;
- red brick interior with a mix of multi-paned Gothic windows, small square windows, and segmented arched windows;
- two interior enclosed cobblestone courtyards.