Description of Historic Place
The Dominion Public Building is located in downtown Halifax. It is a large, Art Deco skyscraper consisting of a “stepped”, “setback”, central domed tower flanked by lower, flat-roofed office blocks. The smooth facades are decorated with bands of abstract patterns. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Dominion Public Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Dominion Public Building is a significant example of projects undertaken by the federal government to stimulate local economies during the Great Depression. The Dominion Public Building was the first skyscraper to be constructed in Halifax and dominated the skyline until the 1960s.
The Dominion Public Building represents one of the first in-house Art Deco designs emanating from the Chief Architect’s Office, following the passage of the Public Works Construction Act in 1934. The classical composition features “stepped”, “set back” massing which breaks up the design into smaller masses and builds up towards the domed tower. The smooth stone finish and bands of abstract decoration are also characteristic of the Art Deco style. The craftsmanship and materials of the building are of high quality as evidenced in the sandstone and granite exterior as well as the interior decorations notable for their explicitly Canadian subject matter.
The Dominion Public Building, located in the central business district, reinforces the character of its urban setting. Located on a large downtown site, the building is a conspicuous landmark in Halifax.
Martha Phemister, The Dominion Public Building, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 89-042; The Dominion Public Building, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Heritage Character Statement, 89-042.
The character-defining elements of the Dominion Public Building should be respected.
Its Art Deco design, good quality craftsmanship and materials, for example:
-its stepped, set back massing, vertical orientation and basic composition consisting of a recessed central domed tower flanked by flat-roofed lower office blocks.
-its steel-cage construction.
-its smooth wall surfaces of Wallace sandstone with polished granite at the base and main entrance.
-its decorative carvings located at the street level, the roof line and around the main entrance which include abstract geometric friezes and marine motifs such as waves, dolphins and sea horses.
-its double-hung and casement windows which, singly and in pairs, are set in vertical recesses which extend the height of the building.
-its interior design including bronze doors, birch woodwork, polished marble walls in two shades of grey, coordinated terrazzo floors, carefully detailed coffered plaster ceilings, hexagon-motif light fixtures, elevators doors and hardware in bronze and stainless steel or nickel, as well as the floor decorated with figures in mosaic and terrazzo, the bronze wicket screens and the ‘Edward VII’ sign board.
The manner in which Dominion Public Building reinforces the character of its urban setting and is a conspicuous landmark, as evidenced by:
-its overall appearance and materials which harmonize with the adjacent sandstone structures in the central business district of the city.
-its large scale, distinctive domed tower and prominent profile, which is a dominant element in the cityscape and visually prominent on the Halifax skyline.
-its well-known association as part of an office zone of provincial and federal government offices which make it familiar to people who work in downtown Halifax.