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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

From the Vaults: Spring Garden Road Memorial Library

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Spring Garden Road Memorial Library
HALIFAX – Excitement is building for a new central library in Halifax. The new central library will replace the Spring Garden Road Memorial Library, which was built in 1951 as a memorial to Halifax’s WWI and WWII casualties.

The grounds of this library once belonged to a poor house. Many inhabitants of the poor house were buried here, as well as, reportedly, the pirates of the ship Saladin.

Spring Garden Road Memorial Library
The new central library will be close to the location on which the  Halifax Infirmary once stood (corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street). The infirmary opened in 1933 and was run by the Sisters of Charity until 1973. The hospital was closed in 1998 and the land was transferred to the province.

Spring Garden Road Memorial Library

The corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street was also home to the First Baptist Church, which was built in 1886. In March of 1942, this structure was tragically completely destroyed by fire.

First Baptist Church Fire

The Halifax Mail, 21 March 1942, reported that Doyle Street garage-men, army officers, and soldiers attempted to extinguish the flames with hand extinguishers but soon turned their attention to removing an organ, piano, chairs, carpets and pictures. Fire fighters were hampered by a lack of water in fighting the blaze. The church’s estimated loss was $100,000.

Reference: Nova Scotia Information Service NSARM no. NSIS 6680, 7563, & 7565 / E.A. Bollinger NSARM accession no. 1975-305 1942 no. 596-4



  1. In order to fund the $55 million dollar new library, the old library site will have to be sold. Is there a way to ensure that the land outside of the library continues to operate as a public space?

    The front lawn of the library, specifically the path the runs diagonally through it, is one of the most traversed walkways in our city. The wall that wraps around the library lawn has served as a perfect perch to take a seat with a friend in the sunshine – and a great way to inadvertently run into many folk. It’s a space where we overlap.

    Lunch breaks, benches, buskers, picnics, free Food not Bombs servings, those Tai Chi chillers – it would be a shame to jeopardize such a valuable public space, that serves the city so well as it is.

  2. In the Chronicle-Herald (Oct 21) they mentioned that the site itself is worth $21million but they could not use it all because of the fact that the land use itself was designated to always belong to the public.

    “(The Mayor) could not provide an individual breakdown of the properties’ worth. He said he mistakenly told reporters Monday that the current library site is valued at about $10 million.

    “I misspoke on that amount because there is a portion of those lands (that can’t be developed) because there is an old graveyard or parklands in the front and we have to protect those,” he said.”

    It is a little known fact that there are about 800 people buried out front library (and I remember reading this a couple of years ago in the NOVA SCOTIAN, so the details are a bit hazy but is it a really great article if you can find it) from its days as a sanitarium outside the city core of at the time a hardship post.

    The greenspace will stay but it will be built up for certain, as there is also a development possibly going up next to the Basilica and of course the new library so the actual feel of the corner is going to change quite a bit in the next little while.

  3. Whoops. I mispoke also: the total sales of land, of course are $21 million.