Start planning for Doors Open

I am such a fanboy for Doors Open! For me it’s a Festival of Noticing.  See my little chair swivel dance of anticipation for this year’s edition of 40 venues  on June 7 and 8.  All the details on their site.

Leading up to the big weekend  I’ll use the blog to tell you some sites that excite me and some all time favouites that need to be on your life list.

The first list includes  4 conveniently located buildings. Think of this as the  essentials tour – buildings that you need to have seen to understand who we are .   We’ll visit them in chronological order and I’ll point out a few details that particularly appeal to me.

1) Province House.  The grandest public building in the province when it was built in 1819. The Red Room has wonderful, over the top, cast decorations.  Pay particular attention to the fireplace mantles (the intro image comes from one) and the door ways.  The lions on the door frame are so in your face that you can miss the ram’s head in the upper left not to mention the scallop shells.


But my favourite room (and one of the best rooms in the province) is the Legislative Library.  It was completely renovated in the 1860s  when the building was about 40 years old) and hasn’t changed since.


The detail to notice are cast iron brackets in the form of our provincial flower,  the Mayflower.


2) Just down the street is the Halifax Club built in 1862 , about the same age as the Legislative Library .  I don’t know the interior well but I recently was given a pro tip to look at the men’s washroom.  It is an amazing marble clad facility.  Everyone should make a special effort to look in.


1-April 201479

3)Back track half a block and you are at the Scotia Bank of 1931.  This is top of the list for the most beautifully decorated building in the city.  You could spend all day noticing details. I’ll point out a couple that charmed me at last year’s Doors Open.

There’s lots of  marine iconography (finding all the fish would be a good challenge).  I was wowed by this rhapsody of fish hooks.


Apparently squirrels are popular motifs for banks (squirreling away your nuts)  so I was pleased to see this fine specimen.


4) The last building in this group is the Dominion Public Building built just a few years after the bank.  It is not as richly decorated but still does very well. Notice the panels over the front door that show all the modern ways of transporting mail in 1939, like with this Royal Mail biplane (plus some fish blowing bubbles).


It was very cool to get up into the atrium space that I’d glimpsed for years from the ground.  But the real surprise was the view of Water St.  What a grand mixture of old and new with the narrow street tracing the original 1749 shoreline.  Made me feel like I was some where else.


So there you have four building about power, three different styles (Georgian, Italianate and Art Deco) that demonstrate what quality of design and materials felt like in earlier times.

I wonder what I’ll suggest next for Doors Open?

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.