Dartmouth Mechanics’ Institute, later Dartmouth Town Hall

“Dartmouth Town Hall, Ochterloney Street, Dartmouth, N.S. Built in 184̶5̶ (8) as the Dartmouth Mechanics’ Institute Building. View looking SSE. Photographed 10 a.m., 31 May, 1932.”

There’s a bill posted on the right front column, can’t quite make it out.

From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

This is the hall erected for a Mechanics’ Institute in 1846, from funds raised by the voluntary efforts of local men and women. So far as known, the Dartmouth Institute was the only branch in the Province to provide its own building. The expenses of maintenance were met by holding occasional bazaars, by rental of rooms for lodge meetings and by leasing the assembly hall for school purposes. Surviving trustees of the Institute transferred the property to the Town in 1877, since which time the building has been used entirely for public purposes.

The Mechanics’ Institute building, completed that year, was formally opened on Monday evening, December 7, 1846, when a goodly number came from Halifax to hear the first lecture in the new hall, delivered by Hon. William Young, Speaker of the House of Assembly. E. H. Lowe presided.

The latter noted that the building was the first one in Nova Scotia to be erected exclusively as a Mechanics’ Institute, and pointed out advantages of such an organization. “Perhaps at this very table”, said Mr. Lowe “some youth may acquire knowledge that will lead him to gain renown and glory for his country”.

Hon. Mr. Young paid a tribute to the enterprise of our townsfolk, particularly to the lady members of the Institute, because it was largely through their valuable assistance that the construction of the building was made possible.

At the conclusion of the address, which was a description of places recently visited by the lecturer in Europe, a collection amounting to £8 was taken up for the purpose of obtaining furnishings for the various rooms. An extra trip of the Steam Boat left at 10 p.m., to convey visitors home to Halifax.
(Residents of last century used to recall the many elaborate, eloquent and profound lectures delivered in the old Hall by such eminent men as Joseph Howe, James W. Johnston, Dr. Abraham Gesner, William Garvie, Professor James Demille and others. Dr. Gesner’s scientific charts were for a long time piled away in boxes in the attic.

The building was also the scene of many a lively Town meeting in the years when Dartmouth was governed by Magistrates. In the daytime, the place was long used as a school-house, outside the entrance of which the pupils used to line up of a morning “from the front door to the church wall across the street”. In the 1880s the school entrance door was in an alleyway on the west side, where now is located the Town Engineer’s office. The classroom then occupied about one-quarter of the building with the teacher’s desk at the south end.

Classes continued until some 60 or 70 years ago, so that there are a few citizens still living who vividly remember the snowball fights fought against their rivals in the nearby Church of England schoolhouse. For a description of the “wise and otherwise” teachers in the Institute during the mid-1800s, consult the account of Judge Benjamin Russell’s schooldays in his autobiography at the Public Library.

Dartmouth copper mine

common copper mine

From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin: The site of John Cleverdon’s copper mine-pit is just a few yards to the right of the intersecting pathways shown in this photograph. A white birch tree on the level area there will locate the spot.The summer house on Fairy Hill is at the right of … Read more

Mr. and Mrs. George Connor


From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

This 1847 bride and groom are Mr. and Mrs. George Connor, who lived on Portland Street a century ago, and where George Connor died in 1868. His widow, who became Mrs. Charles Powell, died as recent as 1910, aged 89. See the gravestone just east of the red granite monument of James Simmonds in Christ Church cemetery.

The name is sometimes spelled Connors or Conner. The Connor boat-building shop still stands at the top of McAdam’s lane at 41 Portland Street. It was afterwards used as a barn and since converted to a garage. Patrick Connor owned the houses east and west of the lane. In addition, the family later acquired large areas on both sides of Maynard’s Lake. Connor Street is now in that vicinity. Some of the new Lakefront Apartment houses ailso stand on the former Connor possessions.

The late Harold G. Connor, grandson of the above couple, and for many years President of Maritime-National Fish Company, was of the opinion that his people were descended from John Connor, our first ferryman. The assumption is that Patrick Connor was a grandson of John, but absence of baptismal and marriage records makes this difficult to establish with certainty.

The photograph shown above is among the private papers and pictures of the family, in the present possession of Harold P. Connor, Halifax, a son of Harold G. Connor.

Water Street and Portland Street, 1880s


From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

This picture shows Water Street at the intersection of Portland Street, taken in the 1880s. The McDonald building, where the emergency hospital was set up in 1848, is the tall pitch-roof structure, long known as the skyscraper of Dartmouth. Note the granite street crossings, the lamp-post at Lawlor’s corner and the [Black] men leaning against the Sir John Wentworth cannon at Sterns’ corner. The first modern brick building of Dartmouth, erected by Luther Sterns, adjoins McDonald’s on the south. At McDonald’s Hall, Joseph Howe denounced Confederation in May 1867.

Dartmouth Commons, 1890s


From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin:

This picture from Dartmouth Common was taken in the late 1890s. Symonds’ Foundry, was formerly that of James Greig. The Gorham house to the left, fronted Church Street. In that residence, Mayor W. S. Symonds convened the first Town Council meeting in May, 1873. See plaque at CNR Station nearby. Opposite Gorham’s is the boat-shop of E. F. Williams. The walls of the old tobacco factory can be seen west of the small pitch-roof cottage. The corner-field this way from the cottage was then the swampy home of pollywogs and frogs, and in winter the mecca of skating children.

Turner’s yard, within the picket fence, was flooded during rainy periods. Up the slope to the right, there was an extensive and luxuriant flower garden. Joseph Moore’s high stone structure at extreme left, was then occupied by the Downey family. It fronted on Coleman Street. Across the railway in the rear stood Moseley’s paint factory.


peter toney

From The Story of Dartmouth, by John P. Martin: The elections were on that autumn. Joseph Howe came quite frequently to campaign in Dartmouth and in its suburbs, because he and William Annand were candidates for the County of Halifax, which was a separate constituency from the City. On Friday evening, October 30th, there was … Read more

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