Province House National Historic Site of Canada
Halifax, Nova Scotia
© Parks Canada/Parcs Canada
1726 Hollis Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1811 to 1819
1861 to 1862
1886 to 1888
Event, Person, Organization:
Henry F. Busch
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 1726 Hollis Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Province House is an architectural monument and the setting for significant events in Canadian political life. Begun in 1811 and opened in 1819 as the seat of government for Nova Scotia, it is one of the finest Palladian-style buildings in Canada. Its symmetrical composition, harmonious proportions and refined interior detailing are distinguishing features of the classical architecture of Georgian England. Before Confederation, epic orations within these walls contributed to the achievement of freedom of the press and responsible government, cornerstones of democracy in this country.
Description of Historic Place
Province House National Historic Site of Canada is a grand, three-story sandstone public building located on an enclose landscape ground containing a garden and monuments, within the historic heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Built from 1811 to 1819, as the seat of government for Nova Scotia, it is one of the finest Palladian-style buildings in Canada. Its symmetrical composition, harmonious proportions and refined interior detailing are distinguishing features of the classical architecture of Georgian England. The building continues to serve as the legislative seat for the Province of Nova Scotia. Official recognition refers to the legal property boundary at the time of designation.
Province House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1993 because: it is one of the best examples of the Palladian style in Canada; it is the longest serving legislative building in Canada; it was the scene of constitutional and legal debates which led to the establishment of two fundamental principles of Canadian democracy - freedom of the press and responsible government.
As Canada’s oldest legislative seat, Province House has witnessed important political and legal debates, including newspaper editor Joseph Howe’s defence against charges of libel, which led to the creation of the freedom of the press, and the winning of responsible government. Designed by architect John Merrick much of the detailed interpretation of the Palladian-inspired plans was realized by master builder Richard Scott. A stone Royal coat of arms carved by David Kinnear was placed above the main entry in 1819. Architect Henry F. Busch remodelled the original Supreme Court chambers to house the Legislative Library in 1861-1862, and additional interior rehabilitation was carried out by Edward Elliott in 1886-1888.
Province House is a sophisticated example of the Palladian compositional formula adapted for early 19th-century public buildings. Its rectangular block with projecting pedimented frontispiece and side wings, the tri-partite division of its storeys and the use of Roman Ionic order to emphasize the importance of the main floor are organized into a symmetrical composition of classical scale and proportion. Palladian concepts of order extend to the interior spatial organization and to the restrained and harmonious decorative program, culminating in the exquisite plasterwork of the principal storey.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1993.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include: its location in the historic heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia; its siting in the middle of a city block with its long elevations facing and set back from major streets; its three-storey pavilion massing set under a truncated hip roof with a projecting pedimented frontispiece; its sandstone veneer on rubble and brick construction; its principal Hollis street façade featuring the Royal coat of arms in the tympanum of the central pediment; the symmetrical design with similar east-west façades comprised of rusticated stone ground storeys and ashlar upper storeys of reduced proportions, articulated by regularly spaced fenestration and projecting central and end pavilions under gable roofs; the giant Ionic columns defining the central pavilion on each east and west façades; the identical north and south façades with their central bays defined by giant Ionic pilasters with Venetian windows beneath a pediment; the classically inspired detailing, including niches, dentil work, blind windows, and classical orders; the wooden, multi-pane, double hung, sash windows with their interior shutters; the balanced, hierarchical interior layout with its ordered progression of spaces; the classical articulation of the major interior spaces, notably the lobby, central staircase, and the legislative chambers with their Palladian double-cube spatial definition; the classically inspired interior decoration, including Adamesque plasterwork, ornamental ironwork, decorative mantels and wood trim; the open landscaping, with a monument to Joseph Howe, a memorial to the South African War, and 19th –century gardens, all enclosed by iron fencing; the continuity of its function as Province House of Nova Scotia.