Mills Remembered

It seems that lately we have been dealing with more disruptive change than usual. I’m dizzy. Today it was Mills closing after nearly a hundred years in business. I suppose what old folks remember as Mills Brothers closed quite a few years ago.

This is a chance for me to drag out, again, a couple of photos of Mills I snapped about 1969. I was trying to get a picture of life on the “high street” to be used in  the advertising section of the Dalhousie Yearbook.

A very special wicker perambulator (with a baby in it) had been left outside Mills while the mother went in to shop.  This was standard practice at the time – it would be stranger to  to see someone try to take a baby carriage into a shop. I took a series of shots hoping one would be useful.

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The three ladies, carrying “hand bags,” wearing what I assume  are camel coloured coats, is what I consider the perfect shot of Mills Brothers clientele. Others can tell you if that is accurate.

To unpack the photo a little more, notice the shield with “Liberty” over the door. Liberty is the iconic department store in London.  The Mills were besotted with Liberty and the “Tudor”  half timbering  on Spring Garden Road was a reference to Liberty’s Regent Street store.


From the internet

Also notice the sidewalk in front of Mills. Looks like you could eat off it.  In the 70s I lived in a wonderful apartment over the Candy Bowl at the corner of Spring Garden and Birmingham (now the Roots Store). The tall windows of my living room looked across to Mills and in the mornings I could see Mills’ jovial handyman sweeping and washing the sidewalk.  That’s how its done folks. Not rocket science.

In the 70s Mills  did a major renovation and expansion. I believe the work was designed by architect Robert Parker and Associates . One of the associates in this project was Tony Mann , a star graphic and product designer and professor at NSCAD.

At this time a building on Birmingham was incorporated into Mills. My photograph from 1978 shows the sensitive and clever reworking of a familiar Halifax house type.  Instead of a projecting storm porch the entrance has been inset (the door is to the right). This building held a new men’s department on the ground floor.  Always worth a look.


There are undoubtedly many wonderful stories being told about Mills.  It would be nice if we were better at collecting and documenting our changing times.

Post Script

  • When I was on Spring Garden Road 45 years ago taking photographs,  I noticed the young mother and her wicker perambulator further up the street. and took a couple of pictures before she abandoned the baby in front of Mills.  Here are the other shots that confirm this was a desirable, trophy baby carriage and show buildings that are mostly still there. I suppose you think it confirms my creeper status.


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  • Liberty was famous for their fine printed cottons, known as lawn.  I have a very wide, 70s, Liberty lawn necktie that was perfect for summer weddings. A lovely pattern.

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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.