Halifax (N.S.) City Engineer's Office scrapbooks

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Halifax (N.S.) City Engineer's Office scrapbooks

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  • Textual record

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Reference code

102-39D (Formerly RG 35-102-39)

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  • [ca. 1890] -1928, 1949 (Creation)
    Halifax (N.S.). City Engineer's Office

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Physical description

12 cm of textual records (4 v)

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(1880 - 1996)

Administrative history

The City Engineer's Office was established by 1880 to manage the repair and maintenance of the city’s public works. The office was originally headed by the City Engineer who, according to the City Charter of 1907, had to be a civil engineer with at least seven years of experience. Working under, and reporting to, the Committee on Works, the engineer was responsible for the supervision, construction, maintenance, and repair of city property, including water works, streets, bridges, and sewers. In 1940 the office was headed by a Commissioner of Works and City Engineer, and the department is often referred to as the Works Department. By this time the department is also responsible for public baths; garbage collection and disposal; building, wiring, and plumbing inspections; and renting city properties. The Public Service Commission of Halifax took over responsibility for waterworks in 1945. A 1951 org chart shows a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Works reporting to the Committee on Works, with divisional engineers, grounds, sanitation and street superintendents reporting to them. The Town Planning Engineer and the Building Inspector were administratively part of the Department of Works but reported directly to the Committee and Council. The Department also included Traffic Engineering. By 1964 the department is listed as the Works Department in administrative and committee descriptions and by 1991 as Engineering and Works, led by a Director, Engineering and Works. Despite these changes, the department’s responsibilities remained much the same. The department remained known as Engineering and Works until amalgamation in 1996. The Building Inspector was (and is) a key position within the Works Department. Yet between 1954 and 1957, there was no Building Inspector employed in the department; rather, the Commissioner of Works, George F. West, carried out the building inspection duties during that time (102-39A-1957-01-08, p.177). The Works Department’s lack of a Building Inspector became a pressing issue after the release of Gordon Stephenson’s report, The Redevelopment of the City of Halifax, in August, 1957, which recommended wide-scale demolitions of dilapidated properties around the city (also known as slum clearing). Implementing Stephenson’s plan required the Works Department to increase its staff in order to keep up with the new workload: the Committee on Works meeting minutes from October 8th, 1957, include a petition by Mr. West to hire 4 building inspectors, 1 electrical inspector, 1 stenographer, and 1 supervisor (102-39A-1957-10-08, p.326). While the Committee on Works records do not show how many of these positions were filled and by whom, Works Department photographs (102-39-1) give us some clues as to who worked for the Works Department and when. According to interviews with two former employees of the department, we have learned that it was mainly the Building Inspectors who took photographs, since photographs were used as visual evidence for their reports on the condition of a building or a building code violation. The Building Inspector’s photographs would be submitted to the Committee on Works alongside their report, and the Committee would make the final ruling (demolition, repair, etc.). Building Inspectors would sometimes sign or initial their photos, which is how we have been able to attribute some of the photographs in the series to certain individuals. Based on these signatures or initials, we have deduced that the following men worked for the Works Department around these approximate dates: John Brown: 1950s Alan Rockwell Abraham (signed A. R. A): late 1950s to early 1960s Arthur R. Lacey (signed A. R. L): late 1950s to mid-1960s John Robertson: mid-1960s to late 1970s Maxwell Hardie: late 1960s Lot Cossar: early 1970s Roger Helpard: early 1970s J. Gordon Hunson: early 1970s Hugh MacEachern: early 1970s Roy Thorne: early 1970s (John) Doug Leahy: mid-1970s to early 1980s Warren Horne: early 1980sThere are other initials and signatures on the back of prints that remain a mystery: “CED," “HME," “M. Marcie," and “AR Sherry." Of the inspectors listed above, Alan Abraham, Arthur Lacey, and John Robertson more diligently signed their prints, so we have been able to attribute more photographs to them than the other Building Inspectors.

Custodial history

  • Oldest and newest scrapbooks were transferred to HRM from NSARM in 1997 or 2004.
  • The other two were transferred from Halifax Regional Library to NSARM in 1991, then transferred to HRM Archives in 2011.

Scope and content

Sub-series consists of four scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings, and some photographs. The earliest scrapbooks date from 1892-1912 (D.1), 1895-1899 (D.2) and 1913-1928 (D.3) relate to the city's public works, tenders issued and new equipment, but also have clippings related to municipal politics of the day. The one covering the years 1895-1899 has articles on Provincial Exhibition buildings, public works, elections, etc. Another covering the years 1913-1928 covers an assortment of subjects including: elections, Clean-up Weeks, driving regulations, water reservoir, tenders, Roy Building, incineration, and the Board of Control. It also includes photographs of public works such as the Robie St. Boulevard, the Waste Weir on Bayer's Lake, construction of the High Service Reservoir in 1913, properties near the Low Service watershed, the north pipe hous on Chain Lake, the waste weir and measuring weir on Chain Lake, Bayers Brook measuring weirs in 1914, and of Mrs. Hartlant of Spruce Hill Lake, 1914. A scrapbook titled Snow Blower Investigation(102-39D.4) contains newsclippings from the 1949 County Court probe into accusations of bribery between city officials, especially alderman John E. Lloyd and the Cyclone snow-blower agent John A. West.

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The front cover and spine are missing from the 1913-1928 scrapbook; handle with care

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