Share |
Top Links

Calendar logo
Facility Development - Making Great things Happen
Facility Development Home

Cenotaph Restoration - Grand Parade

 Grand Parade Cenotaph

The restoration work on the Cenotaph in Grand Parade has been completed guaranteeing it will be available for Remembrance Day 2010 ceremonies. The structure has undergone an extensive restoration to ensure it enjoys its historic place of pride for generations to come.


The Cenotaph is a hollow tomb which honours those who served and those who fell in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean Conflict. It is the focus of Halifax's Remembrance Day Ceremonies, honouring service personnel from those wars as well as the men and women who have served and died in subsequent peace keeping initiatives and military conflicts. The Grand Parade Cenotaph was dedicated on Dominion Day (July 1st) 1929 by Former Prime Minister Robert Borden.


Wreaths on the CenotaphIn the summer of 2009, HRM, in funding partnership with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, undertook a project to clean the bronze work and stones of the monument and to reset some stones that had shifted over the years. While the work was intended to be of short duration, further examination found the 80-year-old Cenotaph had significant structural issues. Painstaking work has restored and strengthened the Cenotaph so it now stands ready to honour our soldiers for decades to come.  


Cenotaph - BrianniaThe Cenotaph is constructed of local Tangier granite with bronze elements including a sculpture of a victorious but grieving Britannia representing Nova Scotian motherhood, three ceremonial wreaths, the names of First and Second World War Battles honours, a dedication, the coat of arms of both Nova Scotia and Canada as well as a Victory Cross. The Bronze work was done by John Massey Rhind (1860-1936), a significant and prolific sculptor whose pieces include the Bronze Doors of Trinity Church in New York City, Grant’s Tomb, The Grand Army of the Republic Monument in Washington D.C. and various Civil War monuments and sculptures which adorn many significant buildings throughout North America.

Why the Recent Work?

Concrete testing and a thorough examination by structural Cenotaph bronze wreathengineers determined the Cenotaph needed to be dismantled so the deteriorating portion of the foundation could be replaced. The deterioration was generally a result of the combination of the quality of the concrete (salt water and shells) used in the base when the Cenotaph was built, and the action of water and frost over the last eighty years.

The work essentially fell into three categories- the foundation, the stonework and the bronze plaques and sculpture. A capable team was assembled consisting of Wildwood Masonry, BMR Structural Engineers and McIvor Conservation. Jamie MacLellan, from HRM Heritage & Culture, was the client representative.

The scope included the construction of an enclosed Cenotaph stone blockscompound, the dismantling and documentation of each stone, the demolition of the old foundation until sound concrete was found, re-construction of the foundation with re-enforcement, the removal and conservation of all the bronze pieces and then the reconstruction of the stone portion of the monument and overall cleaning and landscaping.

Strict conservation practices were adhered to with careful consideration of each step to be taken. All new bronze fasteners were exact replications of the originals- fabricated by Rod’s Machine Shop. The mortar was an historical mortar without being tooled (shaped). Each stone was put back in it’s original place and no new holes were drilled.


A number of surprises were uncovered during the process. Only the outer face of each stone was dressed (shaped and smoothed). All the other sides were rough and left in jagged shapes. This created a challenge Poppies on the Cenotaphgetting the stones back in place. The monument was thought to be hollow but in fact there was a large mass of concrete at the bottom of the shaft- perhaps required to support the unevenly shaped stones. And perhaps quite a surprise was the discovery that the thirty foot high main shaft is tapered and is 2.25 inches narrower at the top than on the bottom. This means that each stone all the way up is tapered- there is no plumb. Overall there are about 60 stones in the steps and 108 stones in the shaft. Each of the larger stones weighed in the vicinity of two tons and are now tied together with stainless steel ties. Fortunately HRM had the luxury of a crane for the task. Only two stones needed repair, and a new internal drainage system and cap flashing at the top, were also installed to minimize future water infiltration and possible damage.


Equally important and challenging were the bronzes. Cenotaph Bronze headThe “woman in mourning “ was almost a project in itself. It required it’s own on-site enclosure to be worked on. Although it is hollow with a thin sheet metal back- it still weighed two tons. It was completely cleaned and waxed with three types of wax- as were all the other bronze plaques and pieces. The result is a deeper color but with still some patina. To ensure she was structurally sound, HRM Fire Services assisted in inserting a optic cable camera inside and video recordings were made of the findings. It was then discovered that, although she was prepped for a number of fasteners, only two pins at her shoulders actually kept her in place. Additional fasteners were added when she was re-installed. The internal structure of bronze, acting like a rib-cage, seemed solid. And one of the most intricate pieces is actually the wreath at the top. Unfortunately, it is difficult to view if one is standing at the bottom. Co-ordination became important when letters and plaques, which straddled mortar joints, needed to be re-installed , simultaneously as the stone went up.

So, now for Remembrance Day 2010, the Cenotaph is 100% restored.