Halifax (N.S.). Committee on Works records

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Halifax (N.S.). Committee on Works records

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material

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Reference code

102-39 (Formerly filed as RG 35-102-39)

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  • 1880-1995 (Creation)
    Halifax (N.S.). Committee on Works

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Physical description

559 cm of textual records
180 cm of photographs (a. 6000 photographs and negatives : b&w, col.)

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Biographical history

The Committee on Works was established in 1872 as the Board of Commissioners of City Works, consisting of 6 aldermen. It replaced the Commission of Water Supply, Commission of Streets, the Internal Health Committee, and the Committee of City Property. By 1907 the Board was renamed the Committee on City Works and consisted of the mayor, acting as chairman, and two aldermen. The committee was responsible for the City’s works and property, including sewers, streets, bridges, and water works. The City Engineer worked under the committee to supervise the repair and maintenance of public works. By 1931 the committee was referred to as the Committee on Works and consisted of the mayor, acting as chairman, and an alderman from each ward. The committee changed again in 1940 when it took over the responsibilities of the Camp Hill Cemetery Committee and the Committee on Public Parks, Gardens, and Common and so began to oversee the management of Camp Hill Cemetery, the Halifax Commons, the Public Gardens, and other city parks, except for Point Pleasant Park. The committee now consisted of six aldermen with the mayor as chairman. The Public Service Commission of Halifax took over responsibility for waterworks in 1945. By 1964 the committee was expanded to include the mayor and seven aldermen, and by 1994 to include the mayor and twelve aldermen. The committee was active until amalgamation in 1996.

Name of creator

(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

Scope and content

Series consists of documents created by the Committee on Works and its predecessor bodies, as well as records created and/or maintained and used by the City Engineer's Office. Series includes meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, photographs, maps and plans, and legal agreements.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Most records in this series were transferred from NSARM and the Municipal Clerk's Office. See lower level descriptions for details.


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      Indexes are available for some sub-series. See lower level descriptions for details.

      Associated materials

      For earlier records related to the maintenance of streets in Halifax, see also 102-89, the Commissioners of Streets Minutes series.

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