Shakespeare by the Sea building

In June, a miscreant set fire to the Shakespeare by the Sea building in Point Pleasant Park, making it unusable. The building was constructed as a park canteen in 1969, sat empty for many years, and then was occupied by SBTS in 1994 for office, storage, and for theatre space when it was raining. There were also washrooms.

SBTS had presented a plan to the city to renovate the structure at a cost of $600,000, but city staff says that estimated price was woefully underestimated, and in any event there are too many uncertainties involved—the building doesn’t meet code, and very likely additional structural deficiencies would be discovered during reconstruction.

Instead, staff is recommending that the entire building be replaced with a new structure that meets all of SBTS’s needs and fits into the Point Pleasant Park Comprehensive Plan. The new building will cost about $2.4 million. Staff thinks that between insurance payouts for the burned down structure and arts grants funding, there’s probably money enough the new building, but it isn’t as simple as that. Due to the original grant giving the park to the city, any such construction would have to be approved by the federal government, and there’s no telling how long that would take.

This leaves SBTS in limbo. Staff suggests the the organization be given temporary office space in the park’s Superintendents Cottage, but:

However, the building does not have sufficient space or configuration to accommodate rehearsal or storage space.

While options exist for temporary storage and rehearsal space, there would be additional costs to SBTS to consider those options. Further, options for rain-date locations exist; however, they also would require additional costs and may be challenging to maintain the performances within Point Pleasant Park. Regional Council recently approved Administrative Order 2014-007-ADM Interim Professional Arts Organization Grant Program which just opened for submissions. SBTS is eligible to submit an application through that program for funding to assist with any additional costs required as a result of the recommended demolition of the existing building.

That’s frustratingly non-specific, but probably the organization can hobble along with borrowed and rented space for the next few years. Long term, the city seems determined to work with SBTS, and to get a new building constructed.

Development proposals

Motherhouse Lands

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The Sisters of Charity have been trying to develop the 73 acres of the old Motherhouse Lands behind Mount Saint Vincent University for about a decade. There’s a complicated history to the various development proposals, with some of the property now owned by Shannex, which plans to develop retirement homes on it, and the remainder controlled by Southwest.

Southwest is now proposing a very large development on its 47 acres, housing 3,700 people and including:

  • Seton Road is to be converted to a public street and extended to Lacewood Drive, with new intersecting local streets.
  • The development is to include:
  • 111 single detached dwellings;
  • 9 townhouse dwellings;
  • 9 apartment buildings, containing 743 dwelling units; and
  • 6 mixed use commercial-residential buildings, containing 830 dwelling units and 5,201 square metres of commercial space.
  • The multi-unit residential and mixed-use commercial and residential buildings are concentrated at the centre of the site and include 3 buildings that are 3 storeys in height and 12 buildings that are between 12 and 14 storeys in height.
  • The single detached dwellings are to be located at the periphery of the site.
  • A 1,130 square metre community centre is included as part of the proposal, within one of the mixed commercial-residential buildings. Its ownership and responsibility with regard to programming has yet to be determined.
  • The proposal includes several areas of parks and open space, with the most substantial park being near to the centre of the site where there is a relatively significant grade and ponds. To address the slope and water features, Southwest intents to construct terraces with retaining walls and incorporate storm water management features.

City staff seem to like the proposal, but they’re recommending that council start the planning process for all the Motherhouse lands, including the Shannex property, so that the full cost of public streets, sewers and water can be assessed for development purposes. It makes no sense to, say, put in sewers to handle Southwest’s 47 acres only to come back in a few years and dig them out to install bigger pipes for the addition of Shannex’s 26 acres.

Here’s Southwest’s preliminary proposal:

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We’re still a ways out from seeing any development on the property, but council will likely take the first step in that direction tomorrow.


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A staff report on tomorrow’s council agenda discusses the historic lighthouses in HRM. This is an issue because the federal government is preparing to sell off its lighthouses, save those that will be designated “historic.” Fortunately, all 15 of HRM’s lighthouses have been nominated for the historic designation, but the final decision won’t be made until May. Here’s a quick run down some of the local lighthouses (I’ll get the rest of them when I have time):

Paddys Head Lighthouse

Paddys Head Lightouse
Paddys Head Lightouse


Indian Harbour Lighthouse was established in 1901 on the southeast tip of Paddy’s Head Island to mark the entrance into Indian Harbour that passed between Paddy’s Head Island and Wreck Island. The pyramidal, wooden tower was built under the supervision of Amos McLennan for $728.24, and Henry Boutillier was appointed the first keeper on June 6, 1901 with an annual salary of $100.

The light was electrified and unmanned in 1945, but George Richardson was hired as a caretaker in 1955 to help with maintenance and to report any problems with the light. Richardson continued in this role until 1967, when the maintenance was taken over by the Department of Transportation.

Peggys Point Light

Peggys Point Lighthouse. Photo: Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Scoiety
Peggys Point Lighthouse. Photo: Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Scoiety

Yea, we all know about that one.

Bettys Island Lighthouse

Betty's Island Lighthouse. Photo:
Betty’s Island Lighthouse. Photo:
Betty’s Island Lighthouse. Photo:

Terrence Bay Lighthouse

Terrence Bay Lighthouse
Terrence Bay Lighthouse


The first light on Shipley Head, a lantern hoisted up a mast, was established in 1885. The present tower replaced the mast light in 1903 and was built using day labor at a cost of $471. 

The final keeper of Terence Bay Lighthouse was Hezron Jollymore, who received his appointment on February 18, 1942. The light atop the tower was electrified in 1952, but Jollymore was still kept on as keeper until the light was fully automated in 1957. Jollymore was then retained as “caretaker” of the light for another decade though at a much reduced annual salary of just $40.

In poor condition, the lantern room was removed from the lighthouse around 1980. In 2011, residents of Terence Bay, backed by the Halifax Regional Council, declared their desire to assume control of their lighthouse, which has been placed on Canadian Coast Guard’s surplus list. Michelle Forrest, a member of the local committee developing a plan to take over the lighthouse, thinks the upkeep won’t be too difficult. “The maintenance part of it is probably not going to be that terribly expensive year by year,” Forrset said, “but what we would like to do is put the original top back on the lighthouse. They took the original tops off many of these lighthouses.” The local group also needs to secure the right-of-way to the lighthouse to preserve access to a small beach and walking trails in the area.

Pennant Harbour Lighthouse

Pennant Harbour Lighthouse
Pennant Harbour Lighthouse


The first light to mark the entrance to Pennant Harbour was of the pepper-shaker style and was built in 1903 at a cost of $384. Peter Angus Gray was hired as the first keeper at an annual salary of $100. Keeper Gray minded the light until 1920, when a relative, J. C. Gray assumed responsibility for the beacon. 

Lillian I. Gray was appointed keeper in 1941 and served in this role until the light was electrified and automated on January 1, 1965. Lillian’s role was then downgraded to that of caretaker, and her salary was likewise reduced to $115, one-fifth of her former salary. When the position of caretakers was abolished in 1967, the sixty-two year run of keepers from the Gray family ended. 

The original tower was replaced by the present fiberglass one in 1991.

Sambro Harbour Lighthouse

Sambro Harbour Lighthouse
Sambro Harbour Lighthouse


A sailing guide for the southeast coast of Nova Scotia published in the 1860s notes that Sambro Harbour lies at the head of a bay bounded by Pennant Point on the west and Cape Sambro to the east. The guide describes the anchorage afforded by the harbour in times of southwesterly winds as imperfect and cautions mariners that large vessels should avoid the harbour save for cases of extreme necessity due to dangers in and around the harbour. In 1899, a lighthouse was built to better mark Sambro Harbour, and the following description of this light was given by the Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries for that year. A lighthouse established on Bull Point, on the southwest side of the entrance to Sambro Harbour, on the southern coast, for the purposed of guiding small vessels to a safe anchorage in Sambro Harbour, was put in operation December 1, 1899.

The lighthouse stands about 30 feet back from the water’s edge on the extremity of the point, and is a square wooden tower with sloping sides, surmounted by a square wooden lantern, the whole painted white. It is 33 feet high from its base to the vane on the lantern.

The light is a fixed red light, elevated 38 feet above high water mark, and visible from seven miles from all points of approach by water. The illuminating apparatus is dioptric of the seventh order.

The tower was built by the department under the supervision of foreman carpenter McLellan and cost $676.04.

John H. Finlay was appointed as first keeper of the Sambro Harbour Lighthouse on December 7, 1899. 

Albert Gilkie started tending the light in 1929 and was still keeper when it was electrified in 1947. Keeper Gilkie notified his superior that he intended to retire upon turning sixty-five in July of 1961. Rather than hire another caretaker, the government installed a photo-electric switch that would activate the light when necessary. 

In 1971, the lighthouse’s deteriorated lantern room was removed, and a watertight mount was installed atop the tower for the automated beacon. 

Sambro Harbour is home to a Coast Guard Search and Rescue Unit and the cutter Sambro. The Coast Guard and Sambro Harbour were shown in the first episode of Swords: Life on the Line in 2009, after Captain Linda Greenlaw’s fishing vessel experience engine problems en route to the Grand Banks and had to be towed to Sambro Harbour for repairs.

Sambro Island Lighthouse

Sambro Island Lighthouse
Sambro Island Lighthouse

There’s not much written about this lighthouse. When I find more information, I’ll update this page.

Chebucto Head Lighthouse

Chebucto Head Lighthouse. Photo:
Chebucto Head Lighthouse. Photo:

This light is at Duncan’s Cove. Go visit it, then hike the wilderness trail along the ocean.

Maugher’s Beach Lighthouse

Maugher’s Beach Lighthouse
Maugher’s Beach Lighthouse

This is the light on McNabs Island.

Other lighthouses, to come

Georges Island Lighthouse

Devils Island Lighthouse

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Some (ugly) repurposed shipping containers, and an (elegant) semi-permenant wedding tent could, I think, serve SBTS for a few years.

    But isn’t the park rented from the Queen (or at least the Crown Estate… not the “Crown”)? ISTR from my pit of useless knowledge that when the UK decimalized their currency in 1971 that the then City of Halifax made sure to have the ~950 soon-to-be-obsolete coins in stock to pay out one a year for the rest of the 999 lease.