Nova Scotia

Suspicious fire breaks out in Halifax Public Gardens for second time in under a year

Halifax Regional Police say they responded to a fire late Monday at the Horticultural Hall, which was built in 1847.

Incident follows last year's suspected arson and tree vandalism

The horticultural hall at the Halifax Public Gardens is seen here. The door is charred black from the remnants of a fire. A pond and gazebo can be seen in the foreground.
Fire crews and Halifax Regional Police responded to a fire at the Horticultural Hall in the Halifax Public Gardens on Monday evening. (Paul Palmater/CBC)

For the second time in under a year, a suspicious fire has broken out inside a historic building at the Halifax Public Gardens.

In a news release, Halifax Regional Police said officers and firefighters responded to the blaze at the Horticultural Hall — built in 1847 and previously home to an Uncommon Grounds coffee shop — at around 11 p.m. on Monday.

The fire was put out and there were no reported injuries, but police said the fire is suspicious. 

It comes in the wake of an axe attack that badly damaged 32 trees in the gardens last July, and a fire in the same building last September that police described as a suspected arson.

After the first fire, the Friends of the Public Gardens offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

To date, no one has been arrested for either fire.

Halifax Regional Police are asking anyone with information or video about Monday's fire to call them directly or contact Crime Stoppers. 

In a statement, the City of Halifax said renovations to the building had recently been completed. Staff were still assessing damage to the building but they believe it's minimal.

A woman with short grey hair wearing a black leather jacket stands in front of a burnt house-like structure.
Judith Cabrita is a chairperson with Friends of the Public Gardens. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A timeline for reopening and the cost of repairs remain to be determined.

'This is a tragedy'

Judith Cabrita, chair of Friends of the Public Gardens, said another board member called to tell her about the fire. She was at the gardens to see the damage for herself on Tuesday. 

"This is a tragedy. Why would somebody do anything to the gardens where everybody comes for peace and solitude and to enjoy the beauty of this Victorian park?" Cabrita said.

She believes the main entrance needs to be repaired before anyone can go inside and she's hoping it can be restored. She said the building had just been repaired.

A black camera nestled in a tree.
Friends of the Halifax Public Gardens hope security cameras captured video of the person behind the fire. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Cabrita said there are cameras in the park and she's hoping the footage will help police with their investigation into the latest fire.

"Maybe we need 24-hour security in the gardens, maybe that's what it'll have to come to," Cabrita said.

Carolyn Sinyard, a park goer, said she was shocked  to see damage to the building.

"It kind of saddens me because it's such a beautiful place to be.... I've lived here all my life and this is a centre spot we go to all the time and for people to vandalize it like they have been in the last couple of years is disturbing," Sinyard said.

A burnt building.
A closer look at the damage at the Halifax Public Gardens. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

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