The History of Veith House and the Halifax Protestant's Orphanage
The History of Veith House
The present building that is now Veith House was originally built to replace The Halifax Protestant Orphanage (or Halifax Protestant Orphan's Home as some sources have it). The previous Orphanage had been lost on December 6th, 1917, the day of The Halifax Explosion. Before the Orphanage was moved to Veith Street, it's original location was on North Park Street, not far from where the traffic round-about is now, and had been established by Reverend Robert Fitzgerald Uniacke (rector of St. George’s Round Church) in 1857.
At the time of The Halifax Explosion, the Halifax Harbour was a busy outpost for the Allies of the First World War. It is believed that on December 6th 1917 that the Orphanage’s Matron heard the first sounds and panic heralding the larger blast, and thought that the enemies of the Empire were attacking the city. She ushered the 21 children and staff into the sub-basement where all but six perished. In the year 2000 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the site honouring the children, families and staff of the orphanage who were lost in the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
The new Halifax Protestant’s Orphanage was open from 1924-1969, after which the children were streamed into Nova Scotia’s new (at the time) foster care program, many in the North End of Halifax in the general vicinity of the now-former Orphanage. At that time the Halifax Protestant’s Orphanage dissolved, and a new charity, Halifax Children’s Foundation, took ownership of the building. The Halifax Children’s Foundation owns the building to this day, enabling Veith House to focus on providing programs and services to support children and families in the North End in need. After many months of study and planning on July 1, 1970 Veith House opened as a community centre to continue to do just that, and in the last 40 years has been a neighborhood House which has provided programs and services to children, families and individuals experiencing poverty, mental health, and disability. Below you will find a timeline of Veith House history, including programs formerly offered.
Over the years, many former residents have returned to Veith House to share their stories and reminisce. Many moments of healing and reconciliation have taken place, and we at Veith House are currently collecting accounts from those who wish to share them. Also in hand is a Veith House Memorial/History Room, dedicated to those who lived at worked at the Orphanage over the decades. As we continue to collect stories, newspaper articles and pictures from those who lived and worked here and their descendants, we will add to the artifacts detailing Veith House’s history from its inception as an orphanage in 1857 through to the present day. We welcome any stories that folks would like to share with us, as well as any artifacts and photographs that anyone would like to donate, loan to us, or have copied. Also, we would be pleased to receive any corrections, understandings, or elaborations on the information contained within this retrospective.
Halifax Protestant's Orphanage - Veith House Time Line
1857 - The Halifax Protestant Orphanage is established on North Park Street by Rev. Robert F. Uniacke.
1890 - The Halifax Protestant Orphanage moves to Veith Street (the address is also given as “1274 Barrington Street” in another source.)
1914 - World War I (The Great War) begins. As men left their families in Halifax to participate on behalf of the British Commonwealth, it was not uncommon for children to be signed into an orphanage until the father returned home from duty. This tradition is believed to have begun prior to the First World War and continued until the closing of orphanages in 1969.
December 6th, 1917 - The Halifax Explosion occurs at 9:04 am, the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nucular weapons. 2,000 people in Halifax and Dartmouth were killed instantly, and another 9,000 were injured. The Halifax Protestant's Orphanage was destroyed, and 24 of the resident children and three staff members lost thier lives in the devestation. Seven children managed to survive.
November 11, 1918 - The end of World War I.
1924 - The new Halifax Protestant's Orphanage building opens, half a block south from the previous building. This is the building that is now Veith House.
1939-1945 - World War II. Again, Halifax with its long Naval tradition, becomes a central player for the Canadian and Allied Forces. During this time, many families were seperated and again, Orphanages became temporary homes for more children than during non-war time periods.
July 18-19, 1945 - Bedford Magazine Explosions. Though not as devastating as The Halifax Explosion of 1917, during these two days were a series of explosions caused by a fire started on the evening of July 18th as a barge in the Bedford Basin exploded. This explosion set fire to a dock that was being used to temporarily store ammunition, which led to 24 hours of small explosions to continue in the Basin. With the recent memory of The Halifax Explosion, the North End communities of both Halifax and Dartmouth were evacuated, which would have included The Orphans Home.
1969 - The Halifax Protestant's Orphanage closes its doors, along with the majority of orphanages across the country, in favour of the new foster care system. This is the result of widespread efforts across the country known as The Community Living Movement, spearheaded by parents and concerned community members to de-institutionalize marginalized children. This became the start of healthy community development that Veith House continues to strive for today.
1970 - Veith House opens its doors to the public in a very loose program structure as staff and community members fine tune programs and services. A youth worker is hired and four staff from the Orphanage incarnation of Veith House are retained on staff to fill various positions. A community newsletter, tutoring and outreach programs are established, and the Ward 5 Resource Council is born from a general meeting at Veith House to be involved in social action, community planning and development of services.
1971 - Spring/Summer. Veith House functions as a neighborhood house become more fixed as a casual, non- threatening atmosphere is encouraged. The Board of Governors of the Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home technically votes to dissolve itself and appoints a new Board, with the hope of achieving financial stability and community involvement. Veith House receives Opportunities for Youth Grant to finance its first Family Camp and organizes a parade to celebrate a successful first summer.
1971 - Fall. Female youth worker added to staff for the girls of the community. Outreach Tutoring Program operated out of Veith House with the assistance of students from Dalhousie University, and involvement with the establishment of the North End Community Centre.
1972 - Winter/Spring. Renovations carried out to enable programs and office space to function better, and the Board of Governors of the Halifax Protestant Orphan’s Home formally changes its name to the Halifax Children’s Foundation while continuing to administer Veith House.
1972 - Fall. The more stable programs begin their fall sessions, community and staff representatives take their places on the Halifax Children’s Foundation Board. The Tutorial Program is relocated to Dalhousie University on the advice of the students involved. The North End Community Centre formally opens.
1973 - Winter/Spring. Shelburne Transportation Program established to aid parents in visiting their boys at the Nova Scotia School for Boys.
1973 - Summer. Wilderness Experience Program for youth and their families undertaken at a parcel of land at Clay Lake.
1973 - Fall. Official separation of Veith House from the Halifax Children’s Foundation for funding purposes, with an interim Board to administer the House until official incorporation of the Veith House Board. Latch Key program discontinued with the opening of the Halifax Police Boy’s Club, which works with Veith House.
1974 - Fall. Formal proposal to the Province regarding a Day Care facility. Veith House Board of Directors formally constituted under the Societies Act of Nova Scotia. Staff of Veith House begin annual residential campaign for involvement for United Appeal.
1975 - Winter/Spring. Staff redirects some of their time and energies to meet youth social adjustment needs. Veith House and Police Boy’s Club boards identify areas of common concern and develop plans to work together. Income Tax program begun at Veith House with students from M.S.S.W.
1976 - Winter/Spring. The first female Director takes the reins of Veith House, Norma Scott.
1976 - Fall/Winter/Spring. Groups increase their use of Veith House, such as the Halifax Police Boys’ Club, meeting rooms, van rental, ect, another female youth worker is hired, and the first youth from the surrounding community serves on the Veith House Board. Veith House fully utilized for the first time as a support system in the community for groups and individuals.
1977 - Summer. Contact with senior citizens in the community and dances for 13-17 year olds at “The House” are organized with the help of local youth.
1978 - Winter/Spring. The Shelburne Transportation Program celebrates five years of operation with the full support of the courts and the community. Community newsletter revived to great acclaim after a hiatus, support staff continue to be provided for the Halifax Police Boys’ Club, and 12 youth hired through the Young Canada Works Summer Project grant, which enables Veith House to offer work experience. Community parade to “kick off” the summer, and interaction and trips with senior citizens continued.
1978 - Fall. The Family Life Group at Veith House revitalized the Tenant’s Association for Mulgrave Park with support from Veith House staff. Latch Key program continued social development with small group work after being revived at an earlier point and local seniors became involved with the day care and formed a Grandparent’s Association/Club. Community groups and individuals continued to use Veith House at an Accelerated rate.