Posted Sept 01-13
The Halifax Infants' Home
980 Tower Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia
One of the most important works of art in the possession of any Maritime university faces possible demolition.
This building is a remarkable testament to the emerging role of women in late nineteenth-century Halifax. The Halifax Infants’ Home was built by a women’s society, founded in 1876. The society provided shelter and medical services for single mothers and their infants, who otherwise would have been ostracized. The society raised money and constructed this building in 1899 and 1900.
This work was done while these same women were struggling for the vote and for the right to serve on legislative bodies. In 1894 the Legislature had voted not to allow women to vote. Most organizations were run exclusively by men. When women cared deeply about an issue, they formed their own organization, and rented or built their own building. Today only two buildings bear testimony from that time: the Home for the Aged (Victoria Hall), and the Infants’ Home.
The building is a masterwork of James Charles Dumaresq, the leading architect in the Maritimes at the time. Here Dumaresq employed his full panoply of architectural embellishments – a projecting frontispiece with Dutch gable, rusticated sandstone string courses, segmental arched windows, corner box bay windows, a Mansard roof, several types of dormers, a turret, a balcony, and an ell. The result is a composition that delights the eye, carrying it up and down and around, constantly finding new secrets to discover.
This building is one of the most important works of art in the possession of any Maritime university. The Infants' Home is a potential National Historic Site for its historical and architectural significance.
We understand that a consultant has suggested that there are structural issues with the building. The Heritage Trust is willing to work with Saint Mary’s University, the owner, to investigate the structure. The Trust has asked an engineer experienced with historic brick and wood buildings to inspect the building. The Trust will pay for this inspection and asked the University to grant access to the building, so this inspection can be carried out, but access has not been granted.
The University has indicated that archaeological investigations will occur in the fall, with demolition possible in November.