Andrew Downs in front of “The Glass House” (an aviary and museum) at the Downs Zoological Gardens, Halifax, NS, Canada ca. 1860s. 
In 1847, Downs opened a zoological gardens on a small 2-hectare site at his estate. The area was quite hilly but did offer a small valley area near Dutch Village Road. It was the first professional zoo in North America and was located a few hundred meters northwest from the head of Halifax’s Northwest Arm.
By the early 1860s, the zoo grounds covered 40 hectares with many fine flowers & ornamental trees, picnic areas, statues, walking paths, The Glass House (which contained a greenhouse with an aviary, aquarium, & museum of stuffed animals & birds), a pond, a bridge over a waterfall, an artificial lake with a fountain, a wood-ornamented greenhouse, a forest area, and enclosures & buildings.
The zoo came to house bears, beavers, caribou, cranes, Spanish, Mexican & American deer, foxes, Egyptian geese, heron, leopards, lizards, mink, monkeys, ostriches, otter, peacocks, parrots, pigeons, pheasants, a polar bear, seals, snakes, Chinese swans, tigers, turtles, walrus, wolves, and a further assortment birds, fish and reptiles from world-wide locations.
The Halifax zoo attracted people from all over the world. Royalty and many famous persons mingled with the local population at company, club, church, and municipal picnics & events. Transportation to the park was by coach or ferry up the Northwest Arm. Two ferries that serviced the park were Micmac and Neptune. They typically ran from Halifax Harbour, around the city’s peninsula, and up The Arm to a dock close to the park. Downs became such an expert, he was invited to display birds and specimens at several world’s fairs and exhibitions, including The Great Exhibition of 1851 (commonly known as The Crystal Palace Exhibition) and the 1862 International Exhibition, both which were held in London. Awards were also presented to him at the 1865 International Exhibition and Paris’ 1867 International Exhibition. Other fairs at which he won medals were the 1862, 65, and 67 fairs, plus ones at Birmingham and Dublin. He became a member of the London Zoological Society and wrote papers on various nature subjects.
All this lead to Spencer Baird of The American Smithsonian Museum recommending to New York’s Central Park to offer him a post at their zoo. After a delay, Downs accepted and at a final farewell party, auctioned his property & collection on May 28, 1868. Most of the estate’s items went to a Mr. Doull for somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000. After three months in New York, Andrew Downs resigned from his post due to a disagreement with the park commissioner, whereupon he returned to Halifax. He bought a new property near his old and in 1869 opened a new zoological gardens. This was not as successful and closed in July of 1872 due to financial hardship.
After this, Downs lived in retirement while maintaining connections with the various naturalist societies until his death in 1892 at age 80 or 81.
Andrew Downs encapsulated mid-19th-century interests in science, public parks, and healthful recreation. A recognized authority on Nova Scotian birds, in 1864 he was described as one “whose heart is in his work, if ever man’s was, and who has the liberality of spirit which all true lovers of nature have.”

Andrew Downs in front of “The Glass House” (an aviary and museum) at the Downs Zoological Gardens, Halifax, NS, Canada ca. 1860s. 

In 1847, Downs opened a zoological gardens on a small 2-hectare site at his estate. The area was quite hilly but did offer a small valley area near Dutch Village Road. It was the first professional zoo in North America and was located a few hundred meters northwest from the head of Halifax’s Northwest Arm.

By the early 1860s, the zoo grounds covered 40 hectares with many fine flowers & ornamental trees, picnic areas, statues, walking paths, The Glass House (which contained a greenhouse with an aviary, aquarium, & museum of stuffed animals & birds), a pond, a bridge over a waterfall, an artificial lake with a fountain, a wood-ornamented greenhouse, a forest area, and enclosures & buildings.

The zoo came to house bears, beavers, caribou, cranes, Spanish, Mexican & American deer, foxes, Egyptian geese, heron, leopards, lizards, mink, monkeys, ostriches, otter, peacocks, parrots, pigeons, pheasants, a polar bear, seals, snakes, Chinese swans, tigers, turtles, walrus, wolves, and a further assortment birds, fish and reptiles from world-wide locations.

The Halifax zoo attracted people from all over the world. Royalty and many famous persons mingled with the local population at company, club, church, and municipal picnics & events. Transportation to the park was by coach or ferry up the Northwest Arm. Two ferries that serviced the park were Micmac and Neptune. They typically ran from Halifax Harbour, around the city’s peninsula, and up The Arm to a dock close to the park. Downs became such an expert, he was invited to display birds and specimens at several world’s fairs and exhibitions, including The Great Exhibition of 1851 (commonly known as The Crystal Palace Exhibition) and the 1862 International Exhibition, both which were held in London. Awards were also presented to him at the 1865 International Exhibition and Paris’ 1867 International Exhibition. Other fairs at which he won medals were the 1862, 65, and 67 fairs, plus ones at Birmingham and Dublin. He became a member of the London Zoological Society and wrote papers on various nature subjects.

All this lead to Spencer Baird of The American Smithsonian Museum recommending to New York’s Central Park to offer him a post at their zoo. After a delay, Downs accepted and at a final farewell party, auctioned his property & collection on May 28, 1868. Most of the estate’s items went to a Mr. Doull for somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000. After three months in New York, Andrew Downs resigned from his post due to a disagreement with the park commissioner, whereupon he returned to Halifax. He bought a new property near his old and in 1869 opened a new zoological gardens. This was not as successful and closed in July of 1872 due to financial hardship.

After this, Downs lived in retirement while maintaining connections with the various naturalist societies until his death in 1892 at age 80 or 81.

Andrew Downs encapsulated mid-19th-century interests in science, public parks, and healthful recreation. A recognized authority on Nova Scotian birds, in 1864 he was described as one “whose heart is in his work, if ever man’s was, and who has the liberality of spirit which all true lovers of nature have.”

Hockey team The Wanderers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1888.

Hockey team The Wanderers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1888.

Another storm is on the way—bundle up!
Shovelling detail at the Halifax Citadel, Nova Scotia, ca. 1900.

Another storm is on the way—bundle up!

Shovelling detail at the Halifax Citadel, Nova Scotia, ca. 1900.

Gentleman of the Red Cap Showshoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, ca. 1890.

The Red Cap Snowshoe Club was established in 1874 to encourage a taste for the winter exercise sport of snowshoeing and snowshoe racing. The society would later amend its bylaws to include all winter sports activities. For this early group photo, the Notman Studio photographed each member individually and then constructed a large composite photograph of the entire club.

Noah’s Ark Skating Costume, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1890s.
Frances Gwendolyn Castens was the grand-daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard. Her somewhat unusual headpiece is complemented by a gown sporting appropriate fish, fowl and wildlife.Her grand-parents Gilbert W. Francklyn and Sarah Jane Cunard resided at “Emscote” a large property on the North West Arm, and gave their name to Francklyn Street and Francklyn Park sub-division

Noah’s Ark Skating Costume, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1890s.

Frances Gwendolyn Castens was the grand-daughter of Sir Samuel Cunard. Her somewhat unusual headpiece is complemented by a gown sporting appropriate fish, fowl and wildlife.Her grand-parents Gilbert W. Francklyn and Sarah Jane Cunard resided at “Emscote” a large property on the North West Arm, and gave their name to Francklyn Street and Francklyn Park sub-division

About 200 skaters and 1000 spectators attended the Carnival held in the South End Exhibition Rink (corner of Tower Road and Morris Street, near the present-day Cathedral Church of All Saints) in February 1899. The Halifax Daily Echo for 7 February described the participants:
The Royal Canadian regiment and St. Patrick’s bands rendered a splendid programme, including many waltzes, which the skaters and spectators enjoyed. The ice was never in better condition, and one well known skater said he had never seen a better sheet in his life. There was nothing very strikingly new in the costumes, though nearly all were very neat and some very pretty. There was only one group noticeable – the Geisha girls (Frank Stephen, D’Arcy Weatherbe and C. Grant) who were made up to represent three very presentable maidens. A lampshade costume, worn by Mrs. Green, was of crimpled paper arranged with pretty effect. Among the ladies who wore particularly nice costumes were Misses Burns and Seeton, as Black and White supplement; Miss Cameron, Yuletide; Miss Dimock, as Phyllis; Miss Darville, as an olden time lady, and Miss Farrell as Folly. Another costume that attracted notice was that of the Daisy, worn by a lady whose name was not among those registered. On a dark green dress were worked daisies, and she wore a little cape with a yellow centre near the neck and the petals falling over the shoulders. On her head was a hat which was a perfect representation of a large daisy, with a yellow centre and the rim of white petals. Among the gentlemen’s costumes was the Pink Un’, by Mr. Jones, R[oyal] A[rtillery]. It consisted of white satin knickerbockers, with pink satin cutaway coat and vest. A tall pink silk hat, with a miniature horse race on the crown, completed the costume, over which were scattered cards and sporting papers, the whole representing a well known English sporting paper. During the evening a couple of sets of lancers were danced, and these, with the waltzing, would give visitors an idea of how well Halifax people skate.

About 200 skaters and 1000 spectators attended the Carnival held in the South End Exhibition Rink (corner of Tower Road and Morris Street, near the present-day Cathedral Church of All Saints) in February 1899. The Halifax Daily Echo for 7 February described the participants:

The Royal Canadian regiment and St. Patrick’s bands rendered a splendid programme, including many waltzes, which the skaters and spectators enjoyed. The ice was never in better condition, and one well known skater said he had never seen a better sheet in his life. There was nothing very strikingly new in the costumes, though nearly all were very neat and some very pretty. There was only one group noticeable – the Geisha girls (Frank Stephen, D’Arcy Weatherbe and C. Grant) who were made up to represent three very presentable maidens. A lampshade costume, worn by Mrs. Green, was of crimpled paper arranged with pretty effect. Among the ladies who wore particularly nice costumes were Misses Burns and Seeton, as Black and White supplement; Miss Cameron, Yuletide; Miss Dimock, as Phyllis; Miss Darville, as an olden time lady, and Miss Farrell as Folly. Another costume that attracted notice was that of the Daisy, worn by a lady whose name was not among those registered. On a dark green dress were worked daisies, and she wore a little cape with a yellow centre near the neck and the petals falling over the shoulders. On her head was a hat which was a perfect representation of a large daisy, with a yellow centre and the rim of white petals. Among the gentlemen’s costumes was the Pink Un’, by Mr. Jones, R[oyal] A[rtillery]. It consisted of white satin knickerbockers, with pink satin cutaway coat and vest. A tall pink silk hat, with a miniature horse race on the crown, completed the costume, over which were scattered cards and sporting papers, the whole representing a well known English sporting paper. During the evening a couple of sets of lancers were danced, and these, with the waltzing, would give visitors an idea of how well Halifax people skate.

The 1917 Halifax Explosion
Halifax, NS, Canada

At 9:04:35 the Mont-Blanc exploded in Halifax Harbour with a force stronger than any man-made explosion before it. The explosion sent a white cloud billowing 20,000 feet above the city.

For almost two square kilometers around Pier 6, nothing was left standing. The blast obliterated most of Richmond (north end Halifax). On the Dartmouth side, Tuft’s Cove took the brunt of the blast. The small Mi’kmaq settlement of Turtle Grove was obliterated.

More than 1500 people were killed instantly. Hundreds more would die in the hours and days to come. Nine thousand people, many of whom might have been safe if they hadn’t come to watch the fire, were injured by the blast, falling buildings and flying shards of glass.

The coolest kid in Nova Scotia, ca. 1942.

The coolest kid in Nova Scotia, ca. 1942.

Best pals: H.M. Wylde’s group, studio portrait with cat and dog, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1905.

Best pals: H.M. Wylde’s group, studio portrait with cat and dog, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca. 1905.

Last year, many Nova Scotians sent us their families’ stories of the Halifax Explosion via Twitter. While the descriptions were short, they painted vivid stories of survival and resilience in the wake of a terrible disaster.
Based on this response, we are engaging in a online project to try and collect these stories via Twitter using the hash-tag #hfxex1917. You can send one tweet or send several. Details like time and location are helpful. Images are also welcome.
More information on this project can be found on our website!

Last year, many Nova Scotians sent us their families’ stories of the Halifax Explosion via Twitter. While the descriptions were short, they painted vivid stories of survival and resilience in the wake of a terrible disaster.

Based on this response, we are engaging in a online project to try and collect these stories via Twitter using the hash-tag #hfxex1917. You can send one tweet or send several. Details like time and location are helpful. Images are also welcome.

More information on this project can be found on our website!