1. Halifax City Hall, Grand Parade 1841 ARGYLE STREET
One of the most popular venues on our roster! The current City Hall was opened to Council and the public in 1890, replacing offices in the old courthouse on the waterfront. Rich in history, it’s one of the finest examples of an architectural style popular with major government buildings of the day throughout the British Empire and the United States.
Before Halifax City Hall was built, Dalhousie University was located on this site. When City Hall first opened, it also housed the provincial museum, the city library, and the city jail. Famous escape artist Harry Houdini extricated himself from a jail cell in the basement of City Hall in 1896.
City Hall has been the workplace for some of Nova Scotia’s most famous politicians, including Joseph Howe and Alexander Keith. During Doors Open Halifax weekend, visitors can take a seat in the mayor’s chair and view a short video on the history of City Hall. Check out the clock on the north (Duke Street) face. It’s permanently set at 9: 04 – the exact time the Halifax Explosion occurred on December 6, 1917.
2. Dominion Public Building 1713 BEDFORD ROW
A favorite with Doors Open visitors, this Recognized Federal Heritage Building has been a landmark on the Halifax skyline for over 80 years. At thirteen storeys, this Art Deco-style “skyscraper” was the tallest building in Halifax until the 1960s. The Dominion Public Building was built by the Department of Public Works, completed in 1936 during the Great Depression, and is a lasting example of the federal government’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a time of unprecedented economic crisis. Today, the building houses approximately 400 employees of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
The high quality craftsmanship and materials are clearly visible in the smooth, simple facades highlighted with decorative carvings in the masonry, typical of Classical Modern design. Visit the beautifully renovated atrium, typically closed to the public, which overlooks Halifax Harbour. Before exiting, be sure to admire the exquisitely crafted stone seahorses and the original brass postal wickets in the marble lobby.
3. Government House 1451 BARRINGTON STREET
Come visit the oldest vice-regal residence in North America. Government House has been the residence of the Sovereign’s representative in Nova Scotia for more than 200 years. In 1848, responsible government was established here for the first time in the Commonwealth outside of the UK. For Doors Open Halifax weekend only, visitors can see the state rooms where Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family sleep whenever they visit Halifax, and view an impressive collection of art and antiques. Portraits and artifacts depicting the rich and diverse history of Nova Scotia are on display in every room. Expect a warm welcome at the front door from “Lord and Lady Wentworth.”
4. Northfront Casemates, Halifax Citadel 5425 SACKVILLE STREET
The Northfront casemates are a suite of rooms built within the walls of the Halifax Citadel. Their name refers to their location in the Citadel, the “north front” being a section of the ramparts on the north end of the fort. A “casemate” is essentially a type of bomb-proof room or bunker, built of stone or brick, with an arched ceiling. The arched construction is very strong and resistant to impact from above. The thick walls of the Citadel feature over fifty such rooms, built inside the walls and completely buried in several feet of earth and rubble for added protection from potential cannon fire. These rooms were constructed in the 1830s and 1840s as part of the fourth and final British fort to be built on top of Citadel Hill.
5. Nova Scotia Association of Architects 1361 BARRINGTON STREET
Home to the Nova Scotia Association of Architects (NSAA) for over 30 years, Stoddard House at the corner of Bishop and Barrington Streets occupies a prominent location next door to Government House, the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. The original building was constructed in 1828 as St. Matthew’s manse and bears the name of Wallace Street chiseled into one of the building’s side stones. Embedded in the sidewalk by the corner of the building is a captured cannon from the Fortress of Louisburg, which was brought to Halifax as one of the spoils of war and buried partially under the earth with its capped muzzle pointing skyward.
As a Registered Heritage Property, the building at 1359/ 1361 Barrington Street has served many purposes, both residential and commercial. During its 188-year history, it has been the location of a restaurant and an optometrist, and it’s believed that renowned author Lucy Maud Montgomery roomed on the third floor while studying at Dalhousie University in the late 1890s. Stoddard House is now a two-unit condominium housing the law firm of Garson MacDonald on the upper two floors and NSAA on the lower two floors.
6. Old Town Clock, Halifax Citadel National Historic Site 5425 SACKVILLE STREET
The Town Clock, also sometimes called the Old Town Clock or Citadel Clock Tower, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Canada. While being absolutely faithful to the original 1803 design, the structure was substantially reconstructed in the 1960s. It still contains the original functional clock mechanism, made by the prestigious House of Vulliamy in London, and operating since its installation in 1803.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, then commander-inchief of all military forces in British North America, is credited with commissioning the clock. It’s said that the punctuality- obsessed Edward ordered the clock installed to resolve the tardiness of the local garrison. There was once a time in Halifax when no buildings, not even churches, were allowed to be higher than the clock tower. The structure functioned as a guard house, and later as the residence of the clock’s caretaker and his family until 1965.
7. St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Grand Parade 1749 ARGYLE STREET
St. Paul’s Anglican Church is the oldest Anglican church in North America and the oldest building in Halifax. The church opened in 1750, one year after the founding of Halifax. Services began several months later, even though the interior took 10 years to complete.
The Georgian-style church was designed by James Gibbs, based on St. Peter’s Church in London, circa 1728. The original oak and pine frame that was precut and shipped from Boston continues to support the main part of the building.
Despite being replaced multiple times, an Argyle Street window shows the profile of a young priest who, legend claims, crashed through it the morning of the Halifax Explosion.
Open Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m.
8. Scotiabank Main Branch 1709 HOLLIS STREET
This jewel of Canadian architecture will take your breath away. In 1930, pre-eminent Canadian architect John Lyle was commissioned to design a new head office. This is the building that now stands at 1709 Hollis Street, and it’s a rare example of Renaissance-inspired architecture in Canada.
Lyle trained in the Beaux-Arts style. He worked to develop a uniquely Canadian style of architecture and was inspired by his contemporaries, the Group of Seven artists. He designed not only the structure of the bank building itself, but also the fixtures, furniture and decorative features, with motifs depicting Canadian natural and economic history. Every surface of the building is the result of Lyle’s research on the plants, animals and ocean life of the Maritimes. This registered heritage property continues to house Scotiabank’s head office, Atlantic regional office, and Halifax main branch.
The Dingle Tower