Harbour Drive and Cogswell Interchange Source Guide

Few pieces of Halifax’s roadway infrastructure have been more controversial than the Cogswell Interchange. It was one of the early manifestations of an urban renewal plan to invigorate downtown development to keep pace with Halifax’s suburban growth. Several downtown streets were closed and numerous city blocks were demolished to make room for what became known as Scotia Square and the Cogswell Street Interchange. The Interchange was part of the planned Harbour Drive project, a high-capacity traffic corridor which was to stretch from the Fairview Overpass through downtown and south-end Halifax to eventually traverse the Northwest Arm via a new bridge. 

Map of Halifax peninsula with bold to show proposed Harbour Drive route

Proposed plan with existing street system for Harbour Drive, 1963. HMA 102-39P SS-10-15719

The southern portion of the Harbour Drive project – Cogswell Street to the proposed Northwest Arm Bridge – started with the Cogswell Street Interchange which was open in 1970. Further construction of the expressway was halted due to public opposition led by the Heritage Trust. Much of the opposition was to the planned demolition of waterfront buildings considered vital to the city's heritage and tourism sectors. After a successful campaign to save them, these buildings were recognized as significant heritage properties and later developed as the Historic Properties. Harbour Drive was left unfinished.

In November 2021, the Municipality launched the Cogswell District Project which re-envisions the area where the Cogswell Interchange has been for the past 40 years. As the Interchange is demolished and passes into history, this source guide provides a brief overview of the material the Municipal Archives has on the Harbour Drive project, including the construction of the Cogswell Street Interchange.

Council minutes

City of Halifax Council minutes and submissions are an excellent source of information about decisions and development of municipal issues, including Harbour Drive and the Cogswell Street Interchange. Start by searching the online indexes to find relevant references, and then consult those minutes. Reports, correspondence and petitions mentioned in the minutes are not included in this digitized content; contact the Municipal Archives to request copies of these submissions.

City of Halifax – subject files

Several departments were involved in various stages of the Harbour Drive and Cogswell Interchange projects. Below is a chronological listing of relevant files. Files on the various phases of Harbour Drive will include material on the Interchange, and vice versa.

Halifax Engineering and Works Department records:

Engineering and Works Department subject files (102-39B) draw together a lot of material, including correspondence with the public and community groups, departmental correspondence and memos, staff reports, relevant excerpts from Council minutes, photographs, maps and plans, and newspaper clippings. Correspondence files (102-39C) include incoming and outgoing correspondence from the City Engineer’s office.

Halifax City Clerk’s Office and City Manager’s subject files:

Black and white photo of a row of buildings on a street corner; the Morse's Tea building is on the far right.

Corner of Upper Water St. at Duke showing the Imperial Oil Building, CR30K-1-38.19, March 1969

Committee of Concern records:

A Committee of Concern was formed specifically with regards to Cogswell Street Interchange and Harbour Drive projects and the potential destruction of “architecturally and historically significant buildings.” Records related to the Committee of Concern exist in City of Halifax records (102-123) as well as Lou Collins’ records (CR30), document community opposition.

Halifax Landmarks Commission records:

The Halifax Landmarks Commission was an advisory agency responsible for reviewing city development plans affecting historic sites and landmarks. It was established in 1970, replacing the Civic Advisory Committee on the Preservation of Historic Buildings. The Commission was involved in the controversy over the proposed demolition of historic buildings in downtown Halifax to make way for Harbour Drive. 

Halifax Landmarks Commission records, Citizen letters to City Council protesting demolitions, 1969 (names redacted for privacy)

These are samples of letters from citizens and organizations to the Mayor and City Council protesting the demolition of historic buildings on the Halifax waterfront due to the planned Cogswell Street interchange and Harbour Drive project. (102-108.1)

  • Demolition historic waterfront, 102-108.2, 1969 -- Samples of form letter cards protesting the demolition of historic waterfront buildings to make room for the Cogswell Street Interchange and Harbour Drive.  The cards were sponsored by the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia and exhorted citizens to write or phone their mayor or alderman to support preserving the buildings. Each card was signed and addressed by a citizen. Some cards have attached letters or additional comments added. 

Heritage activist Lou Collins and the Halifax Landmarks Commission were active against Harbour Drive:


Map showing the downtown portion of the Halifax peninsula, with Harbour Drive plan drawn in over waterfront area

Preliminary Plan, Phase II, Functional Planning Report for Harbour Drive, DeLeuw Cather & Co, 1965


There are many photographs that document the construction process for the Cogswell Street Interchange, as well as nearby Scotia Square. The majority of the photographs listed below in chronological order have been digitized and can be viewed by clicking on the links for each entry. A selection of photographs are also included in a Flickr album for easier browsing.

Black and white aerial photo of construction site

Aerial photograph of Scotia Square development area after demolition, 1962. HMA 102-105-1.35

Black and white aerial photograph of completed Scotia Square and Cogswell Interchange area

Aerial photograph of completed Scotia Square and Cogswell Street Interchange, 1970. HMA 102-105-1.36

view of the Scotia Square excavation site as seen from the Trade Mart building. The view includes the Moir's Factory, City Hall, the Royal Bank of Canada (under construction), and some buildings along Barrington St.

Progress photos of Scotia Square, south-east, 1967-12-13, compilation of 102-16N-0068.6 and -0068.8


CJCH's Action Line with Bill Ozard - Preservation of historic buildings – post-Cogswell Interchange

This CJCH radio call-in show "Action Line" about the preservation of old buildings in Halifax was recorded shortly after the Harbour Drive project was slated to demolish many old buildings that later became Historic Properties. Host Bill Ozard decries the destruction of heritage buildings to build more roads, interviews Lou Collins, and fields calls from tourists and citizens, including several children and a Heritage Trust member. The audio-recording is illustrated with archival photos for posting on YouTube.

Maps and Plans:

Most of the maps and plans listed chronologically below have not been digitized, but are available to view in-person at the Halifax Municipal Archives. Digital scans can also be ordered. Maps and plans are also included in the reports. 

  • SS-10-15719 - Schematic plan of proposed "Harbour Drive" in relation to City street system. [Shows proposed Harbour Drive route, existing traffic arteries, possible future traffic facilities (including possible south harbour bridge and possible Northwest Arm bridge), and possible future traffic artery improvements. Base map of City traced in 1953, plan completed in 1963. View above.


Map showing the southern portion of the Halifax peninsula, with a Halifax-Dartmouth bridge and a bridge over the Northwest Arm drawn in

Second Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge and NWArm Bridge Alternative Locations, 1963, 102-40.B4.2.

This map shows the southern part of the Halifax peninsula and a proposal for a Northwest Arm bridge and second Halifax-Dartmouth bridge. The map shows the recommended bridge and street routing as recommended by H.H.L. Pratley, a consulting engineer, as well as the routing recommended by city staff, 1963.

  • SS-6-14957 – 01-FEB-1961 -- Expropriation plan of certain lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes. [Land to be expropriated between Jacob Street, Brunswick Street, Hurd Street, and Poplar Grove.] Note: Expropriation not completed, see plan no. SS-8-15402
  • SS-6-15102 – 02-MAY-1961 -- Expropriation plan of certain lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes. [Property on northeast corner of Jacob Street and Poplar Grove.]
  • SS-7-15183 – 03-AUG-1961 -- Plan of certain lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes. [Shows redevelopment area in red. Area bounded by Upper Water St. Buckingham S., Argyle St., Duke St., Market St., Buckingham St., Brunswick St., Proctor St., Barrington St., and Bell St. Some properties and owners in area are shown.]
  • SS-8-15349 – 25-APR-1962 -- Expropriation plan of certain lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes. [Properties being expropriated include block bounded by Buckingham St., Granville St., Bell St., and Barrington St., and the Pentagon Building between Upper Water St. and Granville St.]
  • SS-8-15402 – 07-MAY-1962 -- Expropriation plan of certain lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes. [Area bounded by Jacob Street, Brunswick Street, Proctor Street, and Barrington Street, and area bounded by Argyle Street, Jacob Street, Barrington Street, and Bell Lane.]
  • TT-1-15879 – 03-JAN-1964 -- Cornwallis Centre Plan showing grid elevations of former streets (Hurd, Poplar Gove, Starr, Jacob Streets, Cunard Court) over Phase I. (later called Scotia Square)
  • TT-1-15956 – 14-MAY-1964 -- Plan showing closing of Hurd, Starr St., Cunard Court & Poplar Grove - Phase l
  • 102-39H-2 - Cornwallis Centre architectural drawings, 13 architectural drawings, 1964
  •  Central Business District Plan D Proposed Traffic Network, 102-41E-P800-24, May 1964 -- Shows the proposed traffic network for downtown Halifax, including Harbour Drive, tunnel from Halifax to Dartmouth, parking availability and average weekday traffic volume.
  • Central Business District Plan E Proposed Traffic Network, 102-41E-P800-25, May 1964 -- Shows the proposed land use for downtown Halifax, Harbour Drive, tunnel from Halifax to Dartmouth, boundaries of the Central Business District.
  • TT-6-16754 -- Scotia Square plan showing pads, Trade Mart & Harbour Drive. Superceded by plan TT-6-16762, 07-OCT-1966
  • TT-6-16804 – 05-JAN-1967 -- Plan and profile Street Extension Cogswell St. to Proctor St. [ for Cogswell Interchange]
  • TT-6-16805 – 06-JAN-1967 -- Plan and profile. Proctor St - Barrington to Brunswick
  • TT-6-16806 – 06-JAN-1967 -- Plan and profile Barrington St. Proctor St. to St. Extension for Cogswell Interchange
  • TT-8-17120 -- Karlsen & Grimbsy properties on Barrington - proposed re-alignment plan for Harbour Drive shows footprint of buildings, 21-NOV-1967
  • TT-8-17161 -- Expropriation for Harbour Drive - Cogswell Interchange - Ralph Connor Ltd., 12-MAR-1968
  • TT-8-17270 -- Plan showing preliminary design of Service Rd. and area available for development on Brunswick St. with overlay of proposed Harbour Drive between Gerrish and Cornwallis. Shows footprint of St. Patrick's church buildings, 23-APR-1968
  • TT-8-17283 -- Land exchange between DND and Purdy Brothers and the City of Halifax. Harbour Drive - Cogswell Street Interchange. Shows footprint of Cunard buildings and pier, 29-APR-1968
  • TT-8-17305 -- Harbour Drive Cogswell St Interchange Plan - Service Road and high water line - Halifax Fisheries Ltd. area, 23-MAY-1968
  • 102-42.B60 -- Harbour Drive Cogswell Street Interchange, 1 map, 1968
  • ZZ-23 - Cogswell Interchange, 76 architectural plans, 1968
  • TT-18-20415 -- Harbour Drive at Robie Street from North West Arm Bridge to Young Avenue, 1968
  • TT-8-17302 – 16-MAY-1968 -- Expropriation plan, lands of John James Brown between Barrington, Water, Jacob and Hurd St. Also shows other landowners
  • TT-8-17317 – 10-JUN-1968 -- Cogswell St. Interchange Expropriation Plan, civic #2023-25 Hurd St. of Louis Newman. Also shows names of other landowners.
  • TT-9-17364 – 31-JUL-1968 -- Plan showing Purdy Bros. Land required by the City of Halifax for the Cogswell Street Interchange
  • TT-9-17427 – 31-OCT-1968 -- 144 Expropriation Plan - Showing lands of Purdy Brothers Ltd. Also a Stencil
  • TT-9-17510 – 13-FEB-1969 -- Street Closure (Cogswell Street Interchange Area). Barrington, Bell, Jacob, Proctor, Granville, Hurd, Upper Water, and Buckingham Streets. [Shows building footprints with labels J.E. Morse and Company, Halifax Seed Company, H. Harris Miller, Roland and Murray Keddy, Office of the Provincial Treasury, the demolished pentagon, and Nova Scotia Light and Power Company.]
  • TT-10-17688 - A, B and C -- City of Halifax Development Department - Harbour Drive - Phase 2. General arrangement plan showing alternate schemes for harbour area in vicinity of Barrington Street, 01-FEB-1969
  • TT-13-18872 -- Expropriation plan of lands required by the City of Halifax for redevelopment purposes [showing lands to be expropriated for Harbour Drive, with lots labelled R.C. [Roman Catholic] Episopal Corp., including Saint Patrick's glebe, church, and rectory, Yvonne Weir and Earl Weir, Marilda Shiers and William Shiers, and Sisters of Charity Saint Patrick's Convent.], 09-DEC-1970
  • TT-14-19171 -- Central redevelopment area - land acquisition and assembly for Cogswell Street Interchange and Harbour Drive, 01-JUN-1971
  • TT-16-19619 -- Barrington Street proposed diversion No. 2 , 11-FEB-1972
  • TT-16-19621 -- Proposed Harbour Drive phase 2 - Proctor Street to Gerrish Street to accommodate Barrington Street housing, 11-FEB-1972
  • TT-16-19603 -- Plan and profile of Harbour Drive including cul-de-sac on D.N.D. property, 11-JUL-1972
  • TT-17-20187 -- Harbour Drive roadway from Cogswell Street Interchange to Devonshire Avenue including A.L. MacDonald Bridge Approaches
  • TT-17-20185 -- Harbour Drive North - Devonshire Ave to MacKay Bridge Alternative No. 2, [1972]

External resources

Many have written about the Cogswell Street Interchange and Harbour Drive, including Historic Nova Scotia and Halifax Bloggers. For their March 27, 2013 public forum on re-imagining the Cogswell Interchange, CBC Halifax created a special report: "Road to Nowhere".

Dalhousie University Archives holds the records from the Movement for Citizens Voice and Action, a group active in opposition to Harbour Drive.

Nova Scotia Archives holds 2 recordings of CBC's Gazette editions: one from 1968 showing scenes of the Scotia Square and Harbour Drive developments, and a 1972 discussion of Harbour Drive at Halifax City Council with interviews with Mayor Walter FitzGerald and Alan Ruffman. 

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