Description of Historic Place
The Liverpool Town Hall and Astor Theatre is a large, two-and-one-half storey, wood structure located on Main Street in Liverpool, NS. Built in 1901, the building was designed for a multi-use function, which is reflected through its large scale and its back-to-back building form. Both the building and its surrounding land are included in the designation.
The Liverpool Town Hall and Astor Theatre is valued as an important example of the work of well known local architect Herbert Gates. Gates trained in the office of Edward Elliot, the architect of Halifax City Hall, and established his own practice in 1898. Between 1899 and 1903, the period in which the Liverpool Town Hall was designed, Gates also taught architecture at the Victoria School of Art and Design. Gates received many commissions, including the Nova Scotia Telephone Company, for buildings throughout the province, the Department of Education, and provincial hospitals. One of Gates’ most accomplished designs was the Nova Scotia Technical College, now the School of Architecture and Planning building at Dalhousie University.
The Liverpool Town Hall and Astor Theatre is also valued as a nineteenth century town hall that uniquely combines civic offices and a public auditorium. Liverpool was incorporated in 1895 and therefore needed a town hall. During the second half of the nineteenth century the growth in civic bureaucracies caused town halls to focus building design to meet administrative needs. In large cities administrative requirements tended to dominate completely the use of a town hall, but smaller communities often built combined-function town halls. Built in 1901, the municipal courtroom, police office, public reading room and deed and probate offices originally were located on the ground floor. A birch stairway runs from the hall to a spacious assembly room and the council chambers above. The design also incorporated kitchen facilities so that the assembly room could be used for community dances and banquets. Originally there was seating for four-hundred and eight on the main floor, and another one-hundred and fifty in the gallery. Currently the theatre seats just over three hundred people. The auditorium area also contained a box office, cloakrooms, and dressing rooms. The architect expressed the function of the building throughout the exterior of the building including the design of the entrance on Main Street with its open pediment supported by freestanding columns.
Source: Notice of Registration of Property as a Provincial Heritage Property, Provincial Property Heritage File no. 198.
Character-defining elements of the Liverpool Town Hall and Astor Theatre that relate to is dual function include:
- two units as part of one larger exterior structure, each with its own entrance, sitting back to back;
- front section of building serving as Town Hall with principal entrance off Main Street treated formally with an open pediment supported by free standing columns, and rear section serving as a theatre.
Character-defining elements of the Liverpool Town Hall and Astor Theatre include:
- wood construction;
- hipped roof with gable roof projection on either ends of the front façade;
- brackets beneath the eaves;
- round headed windows in the attic;
- dormer window on front façade;
- birch stairway off the main floor hallway.