The original owner of the building was a local businessman, Mr. Fred Manning, who operated a number of businesses from Halifax during the 1930s and 40s, including a chain of service stations throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He also owned a General Motors dealership in Halifax.
To accommodate his various business activities, he decided to build a new facility on the corner of Sackville and South Park Streets in Halifax. So, in 1932 he engaged my father, Sydney Perry Dumaresq, a well-known Halifax architect, to design a new building. The building had to be a multi-purpose building to provide space for the following operations: a General Motors showroom for Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles; repair facilities for maintenance and repair; gasoline fill-up sales and service stations; two floors of offices for Mr. Manning and the staff of his various business ventures; and parking for 40 automobiles.
As the architect, my father’s job was to accommodate all the above requirements including the parking lot for 40 automobiles. Since the land was very expensive, including the purchase of three houses to accommodate just the building, it was decided to use the rooftop of the building as the parking lot. This necessitated the design of a special ‘auto elevator’ large enough to lift cars and trucks to the roof. Such an elevator was unheard of in Halifax at that time. However, one was designed by the Montreal Elevator Company and was duly installed in the building – and is operational to this day as was demonstrated to the author a few months ago during his tour of the building. The design of the building was completed in 1932, construction started in 1933, and was completed eight months later.
As the frame of the building had to be strong enough to support the autos parked on the roof, it had to be of reinforced concrete. This was one of my father’s specialties. (He was already well known for the design of his ‘fire proof’ buildings of reinforced concrete in Halifax, two of which were the Wood Brothers Department Store on Granville Street and the Bank of Commerce on the corner of George and Granville Streets.)
In order to obtain an appearance of lightness for this new concrete building, the architect needed a special white cement that was only available in England. As a result, this strong, heavy concrete building looks bright and airy due to its white colour – rather than a dark, heavy-set concrete building, as it would otherwise appear.
Special attention was given to office areas of the building. The owner’s office occupied the rounded corner of the building at the junction of Sackville and South Park Streets, one of most desirable locations in the city. In fact, two stately residences facing South Park Street had to be demolished, one of which housed both the residence and office of a well-known family doctor. Mr. Manning’s private office and that of his private secretary were richly decorated with beautiful Venezuelan mahogany imported especially for this project.
After the sale of Mr. Manning’s business interests, the building was for a few years occupied by Mr. Wally Gillis, a local business man, until it was sold to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1944, who occupied it until 2014. The building was demolished in 2016 to make way for condominiums.