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Halifax City Hall National Historic Site of Canada

1841 Argyle Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1984/11/23

General view of Halifax City Hall, showing its Second Empire inspired design.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view
Exterior view of Halifax City Hall, showing the three-storey massing, and the seven-storey clock tower with its clock and its steeply angled roof, 2006.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 2006.
Exterior view
Detail view of Halifax City Hall, showing its ashlar masonry facing, 2006.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 2006.
Detail view

Other Name(s)

Halifax City Hall National Historic Site of Canada
Halifax City Hall
Hôtel de ville d'Halifax

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1887/01/01 to 1890/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/04/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Halifax City Hall National Historic Site of Canada is a monumental three-storey, stone municipal building erected in 1887-90. Completed in an eclectic late-Victorian version of the Second Empire style, this elaborate composition has a central seven-storey clock tower. It is prominently located in downtown Halifax, at the north end of the Grand Parade, opposite St. Paul’s Anglican church. The formal recognition consists of the building and the legal property on which it sat at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

Halifax City Hall was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1984 because:
- it is representative of city halls found during the l9th century in progressive, moderately sized Canadian cities with highly developed municipal services;
- civic pride and optimism are symbolized by its monumental scale, elaborate design and prominent location on the Grand Parade.

The Halifax City Hall is the largest example of an administrative municipal hall found in the Atlantic region and reflects the increasing professionalisation of municipal governments during the late 19th century. It was one of a handful of single-function municipal buildings built in growing urban centres across the country before 1900. The first floor offices were set aside for civic employees requiring a high degree of public access with additional offices, committee rooms and council chambers on the second floor, reflecting the practice that council meetings should not be disturbed. The building also provided space in the basement for the police department, lockup and court, and for a library on the second floor. The presence of a public library reflected the ongoing recognition of importance of education for all citizens.

Municipal architecture during this period reflected the progressive outlook of their citizens. The monumental scale of Halifax’s City Hall is underscored by its horizontal massing, masonry construction, and tall central tower. The elegant design is inspired by the Second Empire style, popular at that time for large civic structures and features an eclectic blend of classical decorative elements often found in Victorian architecture.

Located at one end of the Grand Parade, the City Hall claims an actual and symbolic centrality in the lives of Haligonians. This public space, centrally located in downtown Halifax, was laid out as a major public and military drill square in the city’s original plans. The City Hall anchors the north end of square with St. Paul’s Anglican Church National Historic Site of Canada (1750) at the opposite end. The Cenotaph is located between the two buildings, completing this public square.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1984; Plaque Text, 1986.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Halifax City Hall include:
- its location in the city centre at the north end of the Grand Parade;
- the three-storey massing, and the seven-storey clock tower with its clock and its steeply angled roof;
- its Second Empire inspired design as illustrated by its mansard roof with projecting dormers, rectangular massing with projecting central frontispiece flanked by projecting end pavilions, symmetrically arranged bands of round-headed and flat-headed windows with grouped windows under parapets in the pavilions, concentration of classically derived decorative elements on the pavilions with central entry under columned portico, and the clear indication of each storey by emphatic stringcourses and cornice;
- its classical detailing including paired columns flanking the recessed central entrance, pediment supported by columns on the second storey, pediments capping the dormer windows, columns and decorative pediments on the end pavilions;
- its ashlar masonry facing;
- its surviving interior layout and detailing of major public spaces, including mouldings and stained glass panels.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1984/11/23

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Historic

Leisure
Library
Government
Correctional Facility
Government
Office or office building
Government
Police Station
Government
Post Office
Government
Town or City Hall

Architect / Designer

Edward Elliot

Builder

Rhodes, Curry & Company

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

282

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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