A black and white photo of a three storey home with dark paint and white trim. There are steps leading to the front door and a yard out front. A person is standing near a flag pole in the yard.
The Home for Colored Children, in 1921. Photo: NS Archives

A committee of council is recommending heritage registration for the former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

At a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the Heritage Advisory Committee considered the application from Akoma Holdings for the former home at 18 Wilfred Jackson Way in Westphal.

The proposed heritage registration is part of Akoma’s redevelopment plan for the land surrounding the former home, for which Halifax regional council approved bylaw amendments last May. Akoma also received $2.7 million in federal funding through the Rapid Housing Initiative for eight affordable modular housing units.

The old home opened in 1921 to house and school Black children who weren’t welcome in white orphanages. In the 1990s, former residents launched a lawsuit over decades of physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the old home. The lawsuit was settled, and in 2014, then Premier Stephen McNeil apologized to former residents of the home and later launched a public inquiry, with the final report tabled in 2019.

Devon Parris, African Nova Scotia Cultural Heritage intern with HRM, acknowledged the “complicated” history of the building in his report and presentation to the committee on Wednesday.

“Though it has challenging history, the former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children’s positive and negative chapters are intimately related to the African Nova Scotian experience in the 20th century,” Parris said.

It wasn’t the first time it came to the heritage committee. In 1998, the former director of the home applied for heritage registration. The committee voted in favour, but council declined to schedule a heritage hearing, citing the building deteriorating condition.

It’s since been renovated, and the municipality used different criteria to consider the application this time, as a heritage site, not a heritage property.

Scoring the property 64 points out of a possible 70, the committee recommended Halifax regional council schedule a heritage hearing and include the property in the municipal registry.

The committee also voted during Wednesday’s meeting to recommend council designate two other properties:

  • 2287 Brunswick Street, owned by Brunswick Street Developments Inc. (Adam Barrett) — the committee awarded the property 62 points out of 100, moving it forward to council.
  • 1102 Purcell’s Cove Road, owned by Anchor Group Limited (Danny Chedrawe) — the committee awarded the property 62 points out of 100, moving it forward to council.

At its next meeting, in July, the committee will consider a heritage application for a Dalhousie University-owned home on Edward Street. Residents in the area protested Dal’s planned demolition of that building last month. During Wednesday’s meeting, the committee received a petition with more than 5,000 signatures asking it to protect the building.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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