Halifax City Hall National Historic Site of Canada
Halifax City Hall
Hôtel de ville d'Halifax
Links and documents
1887/01/01 to 1890/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Halifax City Hall National Historic Site of Canada is a monumental three-storey, stone municipal building erected in 1887-90. Completed in an eclectic late-Victorian version of the Second Empire style, this elaborate composition has a central seven-storey clock tower. It is prominently located in downtown Halifax, at the north end of the Grand Parade, opposite St. Paul’s Anglican church. The formal recognition consists of the building and the legal property on which it sat at the time of designation.
Halifax City Hall was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1984 because:
- it is representative of city halls found during the l9th century in progressive, moderately sized Canadian cities with highly developed municipal services;
- civic pride and optimism are symbolized by its monumental scale, elaborate design and prominent location on the Grand Parade.
The Halifax City Hall is the largest example of an administrative municipal hall found in the Atlantic region and reflects the increasing professionalisation of municipal governments during the late 19th century. It was one of a handful of single-function municipal buildings built in growing urban centres across the country before 1900. The first floor offices were set aside for civic employees requiring a high degree of public access with additional offices, committee rooms and council chambers on the second floor, reflecting the practice that council meetings should not be disturbed. The building also provided space in the basement for the police department, lockup and court, and for a library on the second floor. The presence of a public library reflected the ongoing recognition of importance of education for all citizens.
Municipal architecture during this period reflected the progressive outlook of their citizens. The monumental scale of Halifax’s City Hall is underscored by its horizontal massing, masonry construction, and tall central tower. The elegant design is inspired by the Second Empire style, popular at that time for large civic structures and features an eclectic blend of classical decorative elements often found in Victorian architecture.
Located at one end of the Grand Parade, the City Hall claims an actual and symbolic centrality in the lives of Haligonians. This public space, centrally located in downtown Halifax, was laid out as a major public and military drill square in the city’s original plans. The City Hall anchors the north end of square with St. Paul’s Anglican Church National Historic Site of Canada (1750) at the opposite end. The Cenotaph is located between the two buildings, completing this public square.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1984; Plaque Text, 1986.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Halifax City Hall include:
- its location in the city centre at the north end of the Grand Parade;
- the three-storey massing, and the seven-storey clock tower with its clock and its steeply angled roof;
- its Second Empire inspired design as illustrated by its mansard roof with projecting dormers, rectangular massing with projecting central frontispiece flanked by projecting end pavilions, symmetrically arranged bands of round-headed and flat-headed windows with grouped windows under parapets in the pavilions, concentration of classically derived decorative elements on the pavilions with central entry under columned portico, and the clear indication of each storey by emphatic stringcourses and cornice;
- its classical detailing including paired columns flanking the recessed central entrance, pediment supported by columns on the second storey, pediments capping the dormer windows, columns and decorative pediments on the end pavilions;
- its ashlar masonry facing;
- its surviving interior layout and detailing of major public spaces, including mouldings and stained glass panels.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Governing Canada
- Government and Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Office or office building
- Correctional Facility
- Police Station
- Post Office
- Town or City Hall
Architect / Designer
Rhodes, Curry & Company
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection