Dalhousie University - Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building

An ambitious project marking Canada's Centennial

Named for one of the Fathers of Confederation, the home of Dalhousie's Medical School opened in 1967.

In 1967, Canada celebrated its Centennial and Dalhousie celebrated the opening of the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building. Indeed, the two events were related: as part of its Centennial celebrations, the federal government earmarked millions of dollars for monuments, activities, buildings, and celebratory events, including $2.5 million to each province for a marquee centennial memorial building. The National Arts Centre in Ottawa was the product of this centennial funding program, as were archives buildings, concert halls, and cultural centres around the country. In Nova Scotia, this commemorative funding was designated for the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building at Dalhousie.

Dalhousie's Board of Governors had been looking ahead to a medical building since the late 1950s. The Forrest Building, the oldest on the Carleton Campus, had become old, crowded and inadequate, and even with the Burbidge Building (then the Medical Sciences Building), the growth of the school was impeded. Without a new medical building, by 1967 half of the Medical School applicants would have to be turned away.

Though the federal government's $2.5 million in centennial funds was a good start, proceeding with the construction of a new building required much more significant funding commitments. The province matched Ottawa's contribution, and then in 1967 an additional $9.5 million was secured from the federal Health Resources Fund. Additional funds came from Dalhousie alumni, with Dalhousie making up the difference of $2.75 million. The total cost of the building in the end was $13 million plus $5 for equipment.

Construction of the Tupper Building began in July, 1965 and the official opening occurred on July 14, 1967. Honourable guests included the Queen Mother, Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and the 16th Earl of Dalhousie, who agreed to attend on the condition that he could go fishing with President Henry Hicks following the ceremony. 

The Tupper Building was built on the site of the former Medical-Dentristry Library, a small brick building. Replacing the old library was the W.K. Kellogg Health Sciences Library, a 20,000 square foot space in the Tupper Building that housed thousands of volumes and generous study space. The Kellogg Library was named for the American entrepreneur who invented cornflakes, and who used his great wealth to fund many cultural and educational initiatives, including $420,000 to Dalhousie's Health Sciences Library.  

J. Philip Dumaresq, also architect for the Dentistry Building, designed the Tupper Building. Dalhousie desired modifications to his plans, and these were made by the Montreal-based firm Affleck, Desbarats. Construction was contracted to Kenney Construction Company, Ltd. The Tupper Building is a fifteen-storey high-rise with a two-storey annex linking it to the Clinical Research Centre. It was Nova Scotia's largest centennial project and established an impressive new home for the Medical School that was symbolic of Nova Scotia's contribution to Medicare.

The Tupper Building was seen as a fit Centennial project because it is named after Sir Charles Tupper (1821-1915), one of the Fathers of Confederation. Tupper was Premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, and founding President of the Canadian Medical Association. Along with Joseph Howe, he helped resuscitate Dalhousie in the 1860s and was on the university's Board of Governors until his death in 1915.

The Tupper Building brought together all the Medical departments from locations scattered across the campus. The building featured a medical lab, research and teaching space, the departments of Anatomy, Microanatomy, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology as well as research space for Pathology and Bacteriology. The annex had four lecture halls, seminar rooms and student facilities.

Renovations and repairs were carried out in the Tupper Building in 1999 when $10 million was spent upgrading the heating, ventilation and electrical systems. Smaller projects such as lab upgrades are regularly necessary, such as improvements on the fourth and sixth floors in 2005. In 2004 the newly created Stem-Cell Restoration Lab, part of the Brain Repair Centre, opened its doors



5850 College St, Halifax, NS