On the Waterfront

In the last little while it seems we go to the waterfront every other day. We made a special trip to see the  Sculpture Nova Scotia project and will continue to follow that with interest. On Saturday we attended Oysterfest (feels like a winner). And on Sunday we were at the Marriott for Blog Jam to learn more about blogging.

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Working their granite at Sculpture NS and shucking at Oysterfest

As Sheila and I  walked the boardwalks we remembered how much had changed over the years and that sent me looking for some photos I took one dreary afternoon in about 1980. Much of the waterfront had been leveled and the Waterfront Development Corporation was just starting to establish the form that is still evolving.

To get a good view of the bleak landscape I climbed a huge pile of rubble that was stockpiled near the water across from the Keith’s Brewery complex. Here is the view down to the harbour from my perch.


From this vantage point I took “panoramas” of the surroundings. To the south were more remnants  of old wharves and the power plant. When the plant closed it was used as a massive sound stage for film production and has now morphed into the sparkling headquarters for NS Power. Imagine that.


The Brewery buildings are recognizable but everything around them has changed in the last 35 years. And how about that great parking!


Here is a slide I took around this time that gives a sense of how rustic it felt on the ground.

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To the north was more parking and big Irving oil storage tanks at the bottom of Sackville Street. There was no reason for people to go to this end of the waterfront and on the weekends and evenings it was absolutely abandoned.


Walking north on Water Street the roadway and sidewalks had been torn up so services could be put underground. In the centre you can see the back of a truck going through the Irving Arch  at the bottom of Sackville Street. This gives a  sense of how compressed it felt when there was a wall of buildings on both sides of the narrow, curving street.


Work had started on renovating the Robertson Building (in the centre) to house the Maritime Museum. This view is from the wharf where the museum ship Acadia is now moored. To the right was the Fisheries Research establishment and at the far left is a sliver of one of the oil tanks.


So here is the Fisheries Research site on Sunday, modeling what all pedestrian routes through parking lots should look like.


On my visit to the waterfront wasteland decades ago I could not imagine that future me would be sitting under a mature pine tree, sipping a beer at Bar Stillwell, and looking at Segway riders next to a giant blue tongue, more or less in the location of the Irving oil tanks. Now, where are those folks who say nothing happened in Halifax.



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.