1588 Barrington


1588 Barrington St

History by RosemaryPorter

One of the most beautiful buildings in the heart of downtown, the Church of England Institute is built in the Victorian Eclectic style with strong Gothic Revival influences. It was commissioned by Bishop Hibbert Binney, designed by Henry Busch, and completed in 1888. Gothic features abound with arched windows, decorative wooden trim, steeply pitched gable dormers and the pièce de résistance: a suspended side spire with an ornate oriel window topped by a turret and supported by a single Corinthian column.

There is to love about this building - the linear order of the façade with the broad granite foundation, the dentilled stringcourse halfway up and then the bracketed cornice at the eaves, and the elaborately carved sandstone trim and sills.

Now commonly known as the Khyber Building (The Khyber Centre for the Arts), it has served many purposes and people over the years. When it opened, the Institute included a library, gym, billiards hall, smoking room, women’s auxiliary and lecture hall; in the 1940s it was a Naval Officer’s Club; from the 1970s on it housed the Sanpaka Vegetarian Restaurant, Bean Sprout health food store, a youth clinic, an immigrant settlement organization, The Turret, Wormwoods Dog And Monkey Cinema, Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, countless Halifax Fringe Festival plays, art shows, the Khyber Bar, and served as the recording studio for Joel Plaskett’s first album with The Emergency, aptly titled Down at the Khyber. Through the 1990s there were struggles with the city to keep the building as a public arts space & local music venue and the Khyber Arts Society managed to do it through a lot of fundraising and volunteer labour.1

The building's had a variety of names following from the major organizations in it, over the years.

In 2013, the municipality declared the building unsafe due to its deteriorating condition and the presence of asbestos. The Khyber Arts Society and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia were moved out, and in 2014, a movement began to save it.

On May 22, 2018, Halifax Regional Council agreed to sell the building to the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society for $1 and put up a $250,000 grant.


1. February 11, 2020 RosemaryPorter, written for her Facebook architectural series. Her sources were https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/home-accueil.aspx and http://www.khyber.ca/about/history/