Spryfield, Nova Scotia

Suburban Community in Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia, Canada

Spryfield is an unincorporated suburban community in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was founded about 1770, by Captain William Spry, who purchased land there and established the settlement with the aid of stationed soldiers from the nearby Halifax garrison.[2] In 1783, he sold the property and returned to England. The name "Spryfield" is also sometimes used to refer to the general area of Halifax's South Mainland, which includes a number of communities along the Herring Cove and Purcell's Cove Roads.

The land now known as Spryfield was first occupied by the Mi'kmaq people, who hunted and fished at Beaver Lake (now called Long Lake). The Mi'kmaq would later help the first Europeans in settling upon their arrival by the mid-18th century.[3]

The community gets its name from Captain Lieutenant-General William Spry, who purchased land in the area in 1769. Originally known as Spry's Field, the town is centred on Spry's former estate.

The availability of land suitable for farming, and the relative close proximity to the Halifax market attracted the European settlers. These included the Drysdale, Kidston, Brunt, Connors, Henneberry, Moor, Norris, Sutherland, Warner, Findlay, Umlah, Yeadon, Oakley, and McInnis families, many of whom still reside in the community today.

Of particular note was Henry Lieblin, a Halifax baker who held 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land by the latter 18th century. A large development begun in the early 1950s, Lieblin Park, was named in his honor. Lieblin's farm was about where Elmsdale Crescent is today.

Spryfield's first public school opened in 1859. Its teacher, Elizabeth Sutherland, taught the town's early residents. In 1958, Elizabeth Sutherland Memorial School opened in her honour.[4]

Until 1968, Spryfield was a part of Halifax County. It voted to become a part of the City of Halifax in that year, via a general referendum.

Strictly speaking, Spryfield "proper" is bounded to the north by Armdale, to the south by Long Pond and to the east by the Purcell's Cove Road. The major roads are

Spryfield has numerous lakes of various sizes for swimming and non-motorized boating in the summer months. There is also a public pool in the middle of the community at the Captain William Spry Community Centre, which is built on the site of the former West School. The Centre also contains a library, community service offices and meeting rooms available to the general public. There are baseball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a skate park (next to the library) and a skating rink (next to J.L. Ilsley High School), and the school gyms are often available for community use as well. In addition, the community is home to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Halifax, which offers programs to children and youth year-round. For those interested in gardening, there is a community gardening operation near Thornhill Park, on part of what was once the old Kidston farm. A masonic lodge, Duke of Kent 121, also meets in Spryfield, on the border with Long Pond.

Spryfield is surrounded by forested areas, and in addition to the lakes there are numerous opportunities for hiking, berry-picking and exploring.

To service the continuing development of subdivisions, apartment complexes and homes, there are schools located in Spryfield for all ages. This includes day cares, elementary schools, junior high schools, and one high school (J. L. Ilsley High School). Children may attend French immersion or English speaking classes starting in elementary school.

Spryfield is also home to Chebucto Connections, a local non-profit organization that works with the community to organize programs, services and research that can help address priorities and interests that the local community has identified as important. In 2010, they brought Pathways to Education to the community to address concerns about high drop-out rates from high school. As of September 2013, it was serving 280 Spryfield students in grades 9 to 12. Chebucto Connections also works in partnership with IWK, CDHA, and a wide number of other non-profit organizations and acts as a connector that brings people, agencies, services and government together.

Public sector services are well represented in or near the community, with a Halifax Regional Police Community Office, fire stations, a complete selection of schools, and community service offices at the Captain William Spry Center and the Spryfield Mall. Provincial governmental services are available at numerous locations nearby, including the Halifax Shopping Center. Since Halifax is the capital (and largest city) of the province, provincial and federal services are well represented in area, especially in the downtown district which is a 20-minute drive from Spryfield.

Until approximately 1960, there was relatively (i.e., compared to overall population density) more business and industrial activity in the Spryfield area than subsequently. At the intersection of Dentith Road and Herring Cove Roads, for example, a hotel existed. There were farms in many portions of the community until the early 1950s, such as the Umlah Farm just south of Long Lake, and the Kidston farm near what is now Thornhill Park. Most of Spryfield has been logged at least once, and the last logging and sawmill operation existed on the east side of Kidston Lake until the mid-1960s. Gravel and aggregate pits such as the operation to the south of Elizabeth Sutherland Memorial School (now a fine baseball diamond), helped provide material for building local roads until the late 1950s, and in the early part of the 20th century there was a granite quarrying operation in what is now the northern portion of Long Lake Provincial Park. Much of this granite can still be seen in historic buildings and walls in downtown Halifax.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many people began to travel to the Halifax downtown area and later on, to the shopping centers and malls in the region to do their purchasing, and the community took on a "bedroom community" aspect: the great majority of the residents work elsewhere, with relatively few local thriving local businesses. The establishment of the Spryfield Mall in the mid-1970s was an attempt to reverse this trend, but it has struggled to fill its floorspace in recent years. However, there is still a vigorous and growing business community in the Spryfield area, with a good amount of recent development occurring.

Spryfield has a history of large forest fires, which in more recent decades seems to have peaked in the 1960s, when a number of large fires burned a significant proportion of the forests in the area. The largest Spryfield fire of the 21st century began on April 30, 2009 when a forest fire erupted in the afternoon in the Green Acres area, forcing as many as 1,000 people to flee their homes. As many as 12 houses were destroyed and an area of approximately 800 hectares burned, between the Herring Cove and Purcell's Cove Roads: the fire travelled quickly between these major highways but did not cross either of them. The cause was not determined but dead wood from trees downed during Hurricane Juan fueled the blaze. Firefighters from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources fought the fire.[5]

Initially, Spryfield mainly consisted of homes and roads off the three main roads mentioned above. However, after World War II developers began to build subdivisions to accommodate some of the many new residents of the still rapidly growing greater Halifax region as well as the Baby Boomer generation. These now contain the majority of the community's residents. Leiblin Park and Thornhill Park were among the first, being built from 1955 to 1965. Later developments include Elgin subdivision, Green Acres (which was left unfinished), Cowie Hill, the Greystone (formerly Carson St.) subdivision, three subdivisions off Williams Lake Road, a modest co-op development by the Macintosh Runs across from B.C. Silver Junior High School, and a large development in the Colpitt Lake barrens area which as of 2009 is about halfway completed. Initially, these were single-family dwellings, but higher densities began to be achieved by the late 1970s, when the Cowie Hill subdivision was built with mostly townhouses and two large apartment buildings. Greystone is mostly row houses, and there are now a number of apartment building complexes in the area, such as the one off River Road, facing J.L. Ilsley High School, and the "500 block" near Green Acres.