Halifax Municipal Airport and Saunders Park

 

 

 

RCAF/National Archives of Canada/PA-126608

 

 

Some Facts About the Halifax Municipal Airport

 

  • Built in 1931

  • Pan American Airways operated a route between Halifax and Boston

  • Civilian flights ceased with the outbreak of World War II

  • Field was used to store military supplies during WWII (flight operations had been shifted to 

  • Shearwater)

  • Land was used for the Westmount subdivision.

 


 

Notes on Halifax Municipal Airport

By Bill Marshall

Donated to halifaxhistory.ca by Gerry Marshall

 

 

It had been a hot, dry summer in 1912.  The sunburned grass suffered stunted growth but the daisies and

burdocks thrived.  It was September and Halifax's first unofficial airport was to be put to use.  You couldn't

call it a "port" or even an airstrip by later standards.  It was the N.S. Provincial Ex. and the take off spot for

the first heavier-than-air craft to flutter through the sky over Halifax.

 

Barnstormer Charles F. Walsh literally wrestled his puffing, groaning biplane out of the weeds inside the 

racetrack behind the stage.  As he tried to take off, he couldn't clear the fence at the end of the daisy patch 

and landed in a heap by the poultry shed. The next day, camouflaged with bandages and band aids, he 

made flight. It was a good flight but didn't leave Civic leaders with any great desire to establish an airport 

for 20 years.

 

The Halifax Municipal Airport was owned by the city but was leased to the Halifax Aero Club until March 1932.  Improvements were made and Pan America showed interest in establishing daily flights. The airport 

now consisted of two runways, a hanger, oil and storage shed and a terminal building for the office and 

waiting room. The terminal building was 18'x20' with a 6' veranda. It had a phone and electric power but 

the toilets were chemical as there was no running water (the nearest well was 400 feet up the street from 

the gate).  Fire protection wasn't a great concern  as they had 2 Foamite extinguishers (One 5 gallon and 

one 2 1/2 gallon plus two 1 qt Pyrene extinguishers.

 

All the buildings were painted Pan Am colours.  Pan Am started a daily service between Halifax and 

Boston (approximately 475 miles) at the end of July 1931 with stops in Bangor, Calais and St. John.  The 

flight from St. John took an hour and 35 minutes.  The company had 12 Sikorsky Amphibians on the run 

and they were capable of flying 2 miles a minute.

 

The pilots would stay at the Lord Nelson but the radio operator and steward shared a room at the Queen

Hotel at the rate of $90 a month (not including meals).

 

The roster for August 9, 1931 showed the following employees:

 

Hunt, C.G. - Helper

Kelly, R.A. - Helper

Kirbry, J.C. - Labourer

Silver, R. - Clerk-Typist

Silfversparre, W. = Traffic Rep.

Logan, Robert A. - Manager, at a salary of $250 a month

 

Pan Am operated for August and September, expecting to return with an enhanced schedule, but with the

depression in the USA and the difficulty in getting suitable aircraft, they never returned.

 

Aircraft production soon caught up and surpassed  Halifax's tiny airport.  Pilots were claiming that they 

could hardly get their undercarriages over the top of the fence.  There was no room for expansion and 

soon, the airport termed by some pilots a "pocket handkerchief field", was closed.

 

The field was turned over to the military during the Second World War and used as a Supply Depot.

For a comprehensive history of aviation in the area (including the Municipal Airport), click here for the history page on the Halifax International Airport website.

 

Donald Willis visits the Chebucto Road Airport - June 1934

A native of Nova Scotia residing in Connecticut, Don Willis learned to fly in 1931, at the age of 19.  He took 

lessons from Charles Descomb at Brainard Field, Hartford Connecticut.  In 1934 he flew back to his native 

home in Annapolis County Nova Scotia, a trip that took 8 hours in a 90 hp Curtiss OX-5 powered Waco 

biplane. Willis flew his cousin Leigh Marshall and wife Winifred (see below) from Upper Clements to Halifax to

visit Leigh's brother Joe. The pictures below show Willis and the Marshalls at the Chebucto Airport and in 

front of Joe's home on Almon Street.

 

(L to R) Don Willis, Leigh Marshall, Winifred Marshall at the Halifax Municipal Airport

June, 1934 - photo courtesy of Gerry Marshall

(L to R) Winifred Marshall, Leigh Marshall, Don Willis, and Joe Marshall, in front of 6255 Almon Street (229 

Almon prior to number conversion) - which was about 4 blocks east of the airport.  Photo courtesy of Gerry Marshall.


Saunders Park

Aside from Westmount subdivision, part of the former municipal airport land was used for Saunders Park, 

a small strip of land along Chebucto Road which most probably associate with the "metal airplane" .  The 

plate on the airplane's base bears the words below as a dedication to the park's namesake:

Saunders Park

This park was created for the citizens of Halifax and is named Saunders Park to commemorate the life work of a pioneer in Canadian aviation.

Wing Commander Donald W. Saunders was associated with the development of aviation in the Halifax area for many years.

He was instructor to the Halifax Flying Club from 1928 to 1937, served with the Royal Flying Corps in the War of 1914-1918 and with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.

From 1931-1937 Wing Commander Saunders was Manager of the Halifax Municipal Airport. This park is located on a portion of the old airport.

During the War of 1939-1945 this area was occupied by Military District Number Six Depot, Canadian Army.

 

Saunders Park Under Construction

October 14, 1965

Photo from HRM Archives 102.39-1-31.1

Used with Permission

Saunders Park Under Construction

October 14, 1965

Photo from HRM Archives 102.39-1-31.2

Used with Permission


 

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