Beautiful buildings: Halifax’s historic Bank of Nova Scotia

In my non-traveling life, I work in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our history runs deep, and I’m always learning something new and interesting about the place where I spend most of my days.

My favourite landmark, in the one-block radius around my office, is the Bank of Nova Scotia branch at 1709 Hollis Street. It was built in the early 1930s, in a Beaux Arts-style fairly typical of the era. The beauty of this building, however, is in the details. A short summary on Canada’s Historic Places describes the architect’s commitment to design and his research about the plants and animals found in our region. It was also made of material that complemented other buildings in the area so there is a visually pleasing uniformity to the whole block. To me, anyway.

Today, it is still a working bank branch, and the people I spoke with said visitors to the city frequently come in to take a look. As for pictures inside, we’ll get to that.

Sea creature lanterns and bronze doors. Do not miss the branch at night.

One of the reasons I like the Scotiabank building so much is because I’m constantly learning new things about it, finding some new detail or creature I had never noticed before. Sometimes, and only for my amusement, I’ll make up banking-related catchphrases for some of my favourite creatures when I walk by.

“You gotta kiss a lot of frogs to make some bank.”

Loads of whimsical detail, including cornucopia, flowers, ships, and even a steel plant. The sea creature lanterns were my most recent discovery. In my defense, they’re up quite high and I’m really short, so I only noticed them a couple of weeks  ago.

Much like Vancouver’s Marine Building, the building’s details feature lots of creatures, the flora and fauna indigenous to Nova Scotia.

This is a pretty small sample of things to see on the exterior. There are coins, bears, swans, fish, swans eating fish, turtles, and much, much more.

As much as I love the outside I wanted to show readers the stunning, dramatic interior. This is an old-school bank, and incorporates some magnificent design features that simply don’t exist anymore. Taking a chance, I sent a message to Scotiabank through their social media channels, and received a wonderful response from a helpful contact named Fatima. She offered to facilitate the arrangements for me to shoot the interior. Unfortunately, when I checked in with the branch staff, I couldn’t shoot anything because the blog is technically considered a publication (which, admittedly, was hugely flattering to my ego, so I rolled with it). What this does, however, is force you to come visit me in Halifax, and we’ll go visit this magnificent building.

After some diligent searching, I managed to find this teeny picture from Scotiabank’s online archives. It looks almost exactly the same today, except, now, there are tons of computers.

This is the only interior photo on the Internet. Well played, Scotiabank.




  1. I know I’ve seen historic photos of the interior – but like you I cannot locate them online. I particularly recall a wonderful board room and a lady’s withdrawing room -wiht a little desk where you could catch up on some correspondence while waiting for your pension cheque to arrive.


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