CBC Digital Archives

Halifax today

On Dec. 6, 1917, a collision in Halifax Harbour led to the biggest man-made explosion in the world before the era of the atomic bomb. The blast levelled most of the city and sent shards of glass and burning debris flying for miles. It left thousands dead, blinded or homeless. Although the explosion occurred before the creation of the CBC, the Canadian radio and TV network has retold the story throughout the years to ensure that this crucial event in Canadian history is not forgotten.

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Building new homes for the thousands left homeless becomes a major priority for the Halifax Relief Commission. Thomas Adams, a town planner, and architect George Ross come up with an innovative housing project. Since survivors are reluctant to move into wooden homes, having seen their homes reduced to matchsticks and piles of ashes, Ross comes up with a revolutionary fireproof material as shown in this CBC Television clip.

Blocks of compressed cement called Hydrostone are used to build the new homes. Construction begins in 1918 and is completed in 1921. Over 300 homes are built. This unique community is simply known as the Hydrostone. The Hydrostone development project continues to be hailed as a great example of early urban development. 
. Hydrostone is the commercial name of the grey blocks made from compressing gravel, crushed stone, sand and cement.
. The Hydrostone development constituted the first public housing and town planning project in Canadian history.
. With its access to green open spaces and individually designed homes, the original Hydrostone houses remain among the more attractive and desirable residences in Halifax.
Medium: Television
Program: 1st Edition
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 1998
Guest(s): Mary Jo Anderson, Peter Henry, Jean Hunter, Janet Kitz, Anne Welsh
Reporter: Darryl Gray
Duration: 9:53

Last updated: March 12, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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