It’s a historic upgrade for a historic building: the oldest operational Officer’s Mess in Canada has been successfully updated to modern standards, while maintaining its history and preserving the important facility for the future.

Balancing the old with the new was the top priority for the Royal Artillery Park Officers’ Mess renovation at CFB Halifax. The 200-year-old building is designated as a Classified Heritage Building by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office (FHBRO) because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values. This means that extra care was required to introduce modern necessities like heating and cooling systems, insulation and fire suppression.

“This was our opportunity to make it efficient and functional for many more years to come,” said Lori Fudge, DCC Technical Specialist, Project Management, Halifax.

In consultation with FHBRO, a detailed assessment was completed to determine what character-defining elements of the building should be respected. In addition, a heritage consultant was part of the design team to guide the process.

Working to rehabilitate the ‘high heritage’ rooms to their 1890s aesthetic—where there is photographic evidence of the buildings’ interior—the design included a paint analysis to determine the colour scheme of the rooms during that timeframe, reinstated wainscoting, refinished original wood floors, custom light fixtures and refurbished original bead board ceilings.

The $6.3 million major overhaul began in 2020 and was completed in 2023 with users moving back in last fall. This month, an event was held to celebrate the reopening of the building and to invite community members to see the rehabilitation.

“It was an important project for the Client-Partner—the building means a lot to many serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Everyone was interested to see how it would turn out,” said Lori. “The response has been very positive.”

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