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Old Halifax Court House

5250 Spring Garden Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/08/04

Old Halifax Court House, Front façade, 2004; Heritage Division, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture and Heritage, 2004
Front façade
Old Halifax Court House, detail of palladian windows, 2004; Heritage Division, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture and Heritage, 2004
Detail of palladian windows
Old Halifax Court House, Side perspective, 2004; Heritage Division, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture and Heritage, 2004
Side perspective

Other Name(s)

Halifax Provincial Court House
Old Halifax Court House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1859/01/01 to 1862/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/10/15

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.

Heritage Value

Architectural Value

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.

Historical Value

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.

Character-Defining Elements

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).



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Province of Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Provincially Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions

Function - Category and Type


Courthouse and/or Registry Office


Architect / Designer

William Thomas and Sons


George Laing

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Provincial Registry found at Heritage Property Program, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3A6

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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