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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

From the Vaults: The Capitol Theatre

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The Nova Scotia Archives is pleased to share photos showcasing the changing faces of urban centers in Nova Scotia. You can learn more about the archives and explore thousands of photos, textual records, maps, art, and more on their website.

Capitol Theatre

HALIFAX — Before the Maritime Centre opened its doors in 1977, the corner of Barrington St. and Spring Garden Rd. in Halifax was home to the Capitol Theatre, which was demolished in 1974 to make room for the office tower.

The movie house and theatre opened its doors in October 1930 to considerable fan-fare. The architect, Murray Brown, designed the building with a castle theme, which included stars and clouds on the ceiling.

The Halifax Mail wrote an article on 31 October 1930 describing the theatre on its opening day:

Entering the theatre under the brightly illuminated marquise and sign we find ourselves at the entrance to a castle, with a stone wall coped with red tile surrounding us. This wall is pierced with ballustraded and grilled openings through which we catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside.

Capitol Theatre

This Mezzanine Promenade has the same magnificent carpeted floor and massive round pillars supporting the groined and vaulted roof. Deep vaulted embrasures lead to the Balcony level through brass-studded and felt-covered doors, while other embrasures have mullioned and leaded windows.

The walls of the staircase are in old-time half timber construction, the balustrade being of carved oak and the whole stair covered with the same fine carpet.

Capitol Theatre

The roof is formed of massive oak beams carried on the carved grotesque brackets on smaller beams running between the main beams. The panels between these beams are formed of special acoustical plaster so as to get the best possible results from the sound equipment in the Auditorium.

The Stage is fitted with a very modern electric panel board, which controls the lights of the Theatre and Stage. It has the most modern equipment for dimming these lights, so as to produce pleasing color schemes in the Auditorium. The Stage is fully equipped with a gridiron floor some seventy-five feet above the Stage level which provides ample accommodation to allow for hoisting the large talking horns of this sound equipment, as well as making it possible to accommodate any large traveling theatrical production which may visit the city.

Capitol Theatre

Previous to the Capitol Theatre, this location was home to the Academy of Music, renamed the Majestic in 1918. It opened in 1877, and was home to countless musical and theatre productions for over fifty years. It was demolished in 1929.

Reference: NSARM Photo Collection Places: Halifax: Buildings



  1. I was in a meeting yesterday and at one point someone brought up the Capital and the meeting stopped for like 10 minutes why they reminisced. There was a lot of love for that building (and what I would call displeasure with Maritime Centre).

    Apparently it had a novelty X-Ray machine in the lobby:


    Great article.

  2. Yes, the Maritime Centre can’t compare to a movie house that looked like a castle. That website is neat… love all of the novelty machines (“Smash Hitler”–wow). Thanks for sharing. Glad you liked the post!

  3. I stood on the corner of Barrington and Spring Garden yesterday…wonderful to imagine the Capitol Theatre there, once upon a time. Thanks!

  4. I did the same thing as Monica… just kinda looked and tried to capture the feel of the corner. It is sad how dwarfed the church is next to the Maritime Centre and how the wind whistles down that massive tower and crushes onto the intersection (some days it is almost impossible to open the front doors it is so bad). Would have been nice to stand further west on Spring Garden be able to see the harbour and have the view underlined with the Capital.

  5. Does anyone know who the owner of the Capitol Theatre on Barrington St. was in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s?
    Paul Bryan
    Oct. 6, 2010

  6. I have just written a Christmas article for the Southender magazine and describe as a little girl going to the Capital Theater I would very much like to include a picture of the Theater and I/m hoping someone would be able to provide a picture – at no cost! (The magazine does not cover the cost of pictures!

    Thanks for your response!