Young Avenue, so sad and blue

Young Avenue in south end Halifax has been much in the news lately as one of its big houses is demolished to make way for more big houses. This encouraged me to drop by and remind myself what the street looks like on the ground and notice what are, for me, character defining elements. My couple of gratuitous suggestions are appropriately in bold.

The Avenue is special because it was the first street in Halifax conceived and designed to be special. Up until the late 1880s it was an empty, boggy piece of land but with some difficulty the new street was built as the formal entrance to Point Pleasant Park. Really the tree lined boulevard is an extension of the park.


  • Maintain and enhance the tree canopy .

The Avenue was designed to meet the new, ceremonial Golden Gates to the Park which had been presented by Sir William Young in 1886 (Sir William lent money to the city so they could finish the expensive road and name it after him).


NS Museum

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Public Archives of NS, WR MacKaskill 1997-453 no 4345


The gates should be a golden icon glowing at the end of the Avenue but they have lost their gravitas by being ripped asunder (as they say) to allow all the cars. And those trees mentioned above also do some concealing. The Golden Car at the end of the street gives you an idea of what could be if the gates were centred.


  • A new Gate Plaza needs to be designed. 

The biggest enduring change in the history of the Avenue came when the railway cut blasted through about 1917. The early concrete bridge creates an opening in the tree canopy and appropriately provides views of industry and commerce that paid for many of the big houses. This is a view of the wide Young Avenue bridge from the Tower Road bridge.


The balusters on the bridge create a classic rhythm of shadow and light. Originally, I believe, there were short cast iron lamp standards on the pedestals. Wouldn’t that be sweet?


  •  Maintain and enhance the architectural appearance of the bridge.

In 1896 the Legislature passed an act that said Young Avenue was the entrance to the park, it was expensive to build and the city intended to keep it beautiful. Also, new wooden residences built along the street had to cost at least $5000, and brick ones $6000.

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Statutes of NS: preamble to an Act relating to Young Avenue, Feb. 15 1896

There is a long tradition of wanting any changes to Young Avenue to honour the intent and spirit of the original concept for the street.

An 1899 cranky letter to the Morning Chronicle shows that resentment of the Avenue is also long standing. “Maynard Street” complained that the city was spending $50,000 on a sewer to serve five houses while ignoring streets in the north end. The writer added: “I know that no common northender is supposed to set foot within the sacred precincts of this southend swelldom.”


In changing times, it is reassuring that the South End Tennis Club has been on Young Avenue since 1890. In the old days un-sporty folks, like me, could be a “tea member.” The board and batten club house is perfect.


This view of the club c1900 shows how undeveloped the district was. I guess this is looking east to the smoke stacks of industries near the harbour.

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NS Public Archives, neg no N5544

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.