North End, Halifax

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North End
Agricola Street
Agricola Street
ProvinceNova Scotia
MunicipalityHalifax Regional Municipality
Community councilHalifax and West
Municipal DistrictsHalifax North, Halifax South Downtown

The North End of Halifax is a subdivision of Halifax, Nova Scotia occupying the northern part of Halifax Peninsula immediately north of Downtown Halifax. The area once included historic Africville, and parts of it were severely damaged in the Halifax Explosion during World War I. A neighbourhood with strong African Nova Scotian roots, more recently the area has undergone gentrification.[1]


View of BIO & Coast Guard base on the shore of North Dartmouth across the fields in Merv Sullivan park, known locally in the North End as the Pit.

The northern part of the Halifax Peninsula comprises thin soil resulting from glacial deposits, as well as outcroppings of a dark sedimentary shale known as ironstone. The entire peninsula has no significant surface water, unlike the areas northeast and southwest of Halifax Harbour (the Eastern Shore and South Shore respectively).

At 60 m in elevation, Citadel Hill is the highest point on the peninsula and when combined with the expansive undeveloped parkland of the North Common, creates a physical boundary that separates the various neighbourhoods. Fort Needham is another glacial drumlin located in the heart of the North End.


The boundary of the North End is not definite. The darker highlighted area marks the traditional definition of the district, while a modern broad definition includes everything north of the old bridge.

The subdivision referred to as the "North End" by Halifax residents was bounded on the east by "The Narrows" of Halifax Harbour and on the north by Bedford Basin. Its other boundaries as not as sharply defined, but the western limit of the subdivision is generally agreed to be Windsor street. The southern boundary was, traditionally, the northern limit of General Cornwallis's original Halifax settlement along the slope of Citadel Hill (now Cogswell Street), and continuing along the northern edge of the North Common to Quinpool Road.

The northern boundary has steadily migrated toward the Bedford Basin since Halifax's founding. The boundary originally ended at North Street, just as the South End ended at South Street. A Neighbourhood further to the north was Richmond, and was located on the eastern slope of Fort Needham. Further north of Richmond, at the end of the Campbell Road, was the black community of Africville.

By the end of the 19th century, the perception of the North End had come to generally include Richmond as well. Following its total destruction in the Halifax Explosion (December 1917), Richmond never again regained its individual identity. The area underwent significant redevelopment during the inter-war period and gradually became an extension of the original North End.

Africville held out as a separate community until the 1960s when it was demolished by city authorities and its residents were relocated, many to public housing projects such as Uniacke Square. With the removal of Africville, public perception of the northern boundary then extended to the shores of the Bedford Basin.

During the same time period, the perception of the southern boundary became less clear, with some contending the North End starts at North Street, and that the original north suburb is in fact a part of central Halifax.


Moran Street, a typical North End residential side street.
Mural at 3308-3318 Barrington St.

The North End of Halifax began as an agricultural expansion north from central Halifax as African American and German Foreign Protestant settlers arrived in the province. It became the focus of industry in Halifax with the construction of the Nova Scotia Railway in the 1850s which located its terminal in the north end. Factories such as the Acadia Sugar Refinery, Hillis & Sons Foundry, and the Nova Scotia Cotton Manufacturing Company followed making the North End the focus of manufacturing in Halifax. Railway growth intensified with the extension of railways further into the North End and construction in 1878 of the grand North Street Station, the largest station east of Montreal.[2]

Wharves warehouses lined the waterfront, along with the city's prison at Rockhead[3] and major defence installations such as HMC Dockyard and Stadacona (formerly HMCS Stadacona and Wellington Barracks, now part of CFB Halifax). Much of this infrastructure, along with the neighbourhood of Richmond, was damaged or destroyed in a disastrous accident on 6 December 1917, commonly referred to as the Halifax Explosion.[4][5]

The explosion's aftermath saw the area north of North Street razed and a new street grid was superimposed over the old street patterns. New residential construction saw the creation of the historic Hydrostone neighbourhood, built during the relief construction following the disaster.[6] Today the memorial bells at Fort Needham, which were recovered from a church that didn't survive the event, may be heard in the carillon and monument to the disaster. The Memorial was designed by Nova Scotia architect Keith L. Graham. The Halifax Shipyard was built in 1918 beside the Naval Dockyard, further entrenching the industrial character of the North End.

The Halifax North Memorial Public Library, also designed by Graham, was opened in 1966 in memory of the victims of the explosion. Located on Göttingen Street, south of North Street, the library offers a welcoming environment as well as programs that strongly reflect the diverse make-up of the community.

The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge opened in 1955, changing the North End and the Halifax-Dartmouth region forever. Its western abutment is located at the foot of the North End and the bridge connects North Street with Dartmouth.

Seaview Park on the Bedford Basin is the site of Africville, the former African-Canadian community that was a safe haven for African slaves coming to Canada. The community was torn down in the 1960s preceding a proposed urban redevelopment of the region which would see new highways and the construction of the A. Murray MacKay Bridge, although the lands of the community were never used in a proposed port expansion. In the ensuing controversy it was designated as parkland.[7]

The Africville expropriation is often characterized as an example of institutional racism in Halifax.[8] The municipal government justified the destruction of Africville by citing the poor living conditions of the community, despite having historically refused to extend those services to the community.[7][9] The razing of Africville allowed for industrial development in the area and for the progress of the city's traffic grid, with the construction of the 'new' bridge. The Africville residents and descendants were dispersed among some of the North End's public housing projects, as well as into other parts of Halifax and Dartmouth.[10]

The North End has traditionally been home to a number of important African Nova Scotian institutions. Provincial institutions like the African United Baptist Association and the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People were formed in the North End at New Horizons Baptist Church. Throughout the 20th century, Gottingen Street was the epicenter for black business and enterprise in Nova Scotia, including being home to a beauty shop and school owned by Viola Desmond.[11][12] The North End housed one of the first Afrocentric schools in Canada, St. Pat's Alexandra, which closed in 2009.[13]


Commercial centres[edit]

Gottingen Street at night.

Gottingen Street is the commercial and entertainment heart of the North End. It is home to numerous shops, bars, clubs, and performance venues.

In 1950, the four blocks of Gottingen closest to downtown were the site of more than 130 enterprises, including two cinemas.[14]

The street declined in stature as the peninsula lost population during the latter half of the 20th century, and as a result of car-oriented urban renewal schemes.[15] Many nearby residences were demolished when the northern part of Barrington Street was transformed into a highway to serve the Macdonald Bridge, and when the Cogswell Interchange was built. Additionally, several blocks of houses and apartment buildings were demolished in 1958 in an attempt to boost patronage on Gottingen by providing additional car parking. Seven new parking lots were built, displacing local residents to other areas, but according to a Dalhousie University study, this had "no positive impact on the vitality of the Gottingen Street commercial district".[16]

The Gottingen Street area population declined from high of 11,939 (1951) to a low of 4,494 (1996).[14] However, in recent years the trend has reversed as more housing is built in the area and as vacant lots have been developed. The population has risen substantially since the 1990s, resulting in a mix of new businesses opening up.[17]

A few blocks away Agricola Street, which runs parallel to Gottingen Street, is another commercial district home to many local shops, restaurants, and galleries.[18] It has also benefited from new residential developments that have increased the local population. The shops of The Hydrostone serve as the commercial centre of the northern half of the North End.

Historic buildings[edit]

North End houses

The North End is home to several historic churches. The Little Dutch Church, adapted as a church in 1756, is the second-oldest building in the city. St. George's Church is a unique round church at the corner of Brunswick and Cornwallis Streets completed in 1801.

After the church was badly burned in an accidental 1994 fire, Prince Charles, who had visited it in 1983 with Princess Diana, was among those who donated toward its reconstruction. The restoration was completed in 2000. St Patrick's Church, also on Brunswick Street, was founded in 1843 and rebuilt in its present form in 1885.[19] The Africville Church, established in 1849 and razed under cover of darkness in 1969, was reconstructed in 2011 as part of the Africville Apology.

The Halifax Armoury, on North Park Street, is a National Historic Site. The massive Romanesque Revival building resembles a old castle, but it boasted numerous technological innovations when it opened in 1899, including the adoption of electricity and the truss structure that permitted a large interior space with no columns or walls.[20] HMCS Stadacona is home to numerous other historic military buildings.

Military installations[edit]

Wellington Barracks, Stadacona

The North End is home to several of military installations within CFB Halifax, the country's largest military base. Her Majesty's Canadian Dockyard (HMC Dockyard Halifax) is a sprawling complex that occupies the harbourfront area next to the traditional North End. Stadacona, on the opposite side of Barrington Street, is host to barracks and a host of supporting facilities housed in both historic and modern structures. In the centre of the peninsula, away from the shoreline, Windsor Park and Willow Park are home to base transport and supply, housing, the Canadian Forces Exchange System, the curling club, the Military Police, and the Military Family Resource Centre.

The North End is also home to the Halifax Shipyard, sited just to the north of HMC Dockyard. Founded in 1889, the shipyard has built many vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and is the largest full-service shipyard on the east coast. In 2011 the shipyard was selected to build the navy's new combat fleet, comprising 21 vessels costing $25 billion over a period of 30 years.[21] Irving Shipbuilding, owner of the shipyard, has undertaken a $300 million upgrade of the facility, boasting that Halifax will have "the most modern shipyard in North America".[22] The shipbuilding contract is expected to employ between 2,000 and 2,500 people at the height of construction in 2021.[22]


The areas of Gottingen Street, Creighton Street, and Maynard Street was traditionally home to a large middle-class African Canadian population, while lower-income families lived nearby in Uniacke Square.[23] Many of the black home owners operated businesses, or were working professionals. The North End has long been seen as a center of education, commerce, religion, and entertainment among African Nova Scotians. However, uncontrolled gentrification of the North End has changed the area's demographics considerably.[24][23][25]

In recent years, the North End has become a popular destination for Halifax's growing university population. As the prices of apartments closer to Dalhousie University and Saint Mary's University continue to rise, and as the cost of transportation has fallen due to the introduction of the U-pass, students are finding cheaper accommodations in the North End. This has spawned a thriving artistic community, with many painters, musicians and writers being lured to this section of the city, at the expense of some long time residents.[26] There is still a Black presence in the community, although it is shrinking and for the most part limited to the confines of the public housing surrounding Uniacke Square. As of 2019, only a handful of homes are still owned by Black families.[27]

The area has become home to organizations such as Bloomfield Centre, North By North End, Grainery Food Co-Op, the Anchor Archive Zine Library, Turnstile Pottery Cooperative, Nova Scotia Youth Project, and the North End Community Gardening Association. Plans are now under way for the redevelopment of Bloomfield Centre.[28]

The former Bloomfield School is now Bloomfield Centre, a local arts community.

However, the North End is sometimes linked to issues of crime and poverty.[29] It is viewed as a largely blue collar, African Canadian, working class area among older white residents.[30] Hugh MacLennan, in his 1941 novel of the Halifax Explosion, Barometer Rising described the North End as having always been "Catholic and poor".[31] The proximity of the CFB Halifax naval base and various adjunct facilities, as well as the Halifax Shipyard, has contributed to a sizeable working class population living and working in the area.


Citadel High School

Community facilities[edit]


  1. ^ McGregor, Phlis. "Halifax: A city with two north ends - Part 1". CBC. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  2. ^ Paul A. Erickson, Historic North End Halifax, Nimbus Publishing (2004), p. 73
  3. ^ William D. Naftel (25 September 2015). Halifax: A Visual Legacy: 200+ iconic photographs of the city from 1853 to the present. Formac Publishing Company. pp. 104, 122. ISBN 978-1-4595-0046-4.
  4. ^ David Flemming (October 2004). Explosion in Halifax Harbour: The Illustrated Account of a Disaster that Shook the World. Formac Publishing Company. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-88780-632-2.
  5. ^ Robert Burns (16 May 2016). The Reward. Xlibris US. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-1-5144-8299-5.
  6. ^ David Orkin (5 March 2017). Nova Scotia. Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-1-78477-040-2.
  7. ^ a b Jennifer Jill Nelson (2008). Razing Africville: A Geography of Racism. University of Toronto Press. pp. 134, 174. ISBN 978-0-8020-9252-6.
  8. ^ Catherine Cassell; Ann L Cunliffe; Gina Grandy (14 December 2017). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods: Methods and Challenges. SAGE Publications. pp. 656–. ISBN 978-1-5264-3024-3.
  9. ^ Judith Fingard; Janet Guildford; David Sutherland (1 January 1999). Halifax: The First 250 Years. Formac Publishing Company. pp. 172–. ISBN 978-0-88780-490-8.
  10. ^ Alternatives Journal. Faculty of Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo. 2003. pp. 18–19.
  11. ^ Bresge, Adina. "Viola Desmond banknote shines spotlight on Halifax's historic north end". CBC. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  12. ^ Reynolds, Graham (October 2018). Viola Desmond : her life and times. Fernwood Publishing. pp. 1–128. ISBN 9781773631233.
  13. ^ "Goodbye, St. Pat's Alexandra". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ a b Silver, Jim (February 2008). Public Housing Risks and Alternatives: Uniacke Square in North End Halifax (PDF). Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9780886275877.
  15. ^ Darrell Varga (2009). Rain, Drizzle, Fog: Film and Television in Atlantic Canada. University of Calgary Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-1-55238-248-6.
  16. ^ Melles, Bruktawit B. (March 2003). "The Relationship Between Policy, Planning and Neighbourhood Change: The Case of the Gottingen Street Neighbourhood, 1950-2000" (PDF). School of Architecture and Planning, Dalhousie University.
  17. ^ "Gentrification in the “new” north end". The Coast, July 24, 2014. Russell Gragg and Sylvain Pankhurst
  18. ^ "Halifax's historic North End blossoming as destination for foodies". National Post, November 9, 2016
  19. ^ Beed, Blair. "History - Saint Patrick's Parish". St. Patrick's Church. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Halifax Armoury". Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  21. ^ "Jubilation as Halifax Shipyard awarded contract". CBC News. 19 October 2011.
  22. ^ a b Taber, Jane (21 August 2013). "Irving ramps up for Halifax Shipyard contract". The Globe and Mail.
  23. ^ a b "Racism and gentrification in Halifax's North End".
  24. ^ Boon, Jacob. "Halifax's north end to Celebrate Viola". The Coast Halifax.
  25. ^ Mar 12, Adina Bresge · The Canadian Press · Posted:; March 12, Adina Bresge · The Canadian Press · Posted:. "Viola Desmond banknote shines spotlight on Halifax's historic north end | CBC News". CBC.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  26. ^ "DeMONT: Halifax’s north end gritty, complex". JOHN DEMONT, The Chronicle Herald, October 13, 2017
  27. ^ Poitras, Wendie L. "Gentrifying Blackness in Halifax's inner city". The Coast Halifax. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  28. ^ Bloomfield Centre Master Plan – Draft Report
  29. ^ "Weekend Focus: The good, bad of Halifax’s north-end resurgence", Herald News, Sherri Borden Colley, April 17, 2015
  30. ^ "Halifax: A city with two north ends - Part 1". Phlis McGregor, CBC News, Apr 14, 2015.
  31. ^ Halifax The Canadian Encyclopedia

Further reading[edit]

  • Paul A. Erickson, Halifax's North End: An anthropologist looks at the city, Hantsport: Lancelot Press, 1987.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°39′47.3″N 63°36′4.6″W / 44.663139°N 63.601278°W / 44.663139; -63.601278