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The History Of Halifax City Hall

Behind the Scenes and Secrets at Halifax City Hall

This video was shown as part of the Doors Open Halifax event held in June, 2013.


The History of Halifax City Hall

Halifax City Hall in 2004 - © 2004 HRM/K O'Rourke
Halifax City Hall in 2004
© 2004, HRM/K O'Rourke

It was a lovely summer afternoon in Halifax on 18 August 1888, the day proclaimed for laying the cornerstone for Halifax’s new City Hall. At four o’clock dignitaries from the city, the Provincial government and from Halifax County and Dartmouth, led by a band and the Halifax police force, paraded from the old city hall on the waterfront, up George Street to the Grand Parade, where an “immense crowd” had assembled.

After the band played appropriate music, Mayor Patrick O’Mullin delivered his address. He compared the Halifax of 1841, the year of its incorporation, with the present day, emphasizing the progress made in lighting and improving the streets and the building of sidewalks, construction of a public water supply, creation of a police force and a fire department second to none, a street
railroad and a public school system. He concluded by saying:

I am quite sure [this edifice] will be an ornament to the city and a credit to the architect and the builders, and indeed to all concerned.

After the assemblage sang a hymn, a sealed copper box was placed inside the cornerstone, containing such items as newspapers of the day, and the corner stone then lowered into position. Mayor O’Mullin tapped it with his silver mounted mallet, declared it well and truly laid, and invoked God’s blessing on all concerned.

At the mayor’s invitation, some thirty or more of the dignitaries gathered in the council chamber. Proceedings began with the Mayor’s toast to “Our guests”, and the “city fathers” sang “For they are jolly good fellows”. After “a very pleasant and profitable two hours were spent”, the gathering dispersed to the singing of “Auld Lang Syne”.

Haligonians had insisted that their new City Hall be located on the Grand Parade, the focus of civic life since the city’s founding in 1749. On 21 June in that year, some 2500 settlers, had arrived at what the Mi’kmaq called “Chebookt”, meaning “chief harbour” or “great long harbour”. Most of the settlers were English, but there were also among them Swiss, Irish, Jews, and Germans.

George Montague-Dunk, Earl of Halifax, President of the Board of Trade and Plantations, had been instrumental in obtaining British government approval for the projected town. And so in his honour the new town was named Halifax.

Next: Founding a New Town and The Grand Parade