Description of Historic Place
The Chebucto School is the focal point for the surrounding local community. It is a large 20th century Classical Revival style brick building located on the corner of Chebucto Road and St. Matthias Street in the North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The heritage designation applies to the building and the surrounding land it occupies.
Chebucto School is valued for its association with the history of education in Halifax, for its association with former students, for its role in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, its architect, and for its Classic Revival architecture.
In 1864 the provincial government passed the Education Act, making it compulsory for all children aged eight to fourteen to attend school. This act slowly put pressure on Nova Scotian communities to establish schools or to enlarge existing schools to accommodate more students. The Chebucto School was built between 1908 and 1910 to accommodate the increasing number of children living in the North End of Halifax. The school was considered at the time to be the largest and finest school in Halifax. The school closed in 1975 and presently is home to the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts.
Many prominent Haligonians received their early education at Chebucto School, including R. Allan O’Brien and Walter Fitzgerald, former mayors of Halifax. Fitzgerald went on to become a member of the Provincial Legislature and cabinet minister.
During the 1917 Halifax Explosion, when two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour causing a large and devastating explosion, the school, being a large and relatively undamaged building was used as a triage and first aid centre, morgue, and later funeral home. During this time students were sent to other schools, however the school was eventually returned to its original use. The Explosion left an irreparable mark on the city, the survivors and the landscape as over 1600 people were killed, 9000 injured, and entire neighbourhoods were destroyed.
Architecturally, Chebucto School is an excellent example of twentieth century Classic Revival style as embodied in the building’s formal classical I-shaped configuration, decorative brick pilasters, variety of windows, and brick dentil trim outlining the cornice. It was designed by Walter Busch, son of the famed local architect Henry Frederick Busch who designed many Halifax schools and landmark buildings including the Church of England Institute on Barrington Street. Walter Busch carried his father’s architectural practice and tradition of designing landmark buildings.
Source: HRM Heritage Property File: 6199 Chebucto Road, Chebucto School, found at HRM Planning and Development Services, Heritage Property Program, 6960 Mumford Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The character-defining elements of the Chebucto School relate to it Classic Revival style and include:
- formal classical I-shaped configuration with pavilion ends;
- variety of round and flat headed windows in the pavilion ends;
- large round headed windows in the pediments;
- Scottish dormer above two-storey bay windows on each side of the middle section;
- decorative brick pilasters with sandstone bases;
- ornate capitals;
- dentil brick trim along the cornice;
- granite and sandstone keystones, sills, and capitals.