Originally published in the June 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal - "The Halifax Club 150th Anniversary" special advertising feature
In 1862, the year The Halifax Club was created, Joseph Howe was the premier of Nova Scotia and Halifax was rebuilding after several devastating fires in the late 1850s destroyed many downtown buildings. Despite this setback, however, Halifax prospered. The American Civil War was raging and many Halifax merchants were making a fortune selling supplies. Shipbuilding was booming and the port was bustling. Founded in 1749, Halifax was a city already steeped in tradition and full of promise for the future.
Against this backdrop, on January 22, 1862, 15 high-profile businessmen joined forces to organize what was then known as a gentlemen’s club. By May they’d bought the land on Hollis Street for $8,000 and the idea for The Halifax Club was becoming a reality. Designed by David Stirling and built by George Lang, it would become one of many landmark buildings to signal a new era for the city.
Today, 150 years later, it’s clear the Halifax Club has stood the test of time.
Although there have been many changes over the years, most notably in 1986 when the first woman was allowed to join, the guiding purpose of the club has remained constant — a place for business-minded people to gather and socialize.
“It’s a place where people form important relationships. Once people join, it becomes their home, a place they enjoy coming to, to relax, to meet with others. That’s always been what the Halifax Club is about,” says the club’s general manager Kathy McNab.
Bill Ritchie joined the club in 1958. A young businessman in the investment industry, Ritchie recalls seeing membership in the club as an inroad to the Halifax business community. Now at 82, he is the club’s oldest and longest-standing member.
“For me it was an introduction to Halifax and the business scene here. It was a central gathering spot where businessmen would come together to discuss the happenings of the day,” says Ritchie.
Going to The Halifax Club was more about socializing rather than discussing business, although it did lay the social groundwork for business connections to happen, he says.
At 25, Andrew Russell is one of The Halifax Club’s youngest members. A young Dartmouth-based entrepreneur, he joined the club two years ago. Although at the time he was thinking of it as more of a convenient “base” for meetings, rather than having to go back and forth to Dartmouth, his membership in the club has become much more than that.
“Being young and just starting off in the business world, the people there have done so much to help me,” says Russell. “They’ve become mentors and have opened doors to opportunities I’d never have had otherwise.”
* Read more Halifax Club stories at: http://www.ns.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/Industry-Spotlight/The-Halifax-Club-150th-Anniversary-23760