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Government House

1451 Barrington Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/07/11

Government House, Hollis Street façade, Halifax, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Hollis Street façade
Government House, Barrington Street façade, Halifax, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Barrington Street façade
Government House, Carriage House, Halifax, 2004; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Carriage House

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1800/01/01 to 1807/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/01/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Government House is the oldest official residence in Canada, built in 1800-1807 in Halifax for the newly appointed Governor of the colony of Nova Scotia, Sir John Wentworth. A symmetrical stone Georgian mansion with two side wings, carriage house and formal gardens, Government House provided an opulent residence and pre-Legislature offices befitting the stature of the Crown’s representative in Nova Scotia. Provincial designation applies to both the buildings and the land.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of Government House lies in its pure Georgian form and its status as the residence and office of the colonial Governor. Its stone construction marked a necessity to convert to more fireproof building materials after a series of pre-1800 fires in Halifax. Built by master builder/surveyor Isaac Hildreth and adapted from plans most likely derived from books of British mansion designs, Government House draws heavily on neo-Classical (Palladian) design influences of the late Renaissance. No expense was spared to import building materials, however many varieties of Nova Scotia wood and stone were used in construction. Stone and ornamental cast iron fences define formal gardens that continue to provide a setting for official outdoor functions. Soon after completion, the main entrance was moved from the east to the more articulated west side of the house, perhaps to face a more prominent street in an historic neighborhood. The adjacent late-nineteenth century carriage house is a valuable reference to the era of horse and buggy transportation.

Government House is also valued for its association with the various Lieutenant-Governor’s who have served Nova Scotia since 1805, including for Sir John A. Wentworth, Nova Scotia’s first Lieutenant-Governor. The place is also valued for its association with the monarchy, as it is the official residence of the crown’s representative in Nova Scotia.

Source: Notice of Registration of Property as a Provincial Heritage Property, Provincial Registry found at Heritage Program, file no. 7.

Character-Defining Elements

Exterior Character Defining Elements include:

- symmetrical massing of three storey central section with two storey north and south wings;
- pure Georgian style in stone, with distinctive neo-Classical (Palladian) elements;
- semi-circular bay facades on west side of north and south wings linked to central block
with curved vertical columns;
- rusticated stone and arched window heads on ground floor;
- neo-Classical portico with curved stair at east (original main) entrance;
- small wooden neo-Classical porch with fan light at main entrance;
- two storey pilasters on east side of central block;
- shallow moat at bottom of west facade;
- truncated hipped roofs;
- formal gardens with stone and cast iron fences;
- timber frame carriage house clad in brick and stucco, with hipped roof.

Interior Character Defining Elements include:

- central curved hanging staircase connecting first and second storeys;
- fireplaces with mantles of white Italian marble in ballroom;
- entrance foyer with Ionic columns and architrave;
(this neo-Classical screen is also found in the ballroom);
- ornate plaster cornices in drawing room.



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Province of Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Provincially Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Governing Canada
Government and Institutions

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer



Isaac Hildreth

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Pacey, Elizabeth, "Georgian Halifax," Lancelot Press, Halifax, 1987.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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