City Hall, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax City Hall, seen from the Grand Parade around 1899. Image from Souvenir, One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary, City of Halifax (1899).


The building in 2016:

As mentioned in the previous post, Halifax is the largest city in Canada’s Maritime provinces, and has had close ties to New England over the years. The heart of downtown Halifax has long centered around the Grand Parade here, a city square located between Barrington and Argyle Streets. On the south side of the square is St. Paul’s Church, the oldest building in the city, and on the north side is City Hall, seen here. It was completed in 1890, with an architectural design that is based on the Second Empire style, which had been particularly popular a couple of decades earlier.

The building sustained some damage in the 1917 Halifax Explosion, but unlike the northern part of the city, the downtown area was largely spared serious damage. Today, the building remains essentially the same as it did in the 1890s view, and is listed as a National Historic Site of Canada. Its jurisdiction has significantly expanded over the years, though, In 1996, all of the existing cities and towns in Halifax County were consolidated into the Halifax Regional Municipality. This essentially extended the Halifax city limits to include over 2,100 square miles of land, more than double the land area of Rhode Island, but the old City Hall remains in use as the seat of the municipal government, over 125 years after its completion.

View from Citadel Hill, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The view looking east toward downtown Halifax from Citadel Hill, around 1900-1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The view in 2016L

It isn’t in New England, or even in the United States, but Halifax has long had close ties with New England, especially Boston. It is the closest major North American port to Europe, and as such it is the last stop for outgoing ships from Boston, and the first for incoming ships. This scene here shows part of the city’s massive harbor, which has been of strategic importance over the years. After the British occupation of Boston ended in 1776, their fleet took refuge here in Halifax while preparing for an assault on New York City, and many years later the harbor was used as a gathering place for eastbound Atlantic convoys in both world wars.

Through all of this, the strategically-valuable harbor has been protected by Fort George, a series of fortifications atop Citadel Hill. The hill stands just west of downtown Halifax, offering sweeping views of the city and harbor, and making it the ideal location for a fort to command the harbor and its approaches. The photos here were taken near the top of the hill, near the outer walls of the fort. On the left is one of Halifax’s oldest landmarks, the Town Clock, which was built at the foot of the hill. It faces down Carmichael Street, which leads to the Grand Parade three blocks down the hill, where City Hall and St. Paul’s Anglican Church are located.

The date of the first photo is somewhat unclear, but it was taken sometime soon before 1917, when Halifax experienced one of the deadliest disasters in history. Known as the Halifax Explosion, it occurred on December 6, 1917, when the harbor was filled with ships heading to and from Europe during World War I. Two such ships were the Norwegian SS Imo, which collided with French ammunition ship SS Mont-Blanc. The latter caught fire, and after about 20 minutes its cargo of high explosives detonated.

The Mont-Blanc was essentially vaporized, and the blast wave leveled much of the northern part of the city, to the left and out of view in the photos here. A few earlier posts, here and here, show scenes from the aftermath of the explosion, which killed nearly 2,000 people, injured around 9,000 others, and damaged or destroyed around 12,000 houses. The main commercial center of Halifax, seen in this view from Citadel Hill, escaped serious damage. Essentially every window in the city was shattered by the explosion, but most of the buildings in the first photo would have survived the disaster.

Despite being spared from serious damage, there is very little that is still recognizable from the first photo a century later. There are a number of 19th century buildings scattered throughout this section of the city, but the only one that is readily visible in both photos is the clock tower itself, which remains a prominent city landmark.

Today, Halifax remains an important port. It is the largest city in Canada’s Maritime provinces, and its downtown has been built up with skyscrapers, partially obscuring the view of the harbor from Citadel Hill. The shoreline across the harbor in Dartmouth has also changed dramatically in the past 100 years. In 1911, the community had a population of just over 5,000, but today it has over 67,000 people, and is a major suburb of Halifax as well as a commercial center in its own right.

Lost New England Goes West: Santa Monica, California (2)

Another view looking north from the pier in Santa Monica, around 1910-1930. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries and the California Historical Society.

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The view in 2015:

Like the view in the previous post, these two photos show some of the changes that have happened along the beach in Santa Monica over the years. The most prominent building in the first photo here is the Windermere Hotel, visible in the upper center of the photo. It was built in 1909 and was demolished in 1962 to build Pacific Plaza, the tall apartment building that stands on the site today. Just to the left of it in the 2015 view is the Georgian Hotel, which was built in 1933 by the owners of the Windermere, probably only a few years after the first photo was taken.

This post is the last in a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Santa Monica, California (1)

Looking north from the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, around 1905. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries and the California Historical Society.

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The view in 2015:

These views shows Santa Monica looking north from the pier along the Palisades, the steep cliffs separating the city from the beach below. When the first photo was taken over a century ago, Santa Monica had already become a popular beach resort.. At the time, the area above the Palisades was still sparsely developed, but there were number of amenities along the beach, including a bath house that offered visitors the option of swimming in a heated indoor pool rather than the relatively cool ocean. The beach was crowded on this particular day in 1905, with the attire of the visitors reflecting the styles of the time, including men in dark suits and straw hats, women in long white dresses, and swimmers dressed in nearly full-body bathing suits.

Today, not much is left from the original photo except for the Palisades. Even the beach itself has been extensively altered and widened, and a large parking lot now sits on this spot. In the distance, hidden from view, the Pacific Coast Highway now runs along the bottom of the Palisades, beneath the modern hotels and condominium buildings that now line Ocean Avenue on the top of the cliffs.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Venice, California

Looking east on Windward Avenue in Venice, around 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

Venice was founded in 1905 as a beach resort town just west of Los Angeles. Its developer, tobacco company owner Abbott Kinney, envisioned it as the “Venice of America,” complete with canals, gondolas, and Venetian-style architecture. Among the architectural features in the first photo are the arcades, or arches, along all of the buildings here on Windward Avenue. The building on the left at the corner is the Hotel St. Mark, which was built in 1905, and beyond it are a number of other matching buildings. On the right side, many of the buildings are not yet completed, with a row of columns marking where arches would eventually be built.

When the first photo was taken, Venice had already become a popular tourist destination. The white sign in front of the hotel advertises some of the city’s attractions, including the aquarium on the pier (admission 10 cents), the scenic railway, gondolas and boats on the canals, and the Venice Plunge, which was a heated indoor salt-water pool on one of the piers.

The city was successful in attracting tourists, but politically it was unable to support itself, so in 1926 the residents voted to be annexed by Los Angeles. This brought some major changes, which included filling in most of the canals and building roads on top of them. Venice’s decline continued during and after the Great Depression, and by the 1950s it was in serious decay. The piers were demolished by the 1960s, as were many of the historic buildings here along Windward Avenue and elsewhere in Venice.

Today, Venice is known for its unique countercultural aspects, including artists, street performers, and an inordinate number of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. A number of small shops now occupy the space where the Hotel St. Mark once stood, but a few of the buildings from the first photo still remain, including the one in the center of the photo and another further down Windward Avenue. Over the years, Venice has been used as a filming location for many movies and television shows, several of which feature this particular view here. The opening scene of Orson Welles’s 1958 film Touch of Evil shows the St. Mark a few years before its demolition, and a 2003 episode of Gilmore Girls includes several scenes from this section of Windward Avenue.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Farmers Market, Los Angeles

The Farmers Market at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, around 1953. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries and the California Historical Society.

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The view in 2015:

The Farmers Market in Los Angeles opened in 1934, and since then it has become a major landmark in the city. Originally, it consisted of a few farmers who parked their trucks here on the property and sold produce, but over the years it grew into a permanent facility as seen in these two photos. The property was owned by Earl Gilmore, the son of Los Angeles oil magnate Arthur F. Gilmore, who also built the nearby Gilmore Stadium and Gilmore Field in the 1930s. The light towers of Gilmore Field can be seen in the distance on the left side of the first photo; it was home to the Hollywood Stars minor league baseball team from 1939 until 1957, and was demolished in 1958 after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and brought Major League Baseball to the West Coast.

Because of its proximity to Hollywood, the Farmers Market has attracted its share of celebrities. Around the time that the first photo was taken, stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner as well as Dwight D. Eisenhower all made appearances here, and this trend has continued over the years. Today, the market’s exterior appearance has not changed significantly since the first photo. With a variety of restaurants and other vendors, it is a popular tourist destination, and is in many ways comparable to the much older Quincy Market in Boston.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.