Press

Media Releases

Posted February 25-17

MEDIA RELEASE February 19 2017 Heritage Day awards

In anticipation of Heritage Day, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia hosted several events on February 19th at the historic Waegwoltic Club. The highlight of the day was the announcement of an award to a well-respected educator, historian, and writer. During an afternoon celebration, Heritage Trust’s President, Joe Ballard, announced that The Trust was recognizing James O St Clair of Mull River, Mabou, Inverness County, for his longstanding contributions to built and cultural heritage in Cape Breton. Cathy Gillies, President of the Heritage Cape Breton Connection, made the nomination with the support of Catherine Arseneau, Director of the Beaton Institute, and Rodney Chaisson, Director of Highland Village Museum.

Dr St Clair has fostered and encouraged interest in and preservation of buildings of historical value through his teaching, writings and broadcasts, as well as his volunteer work. An author of two books about built heritage with Dr Mary K MacLeod, Dr St Clair is well-known for his CBC (Cape Breton) radio appearances and his newspaper columns. The Award of Excellence in Supporting Heritage Conservation will be presented to Dr St Clair later in the year.

On Sunday morning, Heritage Trust invited the public for guided tours of the former residence. Built in 1861 on the NorthWest Arm and named “Bloomingdale,” the building was the long-time home of businessman and future Lieutenant Governor, Alfred Gilpin Jones. After his death in 1906, a group of businessmen bought Bloomingdale to create a member-owned, recreational and social club. In 1910, its name was changed to “Waegwoltic.”

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity whose goal is to conserve buildings and sites of historic significance, and to promote this important cultural component of Nova Scotia’s identity. Heritage Trust makes awards in a number of categories related to excellence in built heritage conservation. It also conducts research, publishes books and a quarterly, supports educational activities and hosts a series of lectures which are free and open to the public.

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

Posted December 2-16

Press Release - Heritage Trust raises $2,000 for Hantsport House conservation work

(December 2, 2016, Halifax, Nova Scotia) Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia (HTNS) recently held a luncheon and tour of Churchill House, Hantsport for members and friends. Silent and live auctions raised approximately $2,000 for conservation work to the historic 1860 building.

A cheque was handed over this week by Beth Keech of Grand Pré, Secretary of the Board of HTNS, to Hantsport and Area Historical Society President, Jud Porter, before a meeting of the Kings Hants Heritage Connection, an association of heritage groups and institutions. On behalf of Heritage Trust, Hantsport and Area Historical Society will present the funds to Margot Bureaux of the Hantsport Memorial Community Centre, owners of the Churchill House, at the Churchill House Christmas Dinner on Saturday evening, December 3.

Built by Senator Ezra Churchill for his second son, John Wylie Churchill, the house displays the quality of materials and workmanship that a wealthy ship owner of the time could afford. What was a gracious home for the Churchill family is now open for community use. Rental for private functions helps to pay for its upkeep. Repairs and restoration work are on-going.

Beautiful, decorative painted surfaces are a particular feature of the house. Francis Da Silva’s murals from the carriage house were removed by the Art Gallery of NS in 1978 (photographs of the murals are displayed on the second floor) but the basement walls of the house still exhibit examples of his work. The main floor of the house was restored in 1966 as a Centennial project. Two second-floor rooms were refurbished later and plans are underway for work on two rooms used for dressing by wedding parties renting the house.

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity whose goal is to conserve buildings and sites of historic significance, and to promote this important cultural component of Nova Scotia’s identity. The Trust has funded documentation of Painted Rooms around the province, following on the early work by Heritage Trust founding member, Cora Greenaway, and by a former president, Joyce McCulloch.

MEDIA RELEASE Churchill House luncheon  (link to Release)

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

Posted October 21-16

Heritage Trust Reacts to Passing of Former President

(October 20, 2016, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

It is with great sorrow that Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia acknowledges the passing of a former president, Philip Desmond Pacey, on October 20, 2016.

Phil was, and will remain, an extraordinary champion of Nova Scotia’s architectural heritage. Phil’s gentlemanly and analytical style of heritage advocacy has shone a spotlight on our province’s heritage assets for decades and his untiring efforts to esteem our built culture has inspired new generations to recognize the richness of our province’s heritage resources.

Our sincerest sympathies and prayers are extended to his wife, Elizabeth.

Heritage Trust Reacts to Passing of Former President  (link to PDF)

CBC article on Phil Pacey

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

Posted October 9-15

Revealing Historic Sinclair Inn’s Painted Room in Annapolis Royal

(October 7, 2015, Halifax, Nova Scotia) Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia is hosting a presentation on Thursday October 15 by Ann Shaftel, an art conservator who is working to reveal hidden wall murals found in one of Canada’s oldest buildings, the Sinclair Inn located in Annapolis Royal. All are welcome!

Heritage Trust’s special presentation about the Sinclair Inn’s Painted Room will take place in the auditorium at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street in Halifax on October 15 at 7:30 pm.

“This is a significant find of national importance,” says Ms. Shaftel. “The Sinclair Inn is over 300 years old; it is the oldest surviving Acadian building in Canada. My research indicates that the wall murals hidden behind a century of wallpapers were likely painted about 175 years ago.”

Sinclair Inn is a National Historic Site built in 1710. Originally there were two Acadian homes on the lot. One of them was converted to a ‘public house’ in 1747. Thirty-five years later, it was expanded to include both houses and became known as the Sinclair Inn.

Evidence that there might be a painted room in the Sinclair Inn was first noticed in the 1990s when the Annapolis Heritage Society purchased the building. Water damage from a leaky roof in an upstairs room caused the wallpaper to peel. Underneath was evidence of a wall mural. In 2012, members of the Canadian Conservation Institute inspected the building and confirmed that images were hidden under most of the wallpaper. 

In 2014, with funding from donors, including Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Heritage Society hired Ann Shaftel to further examine the room. Ann holds advanced degrees in art conservation and art history and works for museums, governments, universities, churches and private clients worldwide. One of her other projects was the recent restoration of the Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’ banner crafted for the Charitable Irish Society in 1875 for use in parades and celebrations.

Ann’s reveal of some of the hidden wall murals and further research concluded that the Sinclair Inn’s Painted Room should be preserved and restored. The Annapolis Heritage Society will be seeking grants and donations to cover the cost of stabilizing the building and restoring the room.

The Sinclair Inn is not the first historic Nova Scotia building to reveal a painted room. The most famous is the Croscup Room discovered in Karsdale near Annapolis Royal. In 1976, the Croscup Room was dismantled and moved to Ottawa where it is now displayed in the National Gallery of Canada. 

Heritage Trust, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity dedicated to conserving buildings and sites of historic significance in Nova Scotia. It hosts a database listing of painted rooms found in Nova Scotia www.htns.ca/paintedrooms

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

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Posted September 11-15

Exploring a Victorian Pleasure Ground in Truro

(September 10, 2015, Halifax, Nova Scotia) Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia is hosting a presentation on Thursday, September 17th about Truro’s Victoria Park – established in 1887 as a Victorian Pleasure Ground highlighting the natural wonders of the Lepper Brook Gorge. Joe Ballard, President of Heritage Trust, and senior interpreter with the cultural resource firm, Vineberg & Fulton Ltd., will speak about his recent cultural resource survey of Victoria Park. All are welcome!

Heritage Trust’s special presentation on a Victorian Pleasure Ground in Truro will take place in the auditorium at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street Halifax on Thursday, September 17 at 7:30 pm. Note that due to the Food Truck event in the main parking lot, those attending the Heritage Trust presentation can park in the staff parking lot on the north side of the museum.

"Victoria Park is what historians like to refer to as a cultural landscape. While the physical ‘landscape’ (the eastern hemlocks, the paths and watershed) has been relatively maintained, the ‘cultural’ component has largely been ignored and forgotten,” says Joe Ballard, President of Heritage Trust.

Victoria Park has faced development pressures, changing tastes, and a loss in the collective memory about its place as a Victorian park. Once described as a “picturesque panorama of mountain and glen,” the 400 ha Victoria Park was the highlight of visits to Truro by many travellers over the centuries.

Joe Howe visited the park in 1829 and described the 50-foot Truro Falls (later named Joe Howe Falls) eloquently in the following passage:

“Lay thee down upon that rock, my gentle traveller, which the heat of the noon-day sun has warmed, despite the coolness of the neighboring waters – and there, with thy senses half lulled to forgetfulness by the murmurs of the falling stream – thy eyes half closed – and thy spirit all unconscious of earthly turmoils and care – give thyself up to musing, for never was there a more appropriate spot than the Truro Falls for our old men to see visions, and our young men to dream dreams.”

Victoria Park still features many of the attractions that led to the establishment of the park in 1887. Jacob’s Ladder, the staircase that ascends up the side of the gorge, and several of the resting places along the climb are still popular with visitors. However many of the other Victorian attractions have disappeared over time.

In 2012, the Town of Truro issued a request for proposals for a comprehensive cultural resource study of Victoria Park. Mr. Ballard will discuss findings of this cultural study, identify the factors that threatened the historic landscape and reveal what it is that makes Victoria Park one of Nova Scotia's most unrealized tourism assets.

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity whose goal is to conserve buildings and sites of historic significance, and to promote this important cultural component of Nova Scotia’s identity. Heritage Trust hosts a series of lectures which are free and open to the public.

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

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Posted September 11-15

Exploring a Victorian Pleasure Ground in Truro

(September 10, 2015, Halifax, Nova Scotia) Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia is hosting a presentation on Thursday, September 17th about Truro’s Victoria Park – established in 1887 as a Victorian Pleasure Ground highlighting the natural wonders of the Lepper Brook Gorge. Joe Ballard, President of Heritage Trust, and senior interpreter with the cultural resource firm, Vineberg & Fulton Ltd., will speak about his recent cultural resource survey of Victoria Park. All are welcome!

Heritage Trust’s special presentation on a Victorian Pleasure Ground in Truro will take place in the auditorium at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street Halifax on Thursday, September 17 at 7:30 pm. Note that due to the Food Truck event in the main parking lot, those attending the Heritage Trust presentation can park in the staff parking lot on the north side of the museum.

"Victoria Park is what historians like to refer to as a cultural landscape. While the physical ‘landscape’ (the eastern hemlocks, the paths and watershed) has been relatively maintained, the ‘cultural’ component has largely been ignored and forgotten,” says Joe Ballard, President of Heritage Trust.

Victoria Park has faced development pressures, changing tastes, and a loss in the collective memory about its place as a Victorian park. Once described as a “picturesque panorama of mountain and glen,” the 400 ha Victoria Park was the highlight of visits to Truro by many travellers over the centuries.

Joe Howe visited the park in 1829 and described the 50-foot Truro Falls (later named Joe Howe Falls) eloquently in the following passage:

“Lay thee down upon that rock, my gentle traveller, which the heat of the noon-day sun has warmed, despite the coolness of the neighboring waters – and there, with thy senses half lulled to forgetfulness by the murmurs of the falling stream – thy eyes half closed – and thy spirit all unconscious of earthly turmoils and care – give thyself up to musing, for never was there a more appropriate spot than the Truro Falls for our old men to see visions, and our young men to dream dreams.”

Victoria Park still features many of the attractions that led to the establishment of the park in 1887. Jacob’s Ladder, the staircase that ascends up the side of the gorge, and several of the resting places along the climb are still popular with visitors. However many of the other Victorian attractions have disappeared over time.

In 2012, the Town of Truro issued a request for proposals for a comprehensive cultural resource study of Victoria Park. Mr. Ballard will discuss findings of this cultural study, identify the factors that threatened the historic landscape and reveal what it is that makes Victoria Park one of Nova Scotia's most unrealized tourism assets.

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity whose goal is to conserve buildings and sites of historic significance, and to promote this important cultural component of Nova Scotia’s identity. Heritage Trust hosts a series of lectures which are free and open to the public.

Media Contact:

Joe Ballard, President
Email: president@htns.ca
Phone: 902-423-4807
Twitter: @HTNovaScotia
Facebook: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

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Posted May 16-15

Lunenburg and Halifax – Destination for American Geotourism Faculty and Student

(May 7, 2015, Halifax, Nova Scotia) Over the past week, faculty and students from the Geotourism and Historic Preservation Programs at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti (greater Detroit) visited Lunenburg and Halifax to learn more about Nova Scotian heritage buildings and cultural landscape. Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia welcomed the students to Halifax and helped organize tours for them while they were in the city.

Study group leader, Dr. Kim Kozak, who received her Master’s at Dalhousie University, now heads up the Geotourism Program in the Geography Department at Eastern Michigan University. She was accompanied by the program’s assistant director, Kelly Victor-Burke, who was visiting Nova Scotia for the first time.

Professor Kozak says that Eastern Michigan is one of only two universities in the US that offers a Geotourism concentration. Geotourism is a form of Sustainable Tourism that focuses on preserving and protecting the unique character of a tourism destination.

In addition to the geotourism students, several on the Lunenburg - Halifax study trip are in the Historic Preservation Master’s program at EMU. This program delves into historic building construction and interpretation, as well as, cultural resource management.

“Historic preservation is a growing profession” says graduate student Janelle Keyser, who adds, “There is a tremendous emotional appeal to historic sites. You have to know how buildings were made in order to preserve them properly.” The graduates of this program are in demand, and find work with architectural firms, municipalities, and in parks and historic sites.

At the beginning of their study trip, the American students spent several days in Lunenburg touring the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lunenburg, considered the best example of a British 18th century colonial town in North America, has many well preserved 18th century buildings, and offered the students insight into why the town was chosen as a World Heritage Site. The students were guided through the town by Shelah Allan, owner of Lunenburg Walking Tours, and visited the Fisheries Museum, the Dory Shop and the Heritage Carpentry program at the NSCC Lunenburg Campus.

American Geotourism Study Group

“Tourists want an authentic experience and Lunenburg offers this. It is a living community in an historic setting,” said Professor Kozak. “The students were so impressed with how everyone they met took the time to speak to them. The authentic tourism experience in Nova Scotia is its people.”

Several students mentioned that the tour of the Dory Shop on the historic Lunenburg waterfront was a real highlight. “The Dory Shop is the perfect mix of what geotourism is all about,” said Erica Steuwe, one of the Geotourism students.

To round out their trip, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia welcomed the visitors to Halifax on Saturday, organizing a tour of the historic Brunswick Street area for the study group. Guided by local historian Blair Beed, the students spent the afternoon on a walking tour passing by such historic buildings as Churchfield Barracks, known locally as the 12 Apostles built by the British Army in 1903, several Georgian cottages with their distinctive Scottish dormer windows, and the Little Dutch (Deutsch) Church, constructed in 1756.

American Geotourism Faculty and Student

The students toured the interior of historic St. Georges Round Church and St. Patrick’s Church, both on Brunswick Street, and learned more about the restoration projects for both churches. The students finished their tour by stopping at Morris House, the fourth oldest building in Halifax, which was moved to its new home on Creighton Street in 2013 by Heritage Trust and the Ecology Action Centre. Indoor conservation work is underway now so that young adults in need of housing can call Morris House home.

Kelly Victor-Burke said “We are definitely planning to bring the students on a study trip to Nova Scotia again. There has to be more education about the advantages of geotourism over mass tourism.”

Professor Kozak added, “Developing a tourism destination that is authentic is a challenge.”

When asked to compare their visit to Lunenburg with Halifax, master’s student Lori Taylor-Blitz said, “It’s easy to get a sense of place from Lunenburg whereas in Halifax, heritage buildings are intermixed with large buildings making it difficult to feel a sense of place.”

Linda Forbes, President of Heritage Trust said, "We are happy to work with Professor Kozak and her historic preservation and geotourism students, to show off Nova Scotia's heritage buildings and sites which offer ideal opportunities for geotourism. We look forward to their next visit."

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, founded in 1959, is a non-profit registered charity whose goal is to conserve buildings and sites of historic significance, and to promote this important cultural component of Nova Scotia’s identity. Visit our website for more details on upcoming lectures and events www.htns.ca

Posted 14-22-14

Heritage Canada Executive Director to visit the Morris House, innovative housing for young adults, on October 22 at 9:30 am

Date: October 22, 2014
Time: Wednesday, 9:30 AM
Location : Morris House
Contact: Linda Forbes
Phone: 902-423-4807
E-mail: president@htns.ca

Natalie Bull, Executive Director of Heritage Canada The National Trust (HCNT), will make a site visit to the Morris House, 2500 Creighton Street, Halifax on October 22 at 9:30 am. The Morris House is owned by Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia (HTNS), an institutional member of Heritage Canada. HTNS is a partner with Metro Non-Profit Housing Association (MNPHA) and the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in the conservation of the circa 1764 building for use as safe, affordable housing for young adults. It was moved on a frigid weekend in late January 2013 from the Old South Suburb to a lot in the North End of Halifax.

Since then, some of the labour and materials for work on the exterior have been purchased, while the rest has been donated. “It has been heartwarming to see the generous support for this endeavour from individuals, the business community, organizations and the municipality, before, during and after the move,” said MNPHA Executive Director, Dr. Carol Charlebois. Fundraising is ongoing for the interior work.

The Morris House is one of a series of stops on Ms. Bull’s itinerary. She has met with officials in Truro to discuss the repurposing of the provincially designated Old Provincial Normal College (1877) as the new Colchester-East Hants Public Library and will be travelling to Annapolis Royal for a meeting Wednesday afternoon with Jane Nicholson, businesswoman, heritage developer and member of several heritage organizations. At that time, Ms. Bull intends to visit several Fundy Shore lighthouses that have received support from HCNT through the Runciman Endowment Fund for Heritage Conservation

For more information please contact Linda Forbes, President, Heritage Trust of NS, 902-423-4807 or president@htns.ca.

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Posted 02-16-10

Art Irwin Speaks about St. Margaret's Church Thursday, Feb. 18

Date: February 18, 2010
Time: Thursday, 7:30 PM
Location : Nova Scotia Museum, Summer Street
Contact: Phillip Pacey
E-mail: Phil.Pacey@htns.ca

        Energy Consultant and CBC Radio Noon expert Arthur Irwin will speak about St. Margaret's Church in Oakfield at the Nova Scotia Museum on Summer Street at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18.
St. Margaret’s of Scotland Church was built by an Englishman, Lieutenant General John Wimburn Laurie. He arrived in Canada in 1861. In 1865 he purchased 800 acres in Oakfield and established one of our earliest communities. He brought twenty families from England. This beautiful structure was built from the pine logs on the estate for the family and servants, modelled after the Old English tradition. The chapel was one of the first buildings to be erected which was followed by a school, post office, stable, sawmill, stage coach inn, railway siding and two quarries. Three generations of Lauries are buried behind the Chapel.
        In October, 1999, Arthur Irwin was asked by the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia, to assist in the planning process to make the building more energy efficient. Mr. Irwin has dealt with several hundred historic structures throughout his career but this example of a wonderful “Historic Gem” had a special significance and presented a number of interesting challenges as he upgraded the energy efficiency of this unique structure.
The original oil lamps are still hanging from the high ceilings, a leather bound bible on the lectern inscribed “Oakfield Church 1868”. A beautiful stained glass window behind the Altar remains intact.   
"Simplicity, warmth and a quiet elegance produced from the surrounding stately pines caught my attention," says Mr. Irwin. "I visualized an imaginary sign stating, 'Do not disturb' hung across the dark stained interior wainscoting which reminded me to prevent any signs of man made footprints.”
All of the exterior walls have been upgraded, insulated, windows replaced and a new heating system installed. The “Chapel In The Pines” will hopefully stand for another 130 years, respecting our forefathers contribution to our heritage !
The meeting is open to the public, free of charge and is sponsored by the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. Light refreshments will be served.

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Posted 02-08-10

Presentation of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia Built Heritage Awards

Date: February 15, 2010
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 PM (Presentations begin – 3:30 pm, Reception to follow)
Location : Halifax City Hall (Halifax Hall) Argyle St. Halifax
Contact: Peter Delefes, President, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia
Phone: (902) 826-2087;  
E-mail: president@htns.ca

AWARD RECIPIENTS:

DOMINION PUBLIC BUILDING TOWER RESTORATION PROJECT
1713 Bedford Row, Halifax, N.S.

The Dominion Public Building  was erected in 1936 in downtown Halifax and for many years dominated the Halifax skyline. Its design was influenced by the Art Deco style. It is characterized by symmetry and balance and contains many decorative elements on its sandstone exterior.  It was designated as a registered heritage building in 1990. Public Works and Government Services Canada completed a renovation of the interior of the building in 1992. In 2007 a two year project began to restore the tower on the building. Quality workmanship and attention to detail by a Nova Scotia company resulted in the careful removal, restoration and precise reinstallation  of over 2000 stone units and replacement of some 140,000 specially manufactured bricks as well as replacement of the copper cladded dome back to its original details. The $ 9 million project conformed in all respects to the Standards and Guidelines for the Restoration of Historic Buildings.

GARDINER’S  MILL DAM RESTORATION PROJECT
Gardiner’s Mill Lake, Yarmouth Co., N.S.

The Gardiner’s Mill Dam was constructed prior to 1855 to provide a water powered energy system for a saw mill on the banks of the Annis River. In 1937, the mill, the dam and nearly 3000 acres of land were purchased by two sisters who were heirs of the Johnson and Johnson Co, in the U.S. In 1937, the sisters embarked on a reconstruction project, completely restoring the dam and naming the lake, Sisters’ Lake. Formation of the lake created a vibrant cottage community on its shores. The present owners of the dam maintained it until 2004 when the wooden center of the dam failed, causing the lake to empty.  In return for its restoration and maintenance the owners have agreed to deed the dam to the local Gardiner’s Mill Dam Homeowners’ Association.  The dam was completely restored in 2009 and the lake replenished. Provincial designation of the dam is being sought.

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Posted 5-24-09

HRMbyDesign - Public Hearing , Tuesday May 5, 2009 6pm, City Hall, Halifax

Supporting Articles (details and information in pdf link)

  1. HRMbyDesign- A House of Cards
  2. Cart Before the Horse
  3. HRMbyDesign: The Threat to Democratic Procedure

Posted 5-24-09

Downtown Safeguards at Risk

April 2009 - The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia is concerned that HRMbyDesign would put at risk the fragile safeguards that protect downtown Halifax's remaining built heritage.

HRMbyDesign recommends increases in the height limits on heritage properties in downtown Halifax. "This would increase the incentive for developers to demolish existing heritage buildings", said Heritage Trust president Phil Pacey. Prior to amalgamation, the city of Halifax established as-of-right height limits in downtown Halifax to protect heritage assets and to gain control over the design of larger developments.

At that time an as-of-right height limit of 25 feet was established east of Hollis Street, similar to the heights of some heritage buildings. In the Central Business District west of Hollis Street, the height limits were set at 40 feet. In 1981 an absolute height limit of 45 feet was placed on some properties in the south end of the city. "For three decades these height limits have protected heritage buildings and owners knew that", said Mr. Pacey.

"Owners knew if they demolished their buildings they would have difficulty getting approvals for taller ones. They looked at their options, and decided that the most cost effective and profitable option was maintaining the existing buildings.

They have followed the rules, and as a result some very fine buildings have been refurbished. However, developers insist on an even playing field," said Dr. Pacey. He said owners agreed to have their buildings registered under the Heritage Property Act, when it was introduced in 1980. Only three registered heritage buildings have been demolished in the study area, which is a rate of loss of 0.08 per cent a year. "Existing height limits are working well."

He said HRMbyDesign would greatly increase as-of-right height limits to between 72 and 160 feet in most cases, which would create a financial incentive for speculators to buy buildings, apply to demolish, wait for a year, demolish and then build larger buildings. "If HRMbyDesign were adopted, about 100 historic buildings would be at greater risk of demolition. This would make it difficult to establish a heritage conservation district in the future, as developers would resist any attempt to bring the height restrictions back down to the historic norms," he said. Mr. Pacey said it could also lead to "planning blight", as speculators would not wish to make repairs, expecting to demolish the buildings and build larger ones in a few years.

Currently, he said, Halifax's 17 citywide heritage policies, adopted over the past 30 years to protect heritage assets, compared favourably "with the best international standards"today. The Utility and Review Board and the Courts have also interpreted and upheld them. HRMbyDesign would state that these policies would no longer apply downtown. HRMbyDesign would rescind policies that have protected views of Halifax harbour from Citadel Hill between view planes. Heights would be set so high, "it would not be possible to see the harbour over the buildings."

In summary, Mr. Pacey said HRMbyDesign "would weaken the protection in downtown Halifax by increasing height limits and deleting or ruling out good policies that generations of Haligonians and their elected representatives have worked on together to protect their heritage. I understand the aim of HRMbyDesign is to increase density in downtown Halifax. The Trust believes, however, that moderate increases in density can be achieved by building on the 1,050,000 square feet of vacant land in downtown Halifax. It's neither necessary nor desirable to put our heritage at risk.”

Municipal Heritage Properties Would Be Placed at Risk by HRMbyDesign  (link to 0.1 Mb PDF)

Heritage Policies at Risk (link to 0.1 Mb PDF)

HRM BY Design – A House of Cards(link to 0.1 Mb PDF)

Posted 3-27-09

HRMbyDesign Threatens Heritage in Downtown

By PHIL PACEY - Fri. Mar 27 - 6:34 AM
Regarding your editorial ("Heritage overreach") of March 24, the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia is concerned that the current municipal heritage protection system in downtown Halifax is threatened by HRMbyDesign. Our alternative plan is a response to this threat.

One hundred and twenty-six buildings in the downtown are registered under the Heritage Property Act. However, this Act only gives protection from demolition for a year, unless the municipality takes action.

At present, the heritage buildings are protected by excellent policies in the Municipal Planning Strategy. These heritage policies state that the municipality will seek to save the heritage buildings, and mandates several actions to achieve this, including negotiating covenants, leasing the buildings, providing financial assistance, and even acquiring the buildings.

In addition, the municipality has set absolute or as-of-right height limits on heritage properties at 25, 35, 40, 45 and 52 feet – heights similar to the heritage buildings. This means that there is little incentive to tear down a heritage building to construct a new building of a similar size.

This protection system has worked well. In the last 29 years, only three registered heritage buildings have been demolished in downtown Halifax, a rate of loss of only .08 per cent per year.

But now the protection system is threatened. HRMbyDesign, a municipal planning exercise, proposes to knock out the key protections for heritage buildings.

First, it would increase the as-of-right and absolute height limits, to heights between 72 and 160 feet, well in excess of the heights of the heritage buildings. This would provide a financial incentive to replace a heritage building by a taller building. For example, a two-and-a-half-storey Georgian house on Hollis Street could be replaced by a seven-storey apartment block.

Second, HRMbyDesign would totally rescind a number of excellent heritage policies, while stipulating that many other heritage policies would not apply in the downtown area, our most historic square kilometre.

Repeatedly, Heritage Trust has asked the HRMbyDesign planners to keep the protective height limits and policies, and, repeatedly, we have been rebuffed. Accordingly, we have prepared, and formally applied for, an alternative plan.

A complete plan must have provisions, not just for heritage, but also for the other issues facing the downtown. Ours is a complete plan. We have recommended adopting family housing provisions from the existing Land Use By-law. Wind studies, required for development agreements today, would continue to be required. The much-photographed view of George’s Island from the roadway on Citadel Hill would be protected. We have borrowed environmentally sustainable building standards from Toronto and affordable housing targets from Vancouver.

We invite your readers to view our plan. It is only 13 pages long. We think you will find it addresses the issues facing downtown Halifax. It keeps the protective policies and height limits for heritage properties that have worked so well. It is a good plan for our future.

Readers should not be misled by the HRMbyDesign plan, when it claims to provide "enhanced" heritage protection, by saying that heritage conservation districts would include 70 per cent of the heritage buildings. Only 20 per cent would be included at first. Heritage conservation districts for 50 per cent of the heritage buildings would only be "considered" later, and, if the height limits were increased now, it would be very difficult to establish heritage conservation districts later.

And HRMbyDesign would leave 30 per cent of the heritage properties in the downtown out of any potential conservation districts. So, a four-storey Victorian shop on Granville Street could be replaced by a 14-storey tower.

Advocates of HRMbyDesign claim the present system is weak. However, the proof is in the pudding. The present system has protected 97.7 per cent of the downtown heritage buildings for 29 years.

There is no excuse for increasing the height limits on the heritage buildings. There is no excuse for deleting the excellent heritage policies that have served us so well.

The HRMbyDesign plan would take big steps backward in heritage protection. Our alternative plan keeps the protection system and encourages compatible new development.

Posted 11-12-08

Protecting Our Assets - Presentation to Urban Design Task Force (links to 2 Mb  PDF)

The Painted Rooms Project