3 // Halifax City Hall

3 // Halifax City Hall
1841 Argyle St.

// joeressen+kessner

The Halifax City Hall’s location at the north end of the Grand Parade was the outcome of 12 years of argument. City council proposed an alternative site for the building in 1874, which was popularly opposed. Although the aldermen refused to change their decision to reflect citizens’ concerns, Mayor John Sinclair rejected the agreement due to popular opposition. Then the south end of the Grand Parade was proposed as a building site, in front of St. Paul’s Church. The church opposed that proposition, and influenced the House of Assembly to support their opposition. The city negotiated with Dalhousie College to purchase its property at the north end of the Grand Parade. The deal was finally secured through a $20,000 donation to the school, on top of the price of the land. Local architect Edward Elliot won a competition to design the building, which was built in 1887-1890. The building is constructed in cream and red sandstone, and the north face of its clock tower is fixed at 9:04 to commemorate the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

The first floor of the building originally contained police offices and jail cells, from which Harry Houdini escaped in 1896. The Citizens’ Free Library was housed in the building from 1890-1949, when it moved to the now-closed Halifax Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road. The City Hall building started a major restoration project in 2011, which saw 80% of the exterior stone replaced with new sandstone. The building is a designated National Historic Site of Canada.

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