THE STORY OF THE OLD TOWN HALL
Situated in the heart of beautiful downtown Glace Bay, the Old Town Hall has been at the center of the community’s life for over a century. Within a year of Glace Bay’s incorporation as a town, in 1901, construction began on the three story red brick building plus attick and basement. Built to house the offices of the new municipality, Glace Bay’s Town Hall was officially opened in September, 1903. Over the years, the Old Town Hall was to become home to every imaginable civic service, including the police and fire departments; a court of justice and the town’s jail.
The Old Town Hall is an impressive three story brick building built between 1902 and 1903. It was designed by George E. Hutchinson and built by MacAskill Construction at the cost of $18.869.00. It served as Glace Bay's Town Hall for over 80 years.
In the beginning the building housed the fire and police departments, a jail, judges chambers and courtroom. Stables for the engine horses and haylofts were located in the back. As well, it had offices for all the new town's services and chambers for some very lively council meetings. The Town Hall of Glace Bay featured "one stop shopping" before the term was even invented !
As the town grew, many of its services outgrew their quarters at the Old Town Hall. By 1989, the aging building had become tired and worn and its upkeep proved too expensive for a town with a dwindling population. In 1989 the Mayor and Town Council elected to relocate, rather than repair the Old Town Hall. The following year they transferred ownership to the Glace Bay Historical Society, who in turn, formed the Glace Bay Heritage Museum Society. These two societies oversaw the maintenance of the building, collected artifacts and opened the Glace Bay Heritage Museum at the site in 1990.
Despite valiant efforts to refurbish, the financial pressures forced these two Societies to abandon their efforts in 1997 and vacate the Old Town Hall. By that time Glace Bay had ceased to exist as an independent municipal unit, and by 1995 the town had become but one of a number of island communities that were amalgamated as the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. In 1998 the Municipality decided to tear down Glace Bay's now vacant Old Town Hall.
THE GLACE BAY HERITAGE MUSEUM SOCIETY
Facing the loss of
one of the last remaining heritage properties in a town that was once
known as “Canada’s largest”, moved citizens of the former mining
community to rise up in opposition to the Municipality’s
proposed destruction. They insisted that this important piece of Glace
Bay’s proud past must be saved. From the ranks of the hundreds of “Bay
Byes” who rallied to demand a reprieve for the Old Town Hall, the
current Glace Bay Heritage Museum Society was born
in early 1999.
The Glace Bay Heritage Museum Society is a non profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Glace Bay’s rich, multicultural heritage. A registered charity, the Society is dependent on the generosity of its patrons and friends for support.
THE RESTORATION PROJECT
By 2003, Phase 1 of the restoration of this grand old lady was completed. The roof was replaced, the brickwork repaired, and a replica of the bell tower that had graced the original building was built. On the first floor, hardwood floors were laid and the courtroom restored. The former Municipal offices were refurbished to house the Glace Bay Heritage Museum and Book Store and the former municipal clerks office became the Old Town Hall Gift Shop.
With the assistance of the three levels of government, with support from the corporate sector and through the generosity of countless community minded individuals, in 2003, on the eve of the Old Town Hall's centennial, the Society fulfilled the first of its mandate when it re-opened the Old Town Hall and unveiled its Glace Bay Heritage Museum, Book Store and Old Town Hall Gift Shop.
The Society forged ahead with the restoration. Again with the support of three levels of Government, the private sector and a great number of hard working volunteers, the Society was able to restore the second floor and bring to life various aspects the of community's past, as it was in the last century. The grand opening for this milestone was June 1st 2010.
With two floors restored, including the Courtroom and Council Chamber, the Society set its sights on the basement, which once housed the town's jail. Please visit the restoration gallery here.
Photo: Former mayor John Morgan presenting the Heritage Designation plaque to Isabelle Harris and Elke Ibrahim.
The Old Town Hall received The Nova Scotia Trust Built Heritage Award.
The Crest of the the town of Glace Bay depicts the signs and symbols of the fishing and mining; the historic and founding industries of the town. The Crest bears the towns colours blue (for the ocean) and black (for the coal). The motto inscribed in Latin is Ex Fundo Maris et Terrae (translated as: from the depths of the sea and the earth). The small train symbolizes Glaces Bay's pivotal position as the center of the Sydney & Louisbourg Railway.
COAL MINERS STATUE
The town’s memorial to its deceased coal mine: located on the museum grounds.