Halifax regional council voted unanimously Tuesday to designate the former home and clinic of the late Dr. Clement Ligoure, the province’s first Black doctor, an official heritage property.

Earlier Tuesday morning, prior to the vote, a rally was held outside City Hall in support of preserving the property. The rally was co-organized by members of Development Options Halifax and Friends of the Halifax Common, which also organized a letter-writing campaign in support of the heritage designation and submitted the application for the designation.

“As many of you know, we’re not allowed to speak at the HRM council meeting today as residents, as neighbours, as activists,” said Judy Haiven at the rally.

“In a few hours a motion by the city’s Heritage Advisory Committee to give heritage designation to the Ligoure house will come before the council. If the motion succeeds the house will have not absolute, but some protection.”

‘He did all this’

An older Black man wearing a long black winter coat and a black hat speaks from a microphone on a sidewalk where others have gathered. Some of the people in the crowd are holding signs that say "save the Ligoure house."
Artist and historian David Woods speaks outside City Hall where people gathered as Halifax regional council voted on heritage designation for the former home of Dr. Clement Ligoure. Credit: Matthew Byard

Artist and historian David Woods was one of several speakers at the rally. It was through research Woods conducted in the 1980s that Ligoure’s story was initially rediscovered. Woods’ research uncovered documentation that showed Ligoure was set to serve for the No. 2 Construction Battalion, which he helped found before being denied the opportunity by white officials.

“For our generations and for our Black Canadians all over Canada, who sometimes look at the great landscape of Canada and do not think that they have a long-rooted history, here we have a history,” Woods said at the rally.

“We have a history of medical doctors. We have a history of people who served our country through the military, who served our people unselfishly. And I can imagine some young kid going into a place like that and being able to be told a story and going, ‘Wow! He did all this.’”

House has received extensive public attention

Just after 1pm, Devon Parris, whose former role was with the city’s heritage property program, delivered a staff report to council recommending the property at 5812-14 North Street be registered as a heritage property.

“The property has received extensive public attention in recent years due to its connection with the Halifax Explosion and Dr. Clement Ligoure, an African Nova Scotian physician who treated Halifax Explosion survivors at his clinic, which was located at the property,” Parris said.

Parris said Ligoure worked “tirelessly” and treated 180 victims a day, free of charge.

“The property was the personal dwelling of Dr. Clement Ligoure, Nova Scotia’s first Black doctor, and the site of his Amanda Private Hospital, which Ligoure ran in the early 20th century,” Parris said. “The house is also associated with Nova Scotia’s first African Canadian magazine, The Atlantic Advocate, which was edited and published by Dr. Ligoure and operated out of the subject property as well.”

Parris said records indicate the building was likely built in 1892. Parris also talked about other criteria such as the building’s architecture and its relationship to the surrounding area.

In order to be designated a heritage property, a property must first score at least 50 out of 100 points based on a list of evaluation criteria. Parris said the Heritage Advisory Committee scored the property 65 points before recommending it to be approved in the Registry of Heritage Properties for HRM.

“As with any heritage registration under the Heritage Property Act, only the property owner can speak,” said Aaron Murnaghan, principal heritage planner for HRM when asked for clarification by Coun. Lindell Smith as to why public comments were not permitted at the hearing. “And that is a standard across municipalities throughout Nova Scotia and it’s a standard that we have used here procedurally in HRM as well.”

Owner doesn’t want to demolish property

A group of people bundled up in winter outwear stand and sit on the concrete steps outside a stone building. Some of the folks are holding signs saying "save the Ligoure house" and "count house in."
A group of protestors who gathered outside of City Hall in Halifax to support the heritage designation of the former home of Dr. Clement Ligoure. Credit: Matthew Byard

Other than council, property owners of buildings being reviewed for heritage designation are the only ones permitted to speak at the hearing.

Louie Lawen, the current owner of the North Street property, was not present at Tuesday’s hearing.

“I know it’s been shared that the owner was going to demolish this property,” Smith said. “I’ve had a discussion with the owner and the owner was very clear that there was no intention to demolish this property whatsoever.”

Smith also said HRM doesn’t intend to demolish the building as part of a transportation reserve to widen Robie Street, which intersects with North Street not far from the property.

“This is actually outside of that reserve, so the city is not intending to demolish this property at all,” Smith said.

After additional comments from councillors Iona Stoddard and David Hendsbee, council voted 16-0 in favour of registering Ligoure’s former property as a heritage designation.

“The only thing I can really say is: mission accomplished,” Woods told the Halifax Examiner following the vote. 

A graphic that says Funded by Canada

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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