Nova Scotia Hospital

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Nova Scotia Hospital
Established 1852
Construction Began 1854
Opened 1856
Current Status Active
Building Style Kirkbride Plan, Cottage Plan
Location Halifax, NS
Alternate Names
  • Mount Hope Asylum for the Insane
  • Mount Hope
  • The NS

The Nova Scotia Hospital was first drafted as a collaboration between then Halifax Mayor Hugh Bell and Dorothea Lynde Dix in 1852, with construction finishing on the first building in 1856. Throughout its life, the Nova Scotia Hospital became the largest psychiatric and teaching hospital in Nova Scotia, and Atlantic Canada. Construction of various buildings providing services to adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients in varying levels of care from outpatients, day program, to long term care occurred throughout its active lifespan. The campus location is located along the shore of the Halifax Harbour.


Being gainfully occupied was considered to be very beneficial for their treatment. From 1859 until 1878 it appeared that manual labour, walking about the grounds, and general amusement was the form of treatment used. In 1878 Dr. DeWolfe recommended that there be special facilities for the care of the chronically insane, that there be some system of follow-up whereby convalescent patients can be kept under some supervision near their home and that the whole problem of supervision of jails, poor houses, asylums, etc., should be under Government supervision to insure that good conditions exist in these institutions. He recommended the “Cottage System” in which the patients would be maintained in small groups in home-like situations. Also recommended was that the Counties single or with two or more associated, should erect cottages, or small asylums to accommodate from 50 to 100 inmates, not less that one to three miles from the village or town, with not less than an acre of good farming land to each of the estimated population. This apparently was the beginning of the County Home System in Nova Scotia.

The year 1892 saw the beginning of the first Laboratory. This included a Thermostat, Hot Air Sterilizer, Steam Sterilizer, and other Bacteria Culture apparatus. The air on the wards did not indicate encouraging results. Crowded conditions led to the impurity of the air and something had to be done. It was found that a number of the patients had Tuberculosis, and this was causing concern, as there was not proper way of isolation these patients. In 1893 the use of mechanical restraints as means of controlling violent and destructive patients had been practically abolished. It was felt that by extra attention on the part of the nurses, and interesting the patients in some other kind of work, would attain the end of what was considered unnecessary restraint.

In the years of 1900-1902 the Superintendent became quite concerned over the lack of treatment facilities which were being offered, and he questioned why it was any wonder that 55% of the patients coming to the hospital had remained insane, and it was not rather a marvel that so many had recovered under conditions so unfavourable. He stressed the need for a small admission building, planned very differently from the present hospital building into which a new patient could be received without being at the very outset compelled to associate with others in various stages of mental degradation, and without being made to feel that he is but one of a vast community in which the share of attention he can receive is very much smaller than that which he feels his case demands.

1855 saw construction of the large Kirkbride plan Main Building which was completed in sections by 1874.

Additional land was purchased just south of the Main Building and the MacKay House in order to build a new South Unit that would would have its own view, and not block the view of the Main Building, of the Halifax Harbour.

Near the end of World War II, the hospital administration started to plan for an additional building which would be named the Admissions Building. In 1952, the cornerstone was laid, and it was opened in 1958.

The MacKay house was changed from the superintendents residence to a Childrens unit in 1965. In 1968 a nurses residence, Simpson Hall, was opened.

Central Services Building opened in 1974. It features a full service kitchen and cafeteria, pool, gymnasium, library, and houses the maintenance shop.

Due to a increased demand in adolescent care, the MacKay house was replaced by multiple single floor cottages starting in 1975 with the Marshall Treatment Centre which was named after Dr. Clyde Marshall, a prominent figure at the site in the mid century. The construction of the Marshall Treatment Centre was followed by the Princess Alexadra and Murray MacKay units in 1976.

The boiler plant and laundry services facility were housed in one building. The laundry services facility was contracted to also provide services for other hospitals in the district in Halifax and rural areas, including the Halifax County Regional Rehabilitation Centre. In 1976, the boiler plant was expanded to provide capacity apart of a contract for the newly constructed Dartmouth General Hospital which was built across the street from the Nova Scotia Hospital.

In 1984, the site changed the names of all buildings and dedicated them to past employees, doctors, and superintendents. The first building, the Main Building, also known as the North Unit, was renamed the DeWolf Building after James R DeWolf the hospitals first superintendent. The Admissions Building, constructed in 1958, was named EC Purdy, after Elanor Purdy who was the Superintendent of Nursing on site during the 1950s and 1960s. The Nurses Residence was named Simpson Hall after Victor Simpson, the site administrator from the mid 1960s until 1983. The Central Services Building was renamed to Hugh Bell, after the cofounder of the Nova Scotia Hospital.

1992 saw the construction and opening of the new 'Extended Care Facility' named Mount Hope Building.

The DeWolfe Building was demolished in October of 1996. Nearly a decade later, the land in which the DeWolfe building resided on was sold to the Nova Scotia Community College to build their new campus.

In the year 2000, the Nova Scotia Hospital became apart of the Capital District Health Authority and subsequently merged with the Dartmouth General Hospital.

Simpson Hall was demolished in 2004, and in 2012 Simpson Landing was constructed in the same location and used as a transitional care unit.

Images of Nova Scotia Hospital[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Nova Scotia Hospital


  • Mount Hope then and now: A history of The Nova Scotia Hospital By: A. H. MacDonald