On this Day: News of the New Year!

What will 2024 bring for the good people of planet Earth? It's hard to say! Since we can't see into the future, let's take a look into the past. Here are a selection of newspaper worthy headlines and events from New Years long ago!

Acadian Recorder

December 31, 1853

This letter dated December 27, 1853, from Henry Pryor, Mayor of Halifax, outlined his support for the construction of a prison at Rock Head Farm (near current day Leeds and Gottingen Streets). He proposed a prison that could rehabilitate young offenders and teach them a useful trade during their incarceration. The need to establish such an institution must have been great as Pryor received his request one year later, work program included. The prison remained in operation until September 1969, but by the 1970's the structures had been torn down to make way for residential housing.

The Halifax Citizen

December 31, 1863

This article details the capture of the schooner J. C. Bigelow. The ship, thought to have been built in Halifax, was taken by an American vessel when it was discovered they did not have the proper clearance. Interestingly, accounts of what happened to the J. C. Bigelow differ. The Halifax Citizen states that upon capture by the Americans the ship was found to be taking on water. The crew of the Bigelow was left to fend for themselves on increasingly turbulent seas. A New York Times account of the events paints a kinder outcome. It states that the Bigelow had indeed been taken by the American ship Fulton, but that the schooner and its crew were simply towed to New York when it was discovered that their paperwork was not in order. Where does the real truth lie? It's very difficult to say.

The Daily Echo

December 31, 1888

Here we have a notice for a W. C. T. (Women's Christian Temperance Union) meeting happening on New Years Day. The W. C. T. took a strong stance against the consumption of alcohol, believing it encouraged wide range of societal ills including domestic violence, unemployment, poverty, and disease. They were also strong advocates of women's suffrage, the promotion of literacy, and prison reform. 

The Halifax Herald

January 1, 1915

This news was perhaps not the best way to welcome the New Year! Melville Island Prison was a military facility located off of Purcell's Cove Road. The site was built during the Napoleonic Wars as a place to hold French prisoners, however it is most often associated with the War of 1812. During this conflict, thousands of American soldiers were confined at Melville Island. Due to the poor conditions, many of them did not survive and were buried on nearby Deadman's Island. It was at this time as well that around 2000 African Americans escaping slavery came to Halifax. Nearly half of them were housed at Melville Island as they awaited the land grants that had been promised to them by the British government. At the start of World War One, the prison acted as a detention centre for German and Austo-Hungarian nationalists, as well as military deserters. In 1915, however, inmates were transferred to the Citadel for holding. Perhaps this was done because escape from the wooden barracks on the island was too easy!

After World War Two, military activity at the prison ceased, and the property was leased to the Armdale Yacht Club, which remains on the site to this day.

The Halifax Herald

January 1, 1934

Here we have an article brimming with good news. The Halifax Herald gives a heartfelt thank you to the people of Halifax for contributing to their charitable works over the course of the previous year. Their causes include holiday meals and gifts for underprivileged children and shut ins, as well as summer trips for needy children to Rainbow Haven Beach.

Halifax Chronicle Herald

December 31, 1957

The Lord Nelson Hotel, at the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street, opened to the public in October of 1928. Even at that time, tourism to Nova Scotia was believed to be growing so rapidly that even this grand hotel would not be large enough to accommodate the increased number of people coming to Halifax: "Visitors to Nova Scotia and to Halifax show a regular and rapid increase annually. Last year Government figures show an increase of 50% in the number of tourists without motor cars and [an increase] of 87% [of] motorists over the year before.... Already it is considered that the demand for such accommodation will be greater than The Lord Nelson can supply, without consideration of the stimulus such hotels invariably have on further travel" (Ward Scrapbook, MG 1, vol. 2417, no.1, Nova Scotia Archives). It turns out that theory was correct! By the late 1950s, the hotel was expanding to include an additional 130 rooms, as well as a convention hall and a new kitchen.

Halifax Chronicle Herald

December 31, 1976

Hey there, Sports Fans! There was good news in the paper today for hockey fans: the Nova Scotia Voyageurs won 7-4 against the New Haven Nighthawks at the Halifax Forum! This play by play of the game is sure to bring back memories to die-hard fans.

The Daily News

December 31, 1985

This Sobey's, once located at 2300 Gottingen Street, opened its doors for the last time on January 4, 1986 before being rebranded as a Foodland. Foodland, while an independent store, was still a part of the Sobey's company. In subsequent years, the building was torn down, and the lot was sold with a stipulation that another grocery store could not be built on the site. Today, it is the home of Velo Apartments, as well as several small businesses like Fortune Doughnut.

The Daily News

December 31, 1992

Here's a shocker! It's not often you read a story about prices going down! Though some New Year's Eve parties might have been overstocked if the changes had been made a few days before, lowering costs and passing savings on to the customer is sure to please no matter when it happens. But remember, no matter what the expense: drink responsibly!

The Halifax Chronicle Herald

December 31, 2006

This announcement of four Nova Scotians joining the Order of Canada was happy news indeed! Joan Glode was the founding director of Mik'maw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia, and spent much of her life working in child welfare. Elsie Charles Basque was the first indigenous person in Nova Scotia to earn a teaching certificate, and spent her life educating children and advocating for seniors' rights. Alexa McDonough, former Halifax MP and NPD leader and former Premier John Hamm were both made officers of the Order of Canada.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald

December 31, 2016

The British faced great difficulty in 1794 when they captured a stone tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica. Due to this struggle the British recognized the defensive capabilities of this tower and began building them for use by the royal military. Subsequent towers made by the British became known as Martello Towers after Cape Mortella... though it is hard to say if the difference in spelling was an accident, or a purposeful choice. The Martello Tower in Point Pleasant Park - known as the Prince of Wales Tower - was built in the late 1790's and is said to be the first Martello Tower constructed in the British Empire. The 2016 restoration of the fort - where the roof and windows were replaced to prevent water damage - cost approximately $139, 000.

The Finishing Lines

Every year brings with it new opportunities and challenges, and our local newspapers are an invaluable resource that show us both sides of the proverbial coin. What will be in the headlines next year? In ten years? In 50 years? Only time will tell. In the meantime, have a Happy New Year and don't forget to make headlines!


The Acadian Recorder, December 31, 1853, p. 3

The Halifax Citizen, December 31, 1863 p. 4

The Daily Echo, December 31,1888, p. 3

The Halifax Herald/The Halifax Chronicle Herald, January 1, 1915, p. 4, January 1,1934, p. 4, December 31, 1957, p. 22, December 31, 1976, p. 24, December 31, 2009, p. A8, December 31, 2016, p. A4

The Daily News, December 31, 1985, p. 7, December 31, 1992, p.3


Internment Operations at the Halifax Citadel, 1914-1916, Internment Canada

The Lord Nelson Hotel, Nova Scotia Archives

Martello Tower, Fortification, Britannica

Melville Island by Lisa Pasolli and the Nova Scotia Museum, Historic Nova Scotia

News From Charleston: The Steamship Fulton Captures Another Prize: New York Times, December 12, 1863, p. 3

North-end Halifax resident worries about new apartment building by Moira Donovan, CBC News, September 1, 2016

Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Canada, Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016