One of my favourite urban history blogs is Keith York City which uses resources available online to re-tell the history of New York City. One of my absolutely favourite features of his website are the Block by Block histories of sections of New York streets which he called “Building Blocks”. So I’m stealing this concept, to his credit, and using it for The Old North End.
The first block in this series is the first block of Gottingen Street (running between Cogswell Street and Falkland Street) – which I refer to today as the Gate to the North End, and in particular the Western side of the street. Until the 1930/40s the Eastern side of the street was home to the large Military Hospital complex but which has been replaced by a Staples, the Propeller Brewery building (formerly the Carpenters Union building), a gas station and the Marquee Club building, all mid-20th century buildings. The Western side of the street contained mostly residences of local trades men and women but also was home to a few commercial ventures and the city’s only African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Using historical records available online we can learn a lot about this section of Gottingen Street
The first block on the Western Side of Gottingen street was carved out of a field owned by Thomas Maynard and is commonly referred to as “Maynard’s Field” in property records. The block is bounded by Falkland street, Creighton and Cogswell streets and based on when the lands were transferred from Maynard to the individual land owners it appears that most of the houses were built-in the early to mid 1840s.
The first available street by street map available for all of Halifax City was the 1878 Hopkins Atlas. This map shows every building and also lists the owners at the time. In that year the first block of Gottingen looked like this:
There have been no photos taken of this block directly outside of catching parts of the buildings in photos of other buildings or from far away. Below is a series of photos that capture this block:
This small screen capture is part of a larger photo highlighting the Naval Dockyards but allows us to see most of the block containing 2-24 Gottingen Street. This photo was clearly taken after 1949 when the large brick office building (called the “Butler Building”) starting at the corner of Gottingen and Cogswell and abutting the Salvation Army property (built in 1972) today was built. You can see in the middle of the block a large house with a peaked roof. This is mostly definitely the home of the TROPOLET family (which I will go into detail about below). This section of the block was demolished likely in the late 1960s and eventually the Vimy Arms Apartment building at 2030 Gottingen street was built. The remaining houses between the 2030 and 2050 Gottingen Street can also be seen in this photo.
The Hopkins Atlas was published in 1878. If we look at McAlpines City Directory of Halifax for 1878-1879 we can see who lived on this portion of the street.
One of the families that built and lived on this section of Gottingen Street for a long time was the TROPOLET family.
Charles Stephen Tropolet married Mary Creamer at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Halifax in October 1796. They had 8 children:
– Catherine, b. 1798
– Charles C., b. 1799, d. 1893
– Susannah, b. 1800
– Isabella Stewart, b. 1805
– John Balthazar, b. 1807
– Eliza Tilley, b. 1810, d. 1901
– Amelia, b.. 1813, d. 1890
– James Philip, b. 1815, d. 1890
It appears that Charles S. Tropolet made his fortune during the War of 1812, though its not clear from available records what, exactly, he did for a living. Charles died prior to 1838. Charles was also a shareholder in the Shubenacadie Canal Company
The daughters of Charles Tropolet appear to have operated a girls school in Halifax in the 1830s and 1840s. In 1839 there is an advertisement in one of the local papers stating that the “Misses Tropolet” offered instruction “in English Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, Ancient and Modern History, Geography, Plain Needle Work, and Fancy Work, Music and Drawing, and the Use of Globes.”
None of the Tropolet children married all of them living in the house on Gottingen Street for all of the last half of the 19th Century.
One of the more prominent buildings in this block of Gottingen street was the Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Gottingen and Falkland Streets.
Zion Church was built in 1846 and stood at the corner of Gottingen and Falklands streets til the mid 1950s when it was eventually demolished. This was the centre of the African Nova Scotian methodist community in Halifax and in combination with Cornwallis Baptist Church down the street on Cornwallis street was the heart of the African Nova Scotian religious community – proving that the African community on Gottingen street has deep deep roots. The building suffered from severe damage during the Halifax Explosion in 1917 having most of its windows blown out. Nothing has been rebuilt on the lot where Zion Church stood since the 1950s.
As mentioned above most of the residential houses in this block of Gottingen street were demolished between the mid 1940s and the early 1970s. The only remaining residential building is 2050 Gottingen street which just became the home of NOREX a graphic design and website design company and as mentioned above the empty lot at the corner of Falkland and Gottingen Street where the Zion AME Church once stood remains empty 60 odd years after the building was razed.