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W. M. Brown Building

1549-51 Barrington Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/10/13

Front elevation, W. M. Brown Building, Halifax, NS, 2007; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2007
Front facade
Side elevation, W. M. Brown Building, Halifax, NS, 2007; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2007
Side elevation
Corner detail, W. M. Brown Building, Halifax, NS, 2007; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2007
Corner detail

Other Name(s)

W. M. Brown Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/09/28

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

W. M. Brown Building is a three-storey brick commercial property located on the corner of Barrington Street and Blowers Street in downtown Halifax. With its interesting rounded-corner design, elegant brick masonry and window layout, the building is an important landmark of the Barrington streetscape. The designation extends to the building and the land it occupies.

Heritage Value

W. M. Brown Building is valued for its association with early commercial enterprise on Barrington Street; association with architect Richard A. Johnson; for its original architectural features; and its contribution to the surrounding streetscape.

Though a single commercial property today, the building was constructed as two separate stores. The southern portion was built in 1910 for druggist John Taylor MacDonald. He occupied the building until 1913 and was followed by other pharmacists, though the building eventually became a clothing store in 1940.

The northern section bordering Blowers Street was built in 1911 for W.M. Brown, an established confectioner in Halifax. Brown moved to the site after running his business further down on Barrington Street. He occupied the corner lot until 1919 and was followed by other confectioners. In 1930, the building was taken over by John Gabriel & Sons, watchmakers and jewellers, and this firm operated a store there for 50 years.

Richard Johnson designed both buildings. Active in Halifax’s architectural community from 1902 to 1949, he designed many well-known buildings such as the fire station at Bedford Row/Prince Street, the Burbidge Apartments on Robie Street/Spring Garden Road, two Young Avenue residences and other houses on Robie, Coburg and Henry Streets. He also designed and renovated a number of Anglican churches including St. Luke’s at Liscomb, St John’s at New Germany, the Anglican Church at Kingsport and St. Barnabas at Ecum Secum.

Architecturally, the building has retained its original Victorian commercial features and compliments neighbouring commerial buildings. Its rounded corner design mirrors the architecture of the Farquhar Building located diagonally opposite on 1558 Barrington Street. The building’s upper storeys feature stylish arrangements of windows, stone window sills, brick quoins and a corbelled frieze and bracketed cornice. Though renovated in 1997, the building retains elements of its original storefront design, including a wide frieze and signboard, recessed entries and moulded wooden base panels.

Source: HRM Planning and Development Services, W. M. Brown Building file.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of W. M. Brown Building include:

- three storey massing;
- brick construction;
- pronounced eaves with cornice and brackets;
- rhythmic window arrangement on upper storeys;
- corbelled frieze above top level windows;
- rounded corner design;
- stone window sills;
- brick quoins;
- original storefront design with recessed entries, moulded wooden panels, wide frieze and signboard;
- pronounced corner entryway.



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NS)

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Municipally Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment


Architect / Designer

Richard A. Johnson



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Inventory Site Form found at HRM Planning and Development Services, 6960 Mumford Road, Halifax, NS B3L 4P1 Website: http://www.halifax.ca/planning/herimain.html

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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