This downtown neighbourhood evokes Halifax’s early European history, with a network of interconnected heritage buildings. Year-round, the Historic Properties draw …
A historic oasis downtownBy Laura Fader | Jul 20, 2012
As I sit in a big leather chair in the library of the Halliburton hotel, my fingers are twitching to manhandle the wide selection of beautiful, worn, tattered looking books lining the bookcases. As the complete works of Charles Dickens taunts me, I take in my surroundings. Hotel guests are wandering in and out, helping themselves to coffee and tea, and I am struck by the innate history and coziness that surrounds me. Fresh-cut flowers, hardwood floors, and a large fireplace immediately make me want to curl up with a glass of merlot and one of those blasted books.
Soon, owner Robert Pretty and I are heading out into the garden courtyard to chat. Tucked just a few feet behind Morris Street, the garden seems a hundred kilometres away from the city. A fountain flows in the background and—seriously—a butterfly flutters past my shoulder.
The hotel is small, comprised of three buildings and boasting 29 completely unique rooms. This size, however, is what Pretty believes sets the Halliburton apart from other hotels, suggesting that its ability to maintain independence in an increasingly industrialized city is important. “We deliver a very personalized hotel stay,” he says, “we are at a four-star level but in a charming historic environment.”
As Pretty begins to discuss the history of the Halliburton, I am entranced. The building itself is currently celebrating it’s 200th year, built originally by one of the first Chief Justices of the Supreme Court in Nova Scotia, Brenton Halliburton—whose picture still hangs above the library fireplace. Throughout it’s history, the Halliburton was used as the Dalhousie Law School the late eighteen hundreds, a school of music, and various rooming houses, until 1992 when Pretty’s father bought it and turned it into the thriving and unique boutique hotel that his son would later take over.
Involved on all levels, Pretty, his wife, and their staff of twenty-five strive to create a modernly comfortable environment in such a historic setting. “One thing we’re constantly on top of is that everything is up to date,” says Pretty, while touring me through rooms adorned with flat screen televisions, Keurig coffee makers, and iPod dock alarm clocks. Somehow, Pretty still manages to maintain the classic integrity of the rooms at the same time through features like original crown moldings, working fireplaces at the foot of the bed, and (this one’s my favourite) real keys for the room doors. The antiquity of the hotel blends seamlessly with the modern creature comforts that are so desired and necessary now. This, combined with the personal service, is what makes Pretty confident that The Halliburton is set far apart from other hotels in Halifax. “Most people who stay here have done the [large chain] hotel thing,” he says. “We offer something different; nobody else is doing what we do.”
In the 200th year of the building’s history, this weekend marks the 20 year anniversary of Pretty’s family running The Halliburton. To celebrate, the hotel has held garden parties for guests every Friday afternoon this month (the garden is regularly open to locals who wish to drop by for a drink or appetizer). Pretty also plans to throw a celebratory party for his staff, who he credits for the hotel’s success.
As he walks me to the door, Pretty sees a guest checking in at the counter. “You’re not letting this guy in again, are you?” he laughs, and the two meet as old friends and shake hands. As I walk past Stories, the hotel’s two star restaurant (the only one so awarded in Halifax from Where to Eat in Canada), I picture the countless romantic proposals and delicious fresh food the Pretty has described to me. He steers me past the library and I give one more longing stare at Dickens before we reach the door, I step out of a quiet piece of history and onto the noisy, construction riddled cement of downtown Halifax.