Using dendrochronology, or tree ring dating, they have determined that the house was founded in 1764 or only slightly younger than Halifax’s official founding by 15 years.
Jonathan Fowler, an archaeologist with SMU who was part of the study, said it’s more than just the date that makes this structure so fascinating.
“The ownership and the history of the property bares the name of Charles Morris,” said Fowler. “In fact, it was determined that it wasn’t built by Charles Morris, rather it was built by another fellow named Dennis Heffernan.”
Heffernan may not have a street named after him like Charles Morris, but he built the house, which still stands, albeit on stilts.
“This building used to stand within the footprint of that new building,” Fowler said, referring to the new Vic Apartment Building on the corner of Morris and Hollis.
“Towards the end of 2009, when the developer was preparing to knock down the old buildings on that property, a group of people in the community got organized in an effort to try to save this one.”
Fowler said this marked an interesting conservation movement where the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia and the Ecology Action Centre worked together to preserve the building.
“Heritage people became animated on the historical front, meanwhile the Ecology Action Centre and the environmentalists became agitated by the fact that this was a perfectly serviceable building.”
These two groups along with their allies, including some members of HRM council, rallied around the cause and worked with the developer and Nova Scotia Power, which owns the property where the building is currently situated, and raised enough money to have the building moved a few doors down.
“That’s where it sits at present," said Fowler. "It’s been given a reprieve and they’re currently working on the next step which is truly repurposing it and moving it again.”
The retrofitting of the Morris Building will be done in a way to satisfy both its heritage roots and be as environmentally friendly as possible. It will move to the North End and become a home for young adults.
Fowler said that despite the building moving away from its original location on Morris and Hollis Streets, he’s happy it’ll stay around in some capacity.
Charles Morris Jr. owned a mansion on the corner Morris Hollis Street, the Morris Building was at one time attached to this mansion as his personal office.
The former Morris Mansion, which was converted into a hotel in the 1890s and later apartment buildings, has since been torn down to make room for the new Vic apartments. Fowler notes that all of the remains of the mansion were dumped in a landfill.
The Morris Building was never owned by Charles Morris Sr., as was initially believed. Morris Sr. was a prominent Halifax figure who also played a role in the deportation of the Acadians.
The land was originally bought by a man named John Berrigan, who then sold it to Dennis Heffernan for little more than 10 pounds, a small sum. Heffernan built the house, lived in it for decades and then sold it to Charles Morris Jr. for a nice profit.