Culvert from the past unearthed at Halifax Common has been dismantled

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An excavation revealed a portion of what is believed to be Freshwater Brook. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)
An excavation revealed a portion of what is believed to be Freshwater Brook. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)

A culvert from the past discovered last December during work at future site of a hospital parkade in Halifax has been dismantled and used as fill.

The removal of the stone-and-mortar culvert at Bell Road and Summer Street was monitored and documented by an archeological crew.

The culvert was partially buried when located. It was likely part of Freshwater Brook, which was a source of drinking water for sailors.

Jasmine Flemming, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, the water that would have flowed through the culvert had been rerouted sometime prior to the construction of the Museum of Natural History.

Jonathan Fowler, an archeologist and professor at Saint Mary's University, said the culvert has some significance.

"Value is a subjective term," said Fowler. "I would say it does have value because it tells the story of the city development and how the city changed over time."

Jonathan Fowler teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
Jonathan Fowler teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.(Paul Darrow)

Fowler said the culvert shows how Halifax residents interacted with nature during the time the culvert was in use. He said the culvert's construction is reminiscent of Victorian times.

Peggy Cameron, with Friends of the Halifax Common, said that although the culvert was no longer in use it could have been used in the future.

"Climate change is projecting that Nova Scotia will have many, many more frequent extreme weather events so having natural streams or watercourses are going to be really important for dealing with flooding and groundwater percolation," Cameron said.

Cameron points to the 2006 HRM policy that states that "HRM will encourage watercourse daylighting, as part of efforts to preserve or restore natural watercourses as a component of a stormwater management strategy." She said the removal of this culvert was a missed opportunity.

Fowler said it is common to have situations like this during construction. But he said when it comes to determining the value of a heritage object or place, the decision should involve the public.

"It's very important to have an open conversation and have as many different stakeholders participate as possible," said Fowler. "What doesn't appear to have value to us might have great value, it might have great stories attached to it, from some other perspective if we just open ourselves up to it."

The province declined to have the archeologists interviewed.

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