Nova Scotia

Philip Pacey, Halifax heritage advocate, dies at 75

A well-known advocate who campaigned for the preservation of many heritage buildings in Halifax has died.

'Laid back and easy going' chemistry professor used his personal time to fight for historic buildings

Phil Pacey was the former president of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. (CBC)

A well-known advocate who campaigned for the preservation of many heritage buildings in Halifax has died. 

Philip Pacey, the former president of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, died Thursday in hospital. 

"For Phil, heritage preservation was a big part of who he was," said Joe Ballard, the president of the heritage trust. "It was his identity, to a large extent, and also that of his wife Elizabeth.

"So they took on a lot of the concerns of the heritage community, and they worked at it. It was what they did when they were working, it's what they did in their spare time. It's going to leave a huge hole."

Last public talk scheduled for last week

Pacey, 75, had been in good health and regularly gave public talks on heritage and architectural themes. He was most recently scheduled to give a talk on Oct. 13 about "Critical Heritage Issues in Halifax in 2016," but that talk was cancelled after he felt unwell. It was later discovered that the cause was a heart attack. 

Pacey retired from teaching in the Dalhousie University chemistry department in 2007. He was a regular at city council meetings, where he staunchly gave councillors his opinions on topics like viewplanes and municipal planning strategy. 

Ballard thinks Pacey's interest in topics some might find dry was driven by a deep appreciation for the built environment of Halifax. 

"He recognized that as a big part of our culture," Ballard said. "Not everybody sees that, and not everybody sees the value in it.

"Because it's something you see every day and it's so common to you, but of course you know, when it's gone, a lot of times you miss it. Phil recognized that this is a visible expression of our culture here in Nova Scotia, and in Canada, and that makes it important."

Preservation campaigns

In recent years Pacey campaigned to preserve many buildings, including the Dennis Building on the corner of Granville and George Street, the now-demolished Sweet Basil building across from the Historic Properties, and the Khyber Building on Barrington. 

He also was part of the group which opposed the Nova Centre, arguing the design was too big to suit the downtown area.  

Peter Delefes, a past president of the Heritage Trust, worked closely with Pacey. 

"He was dogged in his persistence and his research," said Delefes of his friend. Delefes credits Pacey with helping to preserve Morris House, a heritage house that was moved through the streets of Halifax to the north end. The house is destined to become youth housing.

'He will leave quite a legacy'

"It was largely through his efforts that that building was saved. He was determined that we were going to save it, because that building was going to be demolished within about a two-week period." 

Ballard noted that Pacey was concerned about the recent development boom in Halifax, right until the end of his life. 

"He was certainly saddened by that," Ballard said. "He took so much of that on, I think, personally. But it was his nature to be at the same time, quite laid back and quite easygoing. So it's really hard to say how much he took down on his shoulders.

"But he was very much someone who fought for our heritage culture and he will leave quite a legacy. He was a giant in the field."

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Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: