Description of Historic Place
The City Hall is a three-storey, Victorian Eclectic with a dominantly classically inspired design. The building has been the seat of the municipal government for over one hundred years. The designation is confined to the land and the building of 1841 Argyle Street.
City Hall is valued for is historical role in the history of Halifax and for its Late Victorian Eclectic architecture, making it a local landmark in the Downtown area of Halifax.
The construction of City Hall began in 1887 and officially opened on May 22, 1890. City Hall is the most important civic building in Halifax and has provided a number of functions for the city and its citizens. When it first opened City Hall also housed the Provincial Museum, the city library, and the city jail was located in the basement. City Hall is built on the site of the old Dalhousie College building, a non-secular college founded in 1818. The original foundation is still present in the sub-basement. City Hall stands prominently at the north end of the Grand Parade, which is the symbolic centre of Halifax. It is valued as the seat of the municipal government, a role it has maintained for over one hundred years and through the evolution of the municipality, from the City of Halifax to the centre of government for the amalgamated one-hundred and eighty-eight communities that now form the Halifax Regional Municipality
City Hall is also valued for its association with its builders and architect. Edward Elliot, a local architect, was chosen by competition to design the building. The well-known contractors Rhodes, Curry & Co. were commissioned to build Halifax City Hall. Nelson Rhodes was a founder of the contracting company, which became the largest contracting company in the Maritime Provinces between 1880 and 1920. The other founder of the firm, Nathaniel Curry, built many of the houses of prominent Haligonians and Nova Scotians. Together they built massive public buildings and hundreds of houses using only two or three storey plans. They are considered pioneers in the building trade by their use of mechanization, prefabrication, and the use of new and inexpensive materials.
Architecturally the design of City Hall combines classical side pavilions, central portico and pediments, and gabled dormers, as well as, a clock tower. Built of brown freestone and granite, the hall is designed with a mixture of Gothic, Classical, Regency, and Italianate references. It is a significant Downtown landmark and anchors the north end of the Grand Parade.
Source: HRM Heritage Property File 1841 Argyle Street, City Hall, found at HRM Planning and Development Services, Heritage Property Program, 6960 Mumford Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The character-defining elements of City Hall include:
- all historic and original elements related to its combination of Gothic, Classical, Regency, Second Empire and Italianate styles including: mansard roof; symmetrical composition; second storey window fanlights; small gabled dormers on the main body of the roof and the large pediment dormers on the end; strong belt courses on the first and second storeys;
- construction with brown freestone and granite for the first storey;
- central clock tower and two end pavilions;
- central tower with pediments, pilasters;
- dominant location within the Grand Parade in Downtown Halifax;
- all evidence of the original foundation of Dalhousie College;
- continued use as a seat of municipal government.