Old Halifax Court House
5250 Spring Garden Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J, Canada
Halifax Provincial Court House
Old Halifax Court House
Links and documents
1859/01/01 to 1862/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Halifax County Court House is an imposing two-and-one-half storey Classical Revival building that was constructed in four stages on Spring Garden Road, one of Halifax’s most important downtown streets. The most prominent central section was completed in 1862, a rear wing in 1882 and west and east wings in 1908 and 1931, respectively. The provincial designation applies to the lot and building.
After a series of fires in Halifax in 1857, the construction of the Old Court House heralded a new era of both fireproof and more flamboyant courthouse design in Nova Scotia - solid, spacious, two storey buildings of heavy masonry construction that was elaborately decorated. The prominent architectural firm of William Thomas and Sons of Toronto won a competition in 1851 to design a building for Halifax County that would house the Supreme and County courts and ancillary services. Their mandate was also to create an impression of stability and strength befitting the halls of justice. The construction tender was awarded to George Laing of New Brunswick.
The Old Halifax Court House is also valued as a local landmark and its almost continuous use as a court house. It was first opened in October 1860 and continued to serve as the provincial court house until 1971 when a new building was built on Halifax’s waterfront. The Old Halifax Court House was converted to operate as the Provincial Library. In 1985 it was restored to function as a provincial court.
Source: Provincial Heritage Property Files, no. 11.
Exterior character-defining elements of the Old Halifax Court House consist of:
- two-and-one-half storey Classical Revival building with two side wings and a rear wing;
- projecting frontispiece surmounted by plain, full pediment;
- three Palladian windows in second storey of frontispiece;
- engaged, banded columns with Tuscan capitals in second storey of frontispiece;
- carved sandstone bearded and lion’s heads in keystones of arches;
- vermiculated, rusticated sandstone walls, made of stone quarried from a Wallace, N.S. stone pit, on granite basement foundation;
- belt course between storeys and bracketing under pediment;
- quoins, plinths and decorative stone paneling;
- truncated hipped roof on main section; full hipped roof on east and west wings.
Interior character-defining elements of the Old Halifax Court House consist of:
- Court Room No. 2 interior (original Supreme Court) featuring: dark wood paneling, ornate oak furniture, gold painted cornice molding, large plaster rosette in ceiling;
- main central split staircase;
- sections of decorative pressed metal ceilings;
- arches at main entrance and in hallways;
- cupola over front pediment (no longer extant);
- slate roof (no longer extant).
Province of Nova Scotia
Heritage Property Act
Provincially Registered Property
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Government and Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Architect / Designer
William Thomas and Sons
Location of Supporting Documentation
Provincial Registry found at Heritage Property Program, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3A6
Cross-Reference to Collection