The British Army garrisoned Halifax with artillery, engineer and infantry troops, various support elements and staff from 1749, when the city was founded until 1906, when Britain withdrew its forces from Canada. The soldiers were accommodated in the different fortifications scattered throughout the Halifax Defence Complex, as well as in a number of purpose-built barracks. Until the end of the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 there were normally three infantry regiments stationed in Halifax, reducing to two until the 1880s, and just one from that point until 1906. A tour of duty ranged from one to five years, with the average length being two and one-half years.
Once such barrack complex was constructed on the northern slope of Citadel Hill. At its peak, during the late 19th century, the barracks and supporting buildings covered an area of 15 acres (over 6 hectares) bounded by today’s Gottingen Street, Portland Place, Brunswick Street and Rainnie Drive. The complex included barracks for both married and single soldiers and officers, a hospital, a chapel, a gymnasium and a cluster of workshops and offices used by the Royal Engineers. Today only a small row of former married quarters remains from this vast military support facility that stood in the heart of Halifax.
The New Barracks were the first buildings constructed on the north slope of the Citadel, in 1759. They stood just below the stockade Fort Luttrell (see Early Town Defences) near the southwest corner of Brunswick and Cogswell Streets. The two buildings were each 2½ stories high, 200 feet long by 35 feet deep, oriented north-south and faced each other across a 165 foot wide parade square. Of wood construction, they had hipped roofs, dormers to the attic and each consisted of 5 porches and 5 bays. Together they accommodated 1,168 men and became commonly known as the Red Barracks from the colour they were painted. The site is today occupied by the Hampton Inn, Statistics Canada offices and various other buildings between the Halifax Police Station and Brunswick Street.
In 1800 under the direction of Prince Edward two new buildings were added to the Red Barracks to accommodate an additional 699 men, plus 37 officers and a Field Officer. These buildings (named North Barracks) were oriented east-west at the northern and southern ends of the parade square, effectively closing it in. Also wooden, they stood 4½ stories high, 200 feet long and 25 feet deep and had lower and upper verandahs on the inner sides, facing the parade square.
Prince Edward himself, commander-in-chief of British Forces in the Maritime Provinces had a large town house residence built in 1794 on the northeast slope of the Citadel, about where the car park at the southern end of the Halifax Police Station now stands. The house had a wide portico and Corinthian columns on its west front and a large garden on the north side; it measured 95 feet long by 35 feet deep. After the Prince’s return to England in 1800 the house was converted to a military general hospital for 120 patients from 1806 and it was destroyed by fire in 1866. It also served as a naval hospital from 1819 when first naval hospital in the dockyard burned down.
The next building in the complex to be constructed was the Garrison Chapel between 1844 and 1846. Until that time troops attended religious service in various churches around Halifax, principally at St. Paul’s and St. George’s, and in a leased building between 1830 and 1837. The Garrison Chapel was a large, imposing structure set back from the northwest corner of Brunswick and Cogswell Streets, just behind where the Staples office supplies store stands today. Built of wood, it was about 100 feet by 60 feet, designed in a classic style with a recessed portico beneath the pediment on its east front, and flanked by large, fluted Doric columns. Opened for service on 18 June 1847, it could accommodate 724 persons. On the departure of British troops in 1906 the Garrison Chapel was sold to the Trinity Church Corporation; it was totally destroyed by fire on 5 March 1928, along with the many military memorial tablets it contained.
Another period of military facilities’ renewal took place during the 1850s and 1860s, corresponding with the Crimean War (1853-56) and the American Civil War (1861-65). Glacis Barracks was constructed immediately west of Red/ North Barracks, with No. 1 Block, lying north-south, built between 1858 and 1866; and No. 2 Block, lying east-west built in 1867/68. When the military hospital that had been Prince Edward’s residence burned in 1866 an emergency infirmary was set up in No. 1 Block, with No. 2 block then being built on the site of the former hospital. Both blocks, of battened wood, stood 2½ stories high and were 150 feet long by 30 feet deep.
Next the Red/ North Barracks, which had become decrepit by the mid-nineteenth century, were replaced with the Pavilion Barracks. These were to be for married soldiers and their families. Initially three detached blocks (A, B and C) were built between 1867 and 1870, around a central parade square that also had a small wash house on its south side. A small fourth block (D) was added at the northeast corner in 1874, and a small fifth block (E) extended the southern end of the eastern block (C) in 1876, along with an infants’ school. Wooden, with brick partitions to guard against fire, the Pavilion Barracks stood 2½ stories high and had upper and lower verandahs on the sides facing the parade square. Again, today the site lies between the Halifax Police Station and Brunswick Street, and includes the Hampton Inn, Statistics Canada offices and various other offices and residences.
With the destruction of the old military hospital by fire in 1866, a new Garrison or Station Hospital was constructed between 1867 and 1870. This was located on the eastern side of Gottingen Street between Cogswell Street and Portland Place; a 2½ story, 350 foot long stucco-covered brick building, 30 feet deep with a hipped roof. The large site is today occupied by the Staples car park, the Propeller Brewery, Seven Bays Bouldering and the Seahorse Tavern/ Marquee Ballroom. The hospital last served, appropriately as offices for the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs in 1946/47 before being demolished the following year to make room for an apartment building.
Other military facilities in this area included a Royal Engineers Yard and Workshop, a gymnasium and a fives (racquetball) court on the southeast corner of Cogswell and Gottingen Streets, where the northern part of the Halifax Police Station now stands. This area had earlier accommodated the headquarters office, coach house, stables and harness room for Prince Edward during his time in Halifax 1794-1800.
The last building constructed was the Gothic Revival-style Churchfield Barracks in 1902/03, a small red brick row of 12 married soldiers residences on Brunswick Street south of Portland Place, near the Garrison Chapel (hence the name). The building has a steeply pitched roof, Gothic gable dormers, sandstone window sills and matching enclosed porches. Also known as the Twelve Apostles, this is the only remaining structure of the vast North Barracks military complex still standing. Churchfield Barracks was recognized as a Halifax Heritage Site in 1982 and is unique in Nova Scotia.