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Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex, Building 89 Classified Federal Heritage Building

Halifax, Nova Scotia, B2W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1996/03/28

Main entrance to Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex; HRS, 1993
Exterior Photo
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1865/01/01 to 1867/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/07/05

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Almost completely hidden underground, the Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex is an elaborate subterranean structure of complex design honeycombing the southern underground portion of Fort Charlotte. It consists of the Main Magazine, a large vaulted space which has only one entrance surrounded by a network of interconnecting tunnels and smaller rooms such as the Shell filling Room, the Powder Recess and the long narrow Shell Store. As the Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex is located underground, the only visible features are the five points of access. The Main entrance is square shaped and topped with a concrete lintel accessing a brick and stone vaulted access tunnel. Three of the five entrances are visible and two are walled shut. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex of Fort Charlotte is a Classified Federal Heritage building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value:
The Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex of Fort Charlotte is one of the best examples of a structure associated with the defence of the Imperial naval station of Halifax. The building was an integral part of the coastal defence system for the Royal Navy base at Halifax during the period of heightened tension following the Trent Affair of 1861. It offers an illustration of state-of-the-art technology in the servicing of heavy muzzle-loading rifled guns in a casemated battery. In addition, it illustrates the segregated storage and movement of ammunition in a multiple gun battery. It is a prime example of a defensive structure built to house the ammunition for the nine and ten inch rifled muzzle loading cannons of the Upper and Lower Batteries Its construction, the associated economic benefits and the subsequent influx of personnel had a significant impact on Halifax.

Architectural Value:
The Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex of Fort Charlotte is very good example of a functional 19th century military defence design. The construction and use of materials are highly specialized to accommodate technical functions and equipment. These, along with its excellent functional design reinforce its value as a specialized coastal artillery structure. The Main Magazine has a sophisticated functionality in its design. Its exposed walls of either stone or brick and its brick vaulted ceiling have very good quality of craftsmanship and reinforce the overall functionality. The windowless and complicated subterranean Tunnel Complex have irregularly coursed rubble walls and semicircular section brick barrel vaulting.

Environmental Value:
Although the structure is almost completely hidden underground, its presence as an essential element strengthens the other components of the fort which establish the coastal defence setting of Fort Charlotte.

Rhona Goodspeed, and Edgar Tumak. The Citadel Vols.1+ 2 Halifax, Nova Scotia. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 95-001.
Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex, Fort Charlotte, Georges Island, Halifax Defence Complex. Heritage Character Statement 95-001

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex at Fort Charlotte should be respected, for example:

Its functional military defence design and good quality materials and craftsmanship as evidenced in:
-The Main Magazine brick vaulted ceilings.
-The communication passages.
-The store rooms.
-The walls and vaulting.
-The lamp passages associated grills, and lamp recesses.
-The remaining shell-lift systems and associated shafts.
-The walls of stone and brick.
-The remaining tracks leading from the entrances, through the shell stores to the lifts.

The manner in which the Main Magazine and Tunnel Complex as part of Fort Charlotte establishes the military character of the area.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Military Support


Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Canadian Inventory of Historic Building Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 525, 25 Eddy Street, Hull, Quebec.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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