A national charity has listed an historic Halifax building as an “endangered place” and wants it saved, but the government says the Dennis Building may be doomed to destruction.
The Dennis Building was built in 1863. The Halifax Herald once operated from it, and until recently dozens of provincial government workers held offices in 1740 Granville Street.
The discovery of high levels of mould shut it down last year.
Internal Services Minister Labi Kousoulis told the group the building "is way far beyond repair" and saving it "at this point is not an option."
Kousoulis says engineering reports dating back ten years found cracks, corrosion, crumbling mortar and walls that could collapse. It also found mould and asbestos.
Heritage Canada The National Trust wants to save the building. Natalie Bull, the group’s executive director, said it's part of what makes Halifax, Halifax.
“It’s a building block for the city’s future,” she said.
It was built by Sir Edward Kenny to house his dry goods company, T&E Kenny. The stone building sits next to Province House Square. It was nearly destroyed in a 1912 fire, but was saved. In fact, three stories were added in the renovation.
“The quiet elegance, the classically inspired architecture and the great location” earned it the nickname of eastern Canada’s finest office building, Bull said, but poor maintenance led to its decline.
“It’s been badly treated. I would say neglected,” she said.
“Most of the studies we’ve seen don’t condemn this building. They certainly do very clearly say it’s been suffering from neglect and a lack of maintenance.”
Her group wrote to Premier Stephen McNeil. Bull asked the premier to clarify the condition of the building and bring in professionals to assess how the building could be preserved. The trust also wants the government to seek developers for the property.
Save the façade?
The government told her it has not reached a decision on the building’s future. It told CBC it could preserve the façade, but create a new interior.
Bull said her group is open to that sort of idea.
“Great cities are destroyed through death by a thousand cuts. Halifax has had a lot of high-profile losses,” she said.
“Heritage and development are not mutually exclusive. Innovative and creative developers really see the potential of buildings like the Dennis Building.”