11 January 2011

Downtown Halifax Tunnels

For decades construction crews have been bumping into passageways beneath Halifax's downtown core. The tunnels under Halifax have been written about and discussed for decades. The official line was that they were not actually passageways, but sewers.

They're definitely not sewers.

Photographs taken in 1976 show rock walls with arched ceilings, approximately six feet high, and wooden floors.

Rumours suggest that many of the older buildings that did, and still do, stand downtown could access these tunnels from their basement level.

We know there are, or were prior to development, stone passageways under many streets in the core. What we can't seem to agree on, or confirm true, is the existence of other tunnels branching out from the downtown. Some believe a tunnel connects Brunswick Street to the Halifax Citadel. Others suggest a tunnel connects the Halifax Citadel to the Halifax Armoury at the corner of North Park and Cunard Street. Both make sense, but I have yet to encounter anyone who can confirm or deny they're actually there.

Then there is the tunnel that allegedly runs from somewhere near the harbour, presumably near Sackville at Lower Water Street, and then beneath the harbour floor, eventually surfacing on the once militarized George's Island.

The George's Island under-water passage has been debunked but some of the mystery still remains in the words of 19th century mason John William Cameron. Cameron, although sworn to secrecy, claimed to have built two tunnels under Halifax- the tunnel to the Citadel as well as the tunnel to the island.

Over time I've built a map to illustrate where the tunnels might potentially lie. To my knowledge, only a few of them are at all accessible.

View Downtown Halifax Tunnel System in a larger map.
Confirmed (Blue Marker) ― These are documented tunnel entrances, some verified by photo.
Date Entrance Location
2012 1682 Hollis St (Halifax Club)
1995 Sackville St at Lower Water St
1977 Duke St at Granville St
1976 Price St at Grafton St
1973 George St
1938 Duke St at Market St
1919 Town Clock

Rumoured (Yellow Marker) ― These tunnel entrances range from speculative to debunked.
Date Entrance Location
1995 Prince St at Market St
- 1740 Granviille St (Dennis Building)

Blue Lines ― Represent tunnels that almost certainly do, or did, exist.
Red Lines ― Represent tunnels that do not exist, or are not likely to exist.


Jenna Marks said...

Hi I'm a NSCAD film student. I'm interested in doing a documentary on these underground tunnels, can someone help me get started, I'm looking for relatives of tunnel contractor John Cameron, or other historians to talk about it. You can email me at jmarks@student.nscad.ca

Erin said...

I'm a NSCAD student also. Underneath the Granville campus (near the copy room and art supply store, you know) there's a beautiful passageway that looks an awful lot like the tunnels you described. If I'm remembering correctly it runs perpindicular to Duke between Granville and Hollis.

I've always wondered why they decided to put it in. I guess it was already there.