The First Poor House in Nova Scotia

The first poor house in Nova Scotia was a combination of a poor house, hospital (only for soldiers) and jail. At first tents were used but by 1750, a building for the poor, the criminal and the sick was completed.  It was located at the site of the present Governor Lieutenant building on Barrington Street at the end of Spring Garden Road.

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Halifax was established by Cornwallis in the cove where the Halifax/Dartmouth ferry is now located. The site of the poor house/hospital/jail was at the farthest corner of the new settlement, hence, one of the reasons for the establishment of the Old Burying Ground at the corner of Spring Garden and Barrington.

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The need for poor house/jail/hospital quickly outgrew the building. The hospital became a separate building that was located close to the present Cogswell overpass by Scotia Square. The jail and the poor house were kept together (equating poor people as criminals) and was moved to the corner across from the new Halifax Library on Spring Garden and Queen.

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Want to know more about the history of poor houses in Nova Scotia? I’ll be launching my new book A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia on May 20 at Sissiboo Cafe, 2 pm  in Annapolis Royal. Published by SSP Publications of Halifax, this book takes a look at the history of poor houses in Nova Scotia and how we treated the poor up until present day.

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