Nova Scotia Archives

Built Heritage Resource Guide

Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed

Built heritage is a tangible but fragile resource, constantly under assault from owner neglect, inclement weather, the costs of upkeep and maintenance, insufficient public interest or support, urban renewal, property development, fires, floods, disasters and other sundry acts of God. Nova Scotia has escaped none of these threats and catastrophes — no major community in the province, for example, has avoided at least one devastating fire responsible for obliterating entire town blocks or neighbourhoods.

The built heritage of Halifax, the capital city, has been shaped, scarred or otherwise eroded by three noteworthy events over the last century. On 6 December 1917, the Richmond district in the city's north end was completely flattened and destroyed. Over a square mile of homes, businesses, schools, churches and factories, valued at an estimated $35,000,000, was obliterated in a moment, the result of an horrific mid-harbour collision between a munitions ship — the Mont Blanc — and a Belgian Relief vessel, the Imo. To further explore the Halifax Harbour Explosion and the 'new' built heritage created in its aftermath, visit the 'Vision of Regeneration' area of our Website.

During the 1960s 'urban renewal' arrived in Halifax, leaving a legacy of ambiguous outcomes. In 1962, civic officials decided to eliminate the long-established community of Africville, located on the northern tip of the urban peninsula, and distribute its residents elsewhere in the city. Relocation began in 1964; demolition was largely complete by the end of 1967; and in January 1970 the last homestead was razed.

Today, the land on which Africville once stood remains symbolically empty — a national historic site forming part of Seaview Memorial Park, named for the community's also-demolished United Baptist Church. 'Gone but Never Forgotten: Bob Brook's Photographic Portrait of Africville in the 1960s' explores the vernacular architecture and vibrant way of life that shaped this community and its residents in the days before its disappearance.

Similarly, many streets, residences and long-established businesses in Halifax's downtown core were destroyed in the name of urban development during construction of Scotia Square and the Cogswell Street Interchange in the late 1960s. It was the threatened loss of significant heritage structures to the traffic-flow improvements promised by the latter which finally rallied local citizens to action — without enlightened conservancy, the city's remaining built-heritage treasures might soon disappear forever.

Windsor, NS, After the Fire of 17 October, 1897

Date: 17 October 1897

Photographer: A.L. Hardy

Reference: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection: Places: Windsor: Fires

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


General View of Windsor, NS, after the Fire of 17 October, 1897

Date: 19 October 1897

Photographer: J.W. Livingston

Reference: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection: Places: Windsor: Fires

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


King Edward Hotel, Halifax, After the Fire

Date: 30 December 1911

Photographer: Notman Studio

Reference: Notman StudioNova Scotia Archives no. 20564

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


"Fire Which Destroyed W.D. Piercey's Home on Dutch Village Rd."

Date: 10 December 1943

Reference: Halifax Civil Emergency CorpsNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1995-188 no. 46

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


"Masonic Building Burning, Guysborough, NS"

Date: 13 July 1933

Photographer: William H. Buckley

Reference: Buckley familyNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1985-386 no. 389

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


"Halifax Fire Department Fighting a Fire on Argyle St., Halifax, with a Canadian National Express Truck Assisting."

Date: 1941

Photographer: E.A. Bollinger

Reference: E.A. BollingerNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1975-305 1941 no. 246A

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


Labour Temple Fire, North Park Street, Halifax

Date: 2 January 1945

Reference: Halifax Civil Emergency CorpsNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1995-188 no. 91

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Fire


Damage to St. James Church, Pictou, After Hurricane Edna

Date: 1954

Reference: Roland H. SherwoodNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1996-127 subseries 2 no. 230

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Hurricane


Hartlan Ghost House, South East Passage

Date: [ca. 1928]

Photographer: Helen Creighton

Reference: Helen CreightonNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1987-178 no. 307

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Neglect


"Giant McAskill's House, St. Ann's"

Date: 1930s

Photographer: Clara Dennis

Reference: Clara DennisNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1981-541 no. 409

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Neglect


"Old Major House, Cap La Ronde, Isle Madame"

Photographer: Clara Dennis

Reference: Clara DennisNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1981-541 no. 263

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Neglect


"Mary Little Lamb Mat House on Tancook"

Photographer: Clara Dennis

Reference: Clara DennisNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1981-541 no. 513

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Neglect


Aerial View Showing Central Business District from the Harbour to Citadel Hill

Date: ca. 1935

Photographer: Nova Scotia Bureau of Information

Reference: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection: Places: Halifax: Air View

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Redevelopment


"Shack Ordered Torn Down by the Board of Health"

Date: 1941

Photographer: E.A. Bollinger

Reference: E.A. BollingerNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1975-305 1941 no. 462-I

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Redevelopment


Corner of Jacob Street and Brunswick

Photographer: Castle Studios

Reference: Edward J. KellyNova Scotia Archives accession no. 1985-417 no. 3

Topic: Disasters and Loss - When Built Heritage is Destroyed / Redevelopment


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