Armdale Roundabout

There was an historical quarry next to what is now Halifax’s Armdale Roundabout, but details about it have been lost to time.

An old geological map, below, shows a quarry roughly where the St. James Anglican Church is today, at 2668 Joseph Howe Drive. (Look just northwest of the head of the Northwest Arm, slightly right-of-centre on the map).

It is not known when the quarry operated but the map is from 1908 so the quarry at least predates that year.

There were a number of quarries further along the south side of the Northwest Arm, in the Spryfield and Purcell’s Cove areas, which provided stone that built much of historical Halifax starting as early as the 1700s. They were all granite quarries, which is the bedrock in those areas and a hard, durable stone for building. Granite from those quarries is partly why buildings like the Citadel, Martello Tower, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Historic Properties are still standing.

The Armdale Roundabout quarry, however, would have produced slate. Despite being quite close to the Spryfield granite quarries, the Armdale Roundabout quarry is the other side of a geological line, a contact zone between the granites of what geologists call the South Mountain Batholith (the red/pink areas in the second geological map below) and the slates of what is called the Halifax Group (the brown/tan in the map). Most bedrock on peninsular Halifax is slate.

Given how little is known about it, the Armdale Roundabout quarry was likely quite small and perhaps served only a short-term need for material, such as flat stone (pavers) or loose rocks (i.e. to make walls).

In the 1800s and into the 1900s, the land was a farm owned by the Piers family. The farm extended from St. Margaret’s Bay Rd. to Dutch Village Rd. and included part of what is now the Roundabout. St. James Anglican Church has been holding services at the site since around 1864.

It was common historically for landowners to open small quarries to address their own needs. For example, a property owner might open a quarry on his land to get stone for building a home, a barn or rock walls. Farmers often quarried limestone because it sweetens soil (increases its ph.) or gypsum because it is a fertilizer. (This is why farmers were the first to mine gypsum in Nova Scotia:

Landowners could do this in the distant past because there were basically no environmental or safety regulations pertaining to quarrying – if you owned the land, you could quarry it.

Mining had more regulations than quarrying in the 1800s and early 1900s, but still very few and they were mostly focused on mineral ownership, claim staking and royalties – in other words, a legal framework for managing who mined and where they did it, not for addressing things like environmental impacts.

Today, mines and quarries have substantively the same, very stringent regulatory regime. In the 1990s, Nova Scotia started doing environmental assessments and better-regulating industrial projects to protect the environment. A mine’s environmental assessment often takes 3-5 years and costs over a million dollars. It generates dozens of scientific studies and governments often ask for even more studies and data - proof of how stringently modern mining is regulated to protect the environment and how different standards are today from historical periods.