Nova Scotia Archives

'An East Coast Port'

Halifax in Wartime, 1939-1945


Halifax on the Eve of War

In the years leading up to 1939, Halifax hung on as a gritty little seaport city, somewhat oddly perched between the old and the new. The virtual exhibit presented here shows the city's modest urban fabric and its equally modest local services as they appeared just before World War II. Halifax had its Victorian parks and green spaces, a few rather impressive public buildings, its big new hotels, the show-place Capitol Theatre, and a veneer of progress. But the city had never really recovered economically from either the departure of the British forces after 1906 or the Great Depression years of the 1930s.

The overhead transit of the German airship Hindenburg in July 1936 and the Queen Hotel fire in March 1939 were ominous indicators of what might lie ahead for the city. As Bill Naftel notes in his article elsewhere on this website, "By 1939 Halifax was tired, faded and perhaps in search of a new identity." It was soon going to get one.

Meanwhile, for just a few days in June 1939, this little world on the periphery of Atlantic Canada shimmered like a mirage.... before disappearing forever. The Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Canada and the United States that spring lifted the entire country into temporary euphoria. Halifax was their next-to-final stop, and as the gleaming white Empress of Britain sailed away in summer sunshine, carrying the King and Queen onward to Newfoundland and home, thousands waved and sang goodbye along the shoreline. It was the last hurrah.

'The hopes and aspirations of the past have been recorded while the sun has set and twilight has gathered; but the ghostly projections of the future have become shrouded in darkness.' — D.C. Harvey, 'From the Citadel,' 1937

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From Prince Street to Cogswell and Cunard Streets 
Date: 1934
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Information Service Nova Scotia Archives NSIS no. 466

Halifax on the Eve of War

Aerial View of Citadel Hill Looking East Towards Halifax Harbour 
Date: 1942
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Information Service Nova Scotia Archives NSIS no. 465

Halifax on the Eve of War

Almon Street Looking East From Robie Street 
Reference no.: anonymous collection Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1992-411 E-2

Halifax on the Eve of War

Almon Street Looking East Towards Gottingen Street 
Reference no.: anonymous collection Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1992-411 E-4

Halifax on the Eve of War

Windsor Street Looking North From Willow Street 
Date: 1932
Reference no.: anonymous collection Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1992-411 E-9

Halifax on the Eve of War

Barrington Street, near the intersection of Blowers Street 
Reference no.: Robert Norwood Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1987-481 no. 289-93

Halifax on the Eve of War

Birney Tramcars on Barrington Street 
Date: 1933
Reference no.: W.R. MacAskill Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1987-453 no. 4230

Halifax on the Eve of War

Queen Street looking Towards Spring Garden Road and First Baptist Church 
Date: 29 March 1939
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection Places: Halifax: Streets

Halifax on the Eve of War

Probable Birthplace of Sir John S.D. Thompson, Prime Minister of Canada 
Date: 17 October 1933
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection Places: Halifax: Houses

Halifax on the Eve of War

William Caldwell House, Corner of Robie Street and Jubilee Road 
Date: 1930
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives Photo Collection Places: Halifax: Houses: No. 6676

Halifax on the Eve of War

Halifax City Hall 
Reference no.: Halifax School for the Blind Nova Scotia Archives Album 83, page 9, photo 1

Halifax on the Eve of War

The Cenotaph (Halifax Grand Parade) 
Reference no.: Halifax School for the Blind Nova Scotia Archives Album 83, page 9, photo 2

Halifax on the Eve of War

View Looking up George Street Halifax, 
Date: ca. 1938
Reference no.: Halifax School for the Blind Nova Scotia Archives Album 83, page 9, photo 3

Halifax on the Eve of War

Province House, Halifax 
Reference no.: Halifax School for the Blind Nova Scotia Archives Album 83, page 10, photo 1

Halifax on the Eve of War

A View of Barrington Street near intersection of Prince Street 
Reference no.: Halifax School for the Blind Nova Scotia Archives Album 83, page 10, photo 2

Halifax on the Eve of War
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