1859 Granville Street Fire

Insured value: $126,000.00

The Granville Street Fire

September 9, 1859


Letter from the Board of Insurance Companies of Halifax addressed to City Council.

From the City Council meeting minutes of September 15, 1859:


"Halifax N.S.

12th September 1859


To His Worship The Mayor And The Worshipful The City Council of Halifax.




The Board of Fire Insurance representing all the Fire Insurance Companies doing business in this City have deputed us to make the following communication to your Worship and your Worshipful Body.


The amount insured in our offices on property destroyed by the conflagration on the Night of Friday the 9th instant exceeds One Hundred and twenty six thousand pounds Currency, of which we have ascertained that we shall be called upon to pay upwards One Hundred Thousand Pounds.


Under these circumstances we trust that it will not be deemed presumptuous or officious to ask in reference to the late Fire that immediate and effective investigation be made, first into into the immediate cause of the Fire; secondly into the causes why a conflagration by which Three whole Blocks of Buildings (with the exception of Mr. Esson's Building) were totally destroyed, occuring at the early hour of Nine o'clock in the Evening, with a calm atmosphere and the advantage of Moon light, was not arrested in its progress. If it should be found on such investigation among other things that the supply of Water from the Water Company's Fire Plugs was deficient in force and quantity, that there was a great want of organization and method in the means employed, that the force of Firemen was altogether inadequate giving them credit for using all the exertions in their power, or that aid from the Military was not promptly given, these considerations will be suggestive of the remedies to be applied. And we fervently hope that effectual and energetic measures will be adopted without delay, and that no contracted ideas of ill advised economy will be allowed to interfere with the providing prompt remedies where such large interests are at stake.


If we might be permitted, we would respectfully suggest that a supply of Water should be provided by laying down a pipe of sufficient dimensions, not less than 12 Inches along the whole of Barrack Street with branch pipes leading down the hill to be used exclusively for Fires. That those of sufficient strength and length be obtained to be used with the above.


That a Steam Fire Engine should be immediately procured 


The Illustrated London News, 15 October 1859, p.370, reported that:

"At nine o’clock on the night of the 9th of September the little metropolis of the province of Nova Scotia was startled by the unwelcome sound of the firebells. Soon it became known that the flames were at work in the very centre of its budding magnificence, and with a fury that bade defiance to all counter-efforts. Houses and stores, wooden, brick, and stone, all alike fed the flames, until, of the two extensive blocks touching on Hollis and Barrington streets, with Granville street (the Haligonian’s paradise), running betwixt them, nothing escaped except one store, by saving which, by the way, the fire was prevented spreading over the town. The damage is considerable – about £200,000; the insurance covers £131,000 of the loss. Sixty of the finest buildings in Halifax, covering four acres of ground, were destroyed; two lives were also lost, and many persons received severe injuries. The first of the accompanying Sketches [No. 38] gives a view of the fire in Granville-street, looking northward; the other [No. 39] represents the burning of a huge misshapen pile, nicknamed the ‘Coffin’, in Ordnance-square. From the brilliant play of colours caused by the combustion of the inflammable materials with which it was filled, and from the danger caused by the proximity of the Ordnance Magazine, the excitement here was intense."

Not noted in original source, however this is likely based on a watercolour by H.H. Laird; 23 cm diameter, as with other lithographs of this event published in the same edition of The Illustrated London News.

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