Description of Historic Place
The VIA Rail (formerly Canadian National Railways) Station at Halifax is a large, Beaux-Arts-style railway station. It was built in 1928-30 as part of a hotel and railway station complex, consisting of the adjoining Hotel Nova Scotian. The hotel/station complex is prominently located adjacent to Cornwallis Park and forms part of the southern boundary of Halifax's downtown commercial core. The formal recognition is confined to the railway station itself and does not include the adjoining hotel building.
The large size, monumental design and prominent location of the VIA Rail (formerly Canadian National Railways) Station at Halifax illustrate the emphasis placed on rail passenger service by the Canadian National Railways (CNR) during the late 1920s. It is one of the few remaining examples of a combined railway-station-and-hotel-complex, a once-common arrangement that reflected the emphasis placed by rail companies on providing hospitality as well as transportation services. The construction of the Halifax station and hotel complex was seen as an indication that the city was bouncing back from a post-war slump.
The Halifax station illustrates the basic tenets of the Beaux-Arts style: symmetry, monumentality and classically inspired detailing. Its late Beaux-Arts design is evident in its classical detailing, the sober choice of materials, and the restrained use of ornamentation. The original configuration and functional arrangement of the main public spaces have been maintained, and some original detailing and material remains in the lobby, concourse and waiting room.
The scale of the Halifax station and hotel complex, and its relationship to the adjoining Cornwallis Park and to the Barrington Street commercial district, create a southern anchor and boundary for Halifax's downtown commercial core. The monumental nature of the station is enhanced by the surrounding open space created by Cornwallis Park.
Source: Heritage Character Statement, VIA Rail (formerly Canadian National Railways) Station, Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 1991; Harry Jost and Barry Moody, Railway Station Report 044, VIA Rail Station, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Character-defining elements of the VIA Rail (formerly Canadian National Railways) Station at Halifax include:
-exterior features which characterize it as an example of the Beaux-Arts style, including the formal, symmetrical, front elevation, the monumentally scaled classical façade, the richly detailed entrance portico, the cast-bronze shell cresting and mouldings over the entrance doors, and the attic storey crowned with a horizontal main cornice;
-the use of a limited range of materials on the principal elevation, Queenston limestone, stuccoed brick and gray granite;
-the use of balanced, repetitive elements on the principal elevation;
-the strong, horizontal lines of the principal elevation, created by the granite base, entablature and main cornice;
-interior features typical of Beaux-Arts design, including the axial and forcefully organized interior plan, and the monumentally scaled and classically detailed, general waiting room;
-surviving original interior finishes and detailing in the lobby, arcade, concourse and general waiting room, including terrazzo floor, cove base, marble dado, and plaster mouldings;
-surviving original fixtures in the lobby, including, light fixtures, and a bronze display cabinet;
-functional features in the concourse, including the open steel roof trusswork, and the skylights.