Canada's Oldest Urban Park
According to a 1759 survey, the land now known as the Halifax Common was a swampy area at the base of the Citadel. Its original purpose was military defense, keeping the area around the Citadel clear in case of any enemy attack by land. In 1763, King George III gifted the land “for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Commons forever.” The Common was not only free for the citizens of Halifax to use but encouraged. It also served as a pasture for horses and cattle, which helped to keep it clear.
The original Halifax Common was much larger than it is today. Totaling 235 acres, it stretched from the corner of present-day Cunard and Robie Streets in the north, to the corner of South Park and South Streets in the south. Over the years, the southern half of the Common would be repurposed for the public good, used for hospitals, Camphill Cemetery, the Wanderer’s Grounds, the Public Gardens, Victoria Park, the Museum of Natural History, and the Dalhousie University Medical Campus.
Due to its use by the military, the northern half of the Common remained mostly intact as a public park. It became the hub of sports activities in Halifax. Everything from baseball to cricket and golf to rugby have been played on the Halifax Common. For over a century, Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Famers have practiced their craft on the fields in the section known as the North Common.
Today, the Halifax Common is home to a wide variety of recreational features. The park includes 9 baseball diamonds, 7 tennis courts, a swimming pool, a splash pad, a basketball court, a skateboarding park, a soccer field, two football fields, a cricket field, a playground, and the Emera Oval. The Oval was completed in winter 2010 in preparation for the 2011 Canada Games. In the winter, it features an artificially cooled ice surface for skating, and in the summer months, it is open for roller skating and bicycling, continuing in the tradition of the community use of the Common.