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Heritage advisory committee meeting reveals ironic history of the Halifax Alehouse

The building’s unexpected history will be preserved if it becomes a heritage property

3 min read
caption Halifax Alehouse was once a citadel for The Salvation Army.
Nick Cantar

A popular Halifax bar with an ironic past is being considered as a heritage property.

1717 Brunswick St., now home to the Halifax Alehouse, used to house an organization that preached sobriety between 1895 and 1961.

Its paradoxical past came to light as the city’s heritage advisory committee evaluated the building’s potential for heritage status.

“It was the original Salvation Army Citadel,” said Luke Stock, a member of the heritage advisory committee, in an interview. “It was built there as part of the reform movement, which was a religiously inspired cleanup attempt.”

caption A window at the Alehouse.
Nick Cantar

The Mackenzie Temperance Club of Halifax, which did similar work as The Salvation Army, occupied a different building at the corner of Prince and Brunswick streets from 1878 to 1893. The Salvation Army moved into the building a year before it was demolished in 1893. Construction began on The Salvation Army Citadel in 1893 and ended in 1895.

The red brick architecture was chosen to influence the behaviour of those who lived around Brunswick Street.

“There was an effort to raise the profile of the area by building significant, prominent brick buildings so that it would discourage certain nefarious activities that were prominent in the area,” said heritage planner Seamus McGreal at the committee meeting.

The area around Brunswick Street was known for drunkenness, prostitution, and violence as early as 1812. The Salvation Army tried to move people away from these activities.

“A lot of this was focused around educational programs, providing lectures and meetings,” said Stock. “Sometimes they had libraries and it was all about promoting higher pursuits of learning and education.”

The Salvation Army occupied the building until 1961 before moving to a new temple on Barrington Street. Halifax Alehouse has occupied the space since 1998, so 1717 Brunswick St., a building built for preaching sobriety, became a bar.

caption Halifax Alehouse interior.
Nick Cantar

“There’s a certain irony in how it came full circle,” said Stock.

The committee evaluates a building’s potential for heritage status based on criteria like age or the building’s relationship to the surrounding area. If a property scores 50 points or more, the committee recommends the property for the heritage registry. 1717 Brunswick St. scored 77 points at the meeting.

The heritage advisory committee will recommend that Halifax regional council set a date to register the building as a heritage property.

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About the author

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar is a journalist for The Signal. He is curious about all kinds of stories. When not working, Nick enjoys being outdoors.

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