Chebucto Road has a timeless quality. At a little over 2 kilometres, it’s a fairly short walk, but the street cuts smoothly through a lot of history and shows how the city is changing. Research after the fact proved it to be a fitting choice for a walk. The name “Chebucto” is the anglicized version of the original Mi’kmaq name for the present-day city and surrounding area prior to European contact.
Chebucto Road starts with a rather challenging traffic configuration. Since it starts in the middle of another street, you actually turn right to travel straight through the intersection. It’s very confusing and more than a little harrowing, especially when you’re new around here. Eventually, you get used to the feeling of driving straight into traffic. It’s a Halifax thing.
Among the heritage homes, working class neighbourhoods, and historic churches, there is a symbol of our evolution and changing culture, a brand-new mosque, the Ummah Masjid and Community Centre.
The facility opened in 2011 with money raised entirely from the community, and is both a centre for the faithful and community centre for the surrounding area. I really loved the architecture of the mosques I saw in Morocco (and former mosques in Spain), so, for me, this is a really interesting addition to the city and I’d love to be invited inside for a visit. Hint.
Heading into the more residential part of the street, there’s a secret park in plain sight at the corner of Dublin Street. Extensive Googling revealed it’s actually called the Nick Meagher Community Park (usually pronounced “mar” in these parts) after a city councillor who served the area for 33 years, but the plaque with the identifying details was stolen about eight months ago. It used to be called the Dublin Street Parkette, which is adorable. Bigger than a lawn, smaller than a park, I totally want a parkette of my own.
The next few blocks are fairly commercial, with an excellent European deli, a great French fry shop, an awesome spot to get clothing alterations, and the best-named place to get your hair cut that I’ve seen in these parts.
The next park, between Connaught Avenue and Mumford Road, is called Saunders Park these days. Until 1942, however, it was the Halifax Civic Airport, replaced during the Second World War by an airfield on the other side of town. It’s named after Donald Saunders, long-time manager of the airport, when it wasn’t in the middle of city.
Next to six lanes of traffic, the park is a nice refuge. The real treat is the sculpture commemorating the former airport.
I had never noticed it before, but one of the buildings across the street from the park has retained its old-timey street signage, long-retired everywhere else in the city.
Down the road from Saunders Park is a part of the city that was mostly farmland a little more than a century ago, depicted by a mural on one of the small stores in the area.
Chebucto Road terminates at the Armdale Roundabout, another one of Halifax’s interesting traffic navigation experiences. Until a few years ago, it was better known as the Armdale Rotary and had its own “made in Halifax – first and only in the world” rules for navigation. The ultimate in Canadian politeness, the “you go then I go” system would chagrin locals and visitors alike. These days, however, it follows the roundabout rules that are used everywhere else in the world.
This end of city is fairly close to my house, so I wander around the roundabout and the Northwest Arm, one of the bodies of water surrounding Halifax, fairly often. When I have the time, I stop at a fantastic restaurant, The Armview, one of Halifax’s oldest surviving restaurants which, in recent years, has been completely renovated and now serves diner-style fare updated with a staggering selection of excellent fresh, local meats, cheeses, and other food products.
Chebucto Road is not an obvious choice for an urban hike, but it’s a great way to see where our city came from and where it’s going. On the day of my walk, I finished up with a bit of lunch, taking in the view of the breezy seas right in front of me.