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Relocation of the Historic Charles Morris Building

Reprinted from the Ontario Professional Surveyor, Volume 56, No. 2, Spring 2013

Charles Morris was a captain in the Massachusetts militia in the mid 1740s when Britain and France were at war (King Georges War 1744-1748). In the spring of 1748 Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts sent Charles Morris and fifty men from Boston to survey Nova Scotia’s resources and identify areas suitable for settlement. Morris prepared a survey of the Bay of Fundy and the Acadian settlements in Nova Scotia and wrote a 100-page description of the colony, A Brie survey of Nova Scotia. This impressed Shirley so much that he recommended that Morris be given further surveying work in Nova Scotia. Lord Halifax concurred and directed the governor of Nova Scotia to make Charles Morris the Chief Surveyor of Lands.

In 1749, Morris laid out the original town plot of Halifax. He constructed an office, the Morris House, at the corner of Hollis and Morris Streets where he not only practiced the profession of surveying but also became the first town planner. His son Charles Morris II carried on his father’s profession, which became especially busy when the United Empire Loyalists arrived at the end of the American Revolution looking for plots of land. He also became Chief Surveyor.

“Charles Morris III succeeded his father as Chief Surveyor and laid out the road from Halifax to Annapolis Royal. His son, John Spry Morris, succeeded his father as the fourth and last Surveyor General of the Province: one post, one family, four generations and 102 years.”

Slated for demolition in 2009, the Morris House was saved by the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, a diverse group of stakeholders and numerous members of the Ecology Action Centre’s Built Environment Committee. It was lifted off its foundation and moved to a new location at the north-end of Halifax in January. This was done over a 2 day period to its new location 4.5 km away. Saving the house not only diverted waste from the landfill, it set a real world example to encourage builders and developers to work with existing materials and to preserve a piece of history. The house will be rehabilitated as energy efficient and turned into an affordable home for young adults.

 Information for this article was gathered from the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors. 

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