Hotel History

Hotel History


The “Nova Scotian” opened its doors on June 23, 1930, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The hotel boasted 130 rooms, 5 suites and the elegant Atlantic Ballroom which accommodated up to 275 guests for a dinner. The hotel was considered to be reminiscent of grand railway hotels all over the world, and one of a kind in Eastern Canada. The Canadian National Train Station also opened next door in 1928, connecting South End Halifax to the rest of Canada.

The size of the hotel kitchen is immense in today’s terms, because of its original connection with CN. The hotel served as a supply base for the trains, preparing all meals and also the provision of laundry services for the train linens and bedding.

There was a permanent exhibit outside the hotel from 1930 to the early 1940s near the current Terminal Building. It featured two of the oldest surviving locomotives in the world dating from the 1830s, the Albion and the Samson. They can now be found in the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton, Nova Scotia.

At the time, the Nova Scotian was 8 stories high, and on the 8th floor, there was a beautiful tearoom that overlooked the city of Halifax and Cornwallis Park, which is directly across the street from the hotel. The tearoom was surrounded by a beautiful rose garden and was one of the most popular and well-respected venues in the city.

Rose gardens were also located at the rear of the hotel, which overlooks Halifax Harbour. The rear of the hotel has a full view of the Port, where in the early days luxury liners docked as Halifax has the second largest natural harbour in the world next to Sydney, Australia. Today, over 130 cruise ships visit the port annually. The ships still dock directly behind the hotel - a great sight for guests visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Atlantic Ballroom became synonymous with big bands and dancing. It was THE ballroom in town; a place to see and be seen!

The guestrooms were considered the best in the region and to this day the original wing has huge closets. In the day, there was no such thing as “carry on” luggage, and where travel was often for extended periods customers brought huge steamer trunks and simply needed a closet large enough to house them.

To service the hotel, Nova Scotia Power Corporation built a power plant beside the hotel which has a tunnel connecting the two buildings. Today, the tunnel is not used, and the electrical plant, once also a film studio, has been transformed into their headquarters.

Another unique use of the hotel was for a radio station, where programs were broadcast from Studio H, on the 8th floor, possibly due to the height of the hotel and its great location in the city.

The Nova Scotian grew in size in the late 1950s, when an additional 161 rooms were added including 9 more suites. Significant Halifax conference space was created including the famous Commonwealth Ballroom, which has hosted royalty and dignitaries from all over the world.

Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth has stayed in the hotel twice, once in the 1950s and once in the 1970s. Prince Charles and Princess Diana attended a state dinner in 1983 at the Hotel Nova Scotian, hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The 700 guests enjoyed a dinner of Canadian wines and cuisine and Trudeau told the Royal couple they had begun their visit in “the most friendly part of Canada.”

Adding to the appeal of the hotel with the 1950s addition were food and beverage facilities which catered to the local community as well as hotel guests. The Evangeline Room, where guests would be greeted by tuxedoed maître d’ and waiters, was considered to be the most elegant restaurant in the city. Here, they could dance the night away to live entertainment – featuring a grand piano, sparkling silver, fine china, gleaming crystal and all the trimmings. The Eager Beaver Bar extended across the Main front of the hotel and was the most popular bar east of Montreal.

In the early 1980s, Canadian National sold the hotel and it became the Halifax Hilton. Hilton managed the hotel until 1993, when the hotel then closed its doors and it was put up for sale.

In April 1996, NewCastle Hotels & Resorts of Shelton, CT, purchased the hotel and proceeded to invest $4 million immediately in the heritage hotel. This was in addition to the $15 million that Hilton had invested in the late 1980s to upgrade the historical property.

The grand old dame re-opened on August 6, 1996 as The Westin Nova Scotian. The heritage hotel now offers 310 guestrooms, including 10 suites and 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting and pre function space.

NewCastle Hotels & Resorts has continued to invest significant dollars in the property since its’ initial takeover to further enhance the property’s services and amenities. The AAA Four Diamond hotel features Westin’s signature product including Heavenly Beds and linens in all rooms and suites. The meeting space was upgraded, but still maintained its exquisite charm. An indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and the innovative Westin Workout ensures that guests of the hotel have access to all facilities and services expected of the Westin brand.

The restaurant, elements on hollis, offers contemporary global cuisine created with local ingredients. Roy’s, an urban-chic cocktail lounge is named after long term bartending legend Roy Clorey, who started his career at The Nova Scotian Hotel in 1963. In 2017, Roy decided to hang up his martini glass and retire. Roy’s offers a contemporary atmosphere to enjoy Starbucks coffee by day and a great selection of beverages by night.

The hotel is the annual host of one of the most prestigious events in Canada each November, The Halifax International Security Forum. Further, it has once again become the hotel of choice for high profile social events, large conventions and has established itself as a key player in the corporate group and business travel market segments.

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