Hydrostone District National Historic Site of Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia
View of a part of the Hydrostone District National Historic Site of Canada, 1993. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.
General view
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.
View of a part of the Hydrostone District National Historic Site of Canada, 1993. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1993.Overhead shot of a part of the Hydrostone District National Historic site of Canada, 1990. © Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1990.
Address : Kaye, Isleville, Duffus Streets and Novalea Drive, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1994-01-07
  • 1917 to 1917 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Halifax Explosion  (Event)
  • Ross and Macdonald  (Architect)
  • Thomas Adams (urban planner)  (Engineer)
Other Name(s):
  • Hydrostone District  (Designation Name)
  •   (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 2004-SDC/CDE-022, 1993-008


Existing plaque:  Hydrostone Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia

From the ashes of the catastrophic Halifax Explosion, which shattered the City's North End on 6 December 1917, rose the Hydrostone District, a splendid example of an English-style garden suburb. Completed in 1920, this well-preserved neighbourhood was designed according to the most up-to-date yet practical principles of town planning. The master plan featured three main elements: realigned streets, a large public park, and some 325 fireproof dwellings of the most modern type, served by a row of shops. The buildings, all variations on the same architectural theme and all constructed with "Hydro-Stone" concrete blocks, are aesthetically arranged along each side of wide treed courts. The houses and landscape contribute to a remarkable sense of time and place. The neighbourhood is an important achievement by the influential town planner Thomas Adams; it is also Canada's first government-assisted housing project.

Description of Historic Place

This English-style garden suburb, one block deep and ten blocks wide, is located in the north end of Halifax. On its short orthogonal streets are homogeneous terrace-type houses arranged to face wide, park-like courts. At the Young Street boundary is a small commercial row, designed in the same subdued Tudor Revival style as the residential area. The designation refers to the buildings and the associated landscape.

Heritage Value

Hydrostone district was designated a national historic site of Canada because it is an excellent example of the English-style garden suburb in Canada retaining a high degree of authenticity. Its series of rectangular treed courtyards lined on both sides with a repetitive repertoire of residential 'Hydro-stone' buildings creates a remarkable sense of time and place with notably few jarring or intrusive elements, and it is the nation's first public housing project and an important example of the work of the influential town planner Thomas Adams.

Built to replace housing destroyed by the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the concrete-block (Hydro-stone) buildings were designed by Ross and Macdonald to complement Thomas Adams' plan.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1993.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include: :
the plan, one block wide and ten blocks deep with houses facing green courtyards and accessed at rear by service lanes, row of shops with apartments above along Young Street, use of standardized plans and elevations assembled in various combinations for multi-unit terraces and duplex apartments, consistent exterior design motif of restrained Tudor Revival using mock half-timbering, varied roof forms including hipped, gable, gambrel, standardized detailing including porches and windows, the use of fire-retardant materials including concrete block (Hydro-stone) as the primary construction material, and slate roofs, the grassed courtyards with mature trees.