Old Album, Number Thirteen: Morris Street

This is the thirteenth album selected from my little collection of photos. Just some shots of buildings on a couple of blocks of Morris Street.

Morris Street is a useful east-west Halifax thoroughfare that probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It retains many fine older buildings, and the new ones are so bland I have a hard time conjuring up what they look like. Here are a few photos from the 1970s at a time I was particularly looking at masonry.

In 1977 St. George’s at the corner of Morris and Queen was a vibrant hub for the Greek community. The Greek Orthodox church occupied a picturesque building that had been constructed in 1863 as an Anglican school. On Orthodox Easter the congregation would spill out of their church for a colourful street procession around the district. The building was converted into condos after a big new church and facilities (think Greek Fest!) were built beside Melville Cove around 1985.

Photo 1977

Aren’t these houses GREAT! Classic examples of the favourite Halifax house form of the nineteenth century. The grey one had its roofline modernized, probably in the 1880s.

Photo 1977

And a little lower down the block is one of the best granite houses in town (are there more than three?). I don’t really recall the house next door, which is built in the Italianate style.

Photo 1977

Continuing down the street there was another Italianate-style villa. In 1977 it had a case of the drearios, but I’ve learned that in the 80s it was renowned as the Gay Grey Apartment building and was the site for “the most famous party to be held outside of a gay bar.” The whole fabulous story here.

Photo 1977

Below Barrington Street are buildings that have improved with age. At this time there was lots of rubbish in the streets and it was not obvious that these buildings would survive. Now the charming Halliburton Inn occupies the building to the left, and we regularly enjoy eating noodles in that delightful building on the right.

Photo 1977

In the mid 1970s I was bullied by a Law School professor into making a silkscreen of the Haliburton Inn building, because it had been an early location of the Law School. Still irritates me.

When I posted this picture on Twitter many people had memories of the ABC Bargain Centre and the apartment behind those windows. I needed Elizabeth Cushing (@HfxHeritage) to remind me that it was built in 1909 for Dr. Evatt Mathers, with a pharmacy on the ground floor and doctor’s office above!

Photo 1977

Across the street were buildings that did not survive.

Photo 1977

A Trophy Stove

In 1976 I was invited to this house (we saw earlier) to see a remarkable old stove preserved in the basement kitchen.

Photo 1977

The cast iron kitchen range was magnificent; made in Boston and probably installed in the 1860s or 70s as part of a kitchen modernization. I don’t believe the stove was still fired up but the owner kept it well polished.

Photo 1976

Also in the kitchen was a decorative bracket that once held a cable-activated door bell. The modern replacement to the right demonstrates how we had lost our aesthetic compass.

Little buddy with the big hammer is only performative. Photo 1976

The backyard was another surprise. An urban oasis.

Photo 1976

Old Iron

And to increase the ironwork content of this post, a couple of tiny examples. A boot scraper on a step near the intersection with Queen Street.

Photo 1974

An orphan post that would have been part of an iron railing in front of the old Morris Street School.

Photo 1977


Thinking about Morris Street in the 1970s has helped me recover a couple of memories from the 1950s.

  • Probably in the late 1950s my mother took me to see a remarkable collection of Tom Thomson paintings (and Group of Seven too perhaps) and works by Charles Wilson Morrice that had been gathered by George Henderson. He had taught physics at Dalhousie (died 1949), as did my father. The Henderson house was on the south side of Morris just up from the granite house and I believe of a similar form.

My memory is of Ruth Henderson guiding us around the amazing art hung in her large double parlour. I had never been in one of these old Halifax houses built next to the sidewalk, and the proximity of private and public space created an enduring fascination. People walking down the street were oblivious of the fact that they were inches away from one of Morrice’s famous views from Lévis. Below is one of Henderson’s Thomson paintings that is now in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Art Gallery of Ontario

  • The Junior Red Cross was a popular program/club when I was in elementary school. I think there were lesson plans for teachers, and we received a magazine and got membership pins (desirable). In grade five I was tasked with going down to Morris Street to pick up our class’s copies of the magazine at the Red Cross office that was in a nondescript building on the north side of the street below Queen. It was not out of the ordinary to send a ten year old on their own across town. I probably walked from LeMarchant School but maybe took the bus back.

Canadian Red Cross

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.