Halifax Armoury Renovation

Finding replacement stone for heritage buildings renovations can be complicated! Check out this example – the beautiful Halifax Armoury!

The Halifax Armoury was built from 1895-99 of red sandstone, part of a federal government initiative in the late 1800s to build militia practice, training and recruitment centres in cities across Canada.

Soldiers would amalgamate at the Armoury (sometimes called Armouries) before departing by ship for the Boer War and both World Wars. The Armoury has served as home to the Princess Louise Fusiliers and the Halifax Rifles of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, as well as two army cadet corps. 

This National Historic Site is currently being renovated. Some of the work will repair damage caused by the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Despite being damaged in the tragedy, the Armoury was a shelter for residents in its aftermath.

Original stones are being reused where possible but, as is common with heritage building renovations, some stone needs to be replaced due to damage.

The challenge is to find replacement stone that matches the original so the renovations appear as seamless as possible. However, all stone is unique, its characteristics determined by the geological circumstances in which it formed. For example, red sandstone from one site can be quite a different shade than red sandstone from another site. Stone can even have significant variations in colour and composition within the same quarry.

According to Department of National Defence research, “Pugwash stone” was originally used to build the Armoury.  DND compared stone from several sites in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and even Europe to find the best match for the original sandstone (see the pictures of samples below).

Testing showed that “Pugwash stone” referred to a quarry at the mouth of River Phillip because the characteristics of its stone match the stone in the Armoury walls. The former quarry on Eel Creek, which flows into River Phillip, closed in 1899, the same year the Armouries were completed. The quarry is filled with water now but the researchers found old, tooled stone pieces and large blocks at the creek edge. Sandstone from this area was reportedly taken to Pugwash on barges in the 1800s.
While many historical quarries are no longer accessible, it was possible to extract stone from the Eel Creek site for the Armoury renovation. Since it was likely one of the sites the original stone came from, it was not necessary to match the stone with a replacement from another site. This helps ensure the Halifax Armoury will keep its iconic look as the building is modernized and continues to serve the military and Nova Scotians.