Granville Street: Days of Future Passed

In the 1970s I would often visit the north block of Granville Street to examine the cast iron shop fronts that lined both sides of the street. In future blogs there are a number of themes I’d like to explore about this section of town but today I’ll start with a look at the west side of the block in the late 1970s. I hope you’re surprised.

This block of Granville was the premier shopping district in Halifax when it burned down in 1859. Merchants quickly rebuilt in a grand style and it remained remarkably intact until the renovations about 35 years ago. This is what the street looked like in 1871 when the buildings were about 10 years old.

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Joseph S Rogers, NS Archives neg no N-419

This is a similar view in 1977 of the buildings empty, waiting for their facades to be taken down. I think the pawn shop on the corner was one of the last operating  businesses .


And here is that corner in the early 1980s after the facades were taken down, cleaned and attached to a new building. When the mall opened there were real shops including Import Bazaar (shown here; it later became Pier One).


The block in 1871 looking south.

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Joseph S Rogers, NS Archives neg no N-424

And as I found it  on a winter Sunday morning in 1978.


There was an authenticity to the coal smoke blackened stone facades, grander than any surviving streetscape in Halifax.


The finely detailed sandstone classical facade on the left was next to a modern-feeling front (built the same year) made of massive, undecorated blocks of granite.

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The street level cast iron shop fronts had lost most of their detail but hints of grandeur survived.  The iron work came from New York so there was a small taste of what edgy SoHo in New York, with identical ironwork, felt like at that moment.


This jaunty chrome furniture sign was a message that the block was well past its best-before date.


Because I like both signs and typography the couple of big building signs merited a number of photos. Here is the shop for King Quality shoes.


Too bad this sign was on the west side of the street, it would be perfect for an Art College building.


Here is the brochure for the opening of the shiny new mall/hotel about 1980. The treasure is a very special example of copy writing that seems to anticipate the speech patterns of future mayor Peter Kelly:

“There’s something very special about nostalgia. . . being where daring dreams become reality and seeing, as it was so long ago. There’s something very special about Halifax, and, the Barrington Inn is a part of this very special feeling.”

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  • What do you think is going to happen with the north end of Granville Street? The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design is talking about leaving their buildings on the east side of the block and  the west side has no curb appeal. The best hope is that the Cogswell Street interchange redevelopment can stitch this dead end block into a new community,
  • Here is a gallery of more pictures of the west side of the block as preparation for disassembly and demolition began in the 1978.

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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.