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City Life

Neighbourhoods: Richmond

In 1917 in Halifax, people could tell a lot about you by where you lived on the Halifax peninsula.

Many upper-class business and professional families lived in the “south end,” the area south of the Citadel. Dalhousie University was in the south end, along with most of the city's hospitals.

The north end was more of a mix of communities--black, white and native, immigrant, itinerant and Canadian, middle-class, working-class, Protestant and Catholic.

One of the newer areas was Richmond. It was almost a separate suburb, beyond the Halifax downtown core. Many of its houses still had barns and vegetable gardens.

Richmond stretched up the slope from the harbourfront to Fort Needham. It included businesses and industries on the shore, working-class apartment buildings and middle-class shops and houses.

Many people lived near their jobs at the dockyards, railyards, the Acadia Sugar Refinery and Hillis and Sons Foundry.


In 1917, as now, Halifax was a transportation hub for Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Seaboard.

Immigration had slowed to a trickle since the beginning of the war, but the immigration sheds at Pier 2 still did steady business as soldiers and sailors headed to and from Europe.

Supplies and people arrived by train at the terminals on North Street and on the harbourfront.

Many people still considered cars a luxury, and the horse and cart were part of everyday life. For those with neither, Halifax had a public tram system. It needed upgrading.

Three ferries plied routes between Halifax and Dartmouth. The "morning rush" was among their busiest times, as people headed to work or for appointments on one side of the harbour or the other.


The twentieth century had brought miracles of modern communication. The telegraph was part of daily life. A message that moved around the world, door to door in mere hours, was still an amazing accomplishment in 1917.

Telephones were catching on. They weren't considered basic appliances. Many businesses had them, but they were still the exception in most homes.

Pier 2

Canadians are familiar with the immigration sheds of Pier 21, where so many families started their lives in Canada. Pier 21 opened for business in the 1920's. More than a million new Canadians passed through its halls.

But Pier 2 welcomed more than twice as many immigrants-- 2.7 million-- from its informal beginnings on Cunard Shipping Company lands in the 1860's. A grand expansion was finished in 1915.

Pier 2 took a heavy beating in the Explosion, but its new concrete walls withstood the blow well enough to continue handling immigration and military traffic for another ten years.

Did you Know

Telegraph: When the telegraph was the
gold standard for high-speed communications, Morse code was the universal language. Its basis is a binary system like today's computer codes; but instead of 0's and 1's it uses dots and dashes. Each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a pattern of dots and dashes. With modern telecommunications, Morse code has fallen into disuse.


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