There’s More to Halifax Than What We Saw

Halifax is the largest city in maritime Canada. It boasts five universities, a gorgeous public garden, an art gallery featuring a permanent exhibition of brilliant folk artist Maud Lewis (including her tiny house!), a museum of natural science, a maritime museum, and a star-shaped 19th-Century fort. We saw none of these things.

Instead, we had three hours before meeting auld acquaintances of E.g.’s for supper. If I’d researched the city beforehand, we would’ve made a bee line for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Next time.

We had planned to visit the Citadel, but I was out of sorts that day and couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm for it.

Anyway, here’s what we did see: two ugly buildings and two nifty ships.

This is Saint Paul’s Anglican Church, built in 1750, the province’s cathedral and the Citadel’s garrison church for a century or so. When it was built, apparently mullioned windows and pagodas were the height of architectural fashion.

The soldiers at the Citadel next door and the sailors at the wharf two blocks down could none of them remember to get up in time for church, so in 1803 they were punished by the sight of an even uglier clock tower, with matching pagoda in case they forgot which church they were to attend:

Even those Mounties, goose-stepping over to Sobeys for a litre of milk, can’t deny that that’s one silly building. On the other hand, congratulations are in order for the fact that the 200-year-old clockworks, including quarter-hourly chimes, still functions.

It took over another century before prelates and politicos realized that honey might catch more flies than vinegar, and they installed this lovely pair of Pre-Raphaelitesque windows:

Now, even a simple cabin boy might appreciate a moment in church.

Never mind; let’s head for the wharf.

Although the Maritime Museum is closed Mondays, it has two ships that may be visited daily. One of them is sparkly white and baby blue. Take a gander at its dinghies:

Wouldn’t you love to take one out for a splash on a calm lake?  Or, if you’re in another frame of mind, you could dispatch an annoying co-worker with this:

“Sorry, boss, looks like my paperweight went off again.”

These bits belong to the HMCS Sackville, a corvette whose job was to rid the Atlantic of enemy u-boats. Here is a mural of the most famous of all WWII sailors, sweeping up the subs. Around the corner is another painting of a muscled arm taking out the garbage; the bag is not very strong, and bits of u-boats are poking out of it:

And here’s a shot of the full ship, gun, Donald, dinghies and all:

The other vessel I’ll include here is a little older. The CSS Acadia was built in 1913. It was a hydrographic ship, charting the waters around the Maritimes and up to the Arctic until 1969. Cartographer Samuel de Champlain, who sounded much of the Bay of Fundy and founded Quebec City, would have loved working on this ship.

I love it for its horn section:

15 Responses to There’s More to Halifax Than What We Saw

  1. Shelley says:

    If I had known you wanted to tour naval yards I probably could have gotten you a private tour :). And you could have had a Cardi fix and visited Cai’s mom at the same time. My son lives in Halifax!

  2. eyegillian says:

    Snarky and hilarious. You go, turtle!

  3. lavenderbay says:

    I’d forgotten your son was stationed down here, Shelley. I took lots of pictures of various vessels — everything from a container ship to Theodore Tugboat. Halifax Harbour is great!
    As for the Cardi fix, a week away from each other made for much renewed bonding; both dogs crawled onto my lap in the back seat and wouldn’t leave it for the hour-long trip home!

    Thanks, Eyegillian! I hope Haligonians take the iconoclasm in stride.

  4. after reading this wonderfully written, super humorous and insightful article, I have decided that when I take over the world/become insanely famous, I will hire you to narrate my days.

  5. pennycat says:

    Excellent post!

  6. Alyson says:

    Those buildings would look alot better with lovely vines enveloping them…that last ship looks lovely, are you glad you stayed away from the citadel?

  7. lavenderbay says:

    Stephanie, you’re making me blush! But sure, I’m not one to turn down a ride on the coattails of world domination/insane fame. Deal!

    Thanks, Pennycat! I haven’t written that well for a while now.

    I agree, Alyson, some nice thick, sturdy vine that eats wood… The Citadel is probably worth it, but on that particular day our admission money was better spent on beer and fridge magnets.

  8. That’s a fascinating church, so ‘ancient’ by Canadian standards. Beautiful stained glass. I wonder if the church design was influenced by St. Martin-in-the-Field, in London, which was built in the early 1720s. This would have been a very grand building indeed for the colony backwaters.

  9. Jayne says:

    Loving these photos, those boats are brilliant.
    I must confess I like those buildings lol.

  10. lavenderbay says:

    Good eye, Barefootheart! According to the national plaque, St Paul’s was influenced by another early 1720s church, St Peter’s, Vere Street, London. James Gibbs was St Peter’s architect. What I do find cool about St Paul’s is a) it’s wood, and b) it’s pre-fab! Many of the foundation timbers were precut and shipped up from Boston.

    I’m glad you like the pix, Jayne, even the ugly ones. 😛 Shear the pagoda off the church and put two or three more storeys under the clock tower, and I might like those buildings too!

  11. S. Le says:

    Who chose the color for that ship? I love the “horn section” as well!

    That second building is v cool! It looks like they took a small shack and built a grand rotunda atop it!

  12. Do the people who run that church know an ugly alien rocket ship landed on the roof? I like all the bright colors on the ship!

  13. lavenderbay says:

    I’m not sure who painted the corvette, S. Le, but I think the colour choice was to reflect the flag of Nova Scotia, which is an inverse saltire of Scotland (i.e. Nova Scotia’s is a blue saltire on a white background) plus a centred escutcheon which I won’t bother describing here. As to the light shade of blue, apparently Scotland didn’t appoint an official blue shade (Pantone 300) until 2003, so there was considerable leeway in tints.
    I think that’s the clock tower’s major problem too, an odd lack of proportion. I can imagine what the neighbours might say to a fifteen-foot-high Italian marble fountain on my wee front lawn…

    You’re right, James, it was remiss of me not to notify the sexton. Did Erich von Daniken cover the possibility of pagodas as tributes to space visitors?
    The HMCS Sackville presents a happy sight in a foggy harbour.

  14. starlaschat says:

    Lots of great pictures looks like a fun Adventure.

  15. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Starla! A holiday isn’t complete without Donald Duck, is it? 😀

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