Mar 30, 2009

They’re tearing down a church in the Hydrostone. Do you want to walk by it?

“They’re tearing down St. Joseph’s Church in the Hydrostone. It will make for some interesting photos! Do you want to go for a walk to see it?”

Who wouldn’t, really? I mean, it’s got the makings of a great day out: coffee, friends, history, not to mention a bit of walking and a hint of destruction. For someone who lives near but not in that area, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw among the twisted metal, broken concrete, and splintered wood. While I walk a lot in Halifax I haven’t happen to come by this area for some time during my walks.

Of course, I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t excited by the photographic opportunities in the scene I saw, but truth be told I also was saddened by the historical losses I witnessed.

This church has a story to tell. St. Joseph’s Church is situated in Halifax’s North End at the corner of Russell Street and Gottingen Street, which is in the vicinity of Halifax’s Hydrostone area. That location alone meant that the church would have been destroyed by the Halifax Explosion.

But there was more to this church. So, with some investigation, I came to learn that on Thursday 6 December 1917 – the year the Halifax Explosion occurred – more than 400 parishioners of this church were killed, representing about half of the parish at that time. Still, determined to rebuild, the area’s parishioners and residents began reconstructing the church, first as a basement church in the 1920s and later with the final construction of the upper structure in 1960s.

Declining attendance finally led to St. Joseph’s Church’s closure last summer. You never know what you’ll learn about this city when you get a phone call to go for a walk. You may see interesting sites, but you may also see history fade.

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