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BUSCH, HENRY FREDERICK (baptized Heinrich Friedrich), architect; b. 6 Jan. 1826 in Hamburg (Germany); m. 27 Dec. 1860 Mary Victoria Skinner in Halifax, and they had six children; d. there 26 Jan. 1902.

The early years of Henry Frederick Busch are known only from family accounts. According to them, he was employed by a builder in Hamburg, where from 1844 he designed buildings. He apparently “spent a number of years in Austria and Russian Poland,” and in 1847 he travelled to the United States. At some point Busch went to Kentucky, which had many German immigrants. There he may have become familiar with the use of cast iron and terracotta, which were being introduced to Kentucky architecture in the 1850s.

In 1857 Busch came north for his health and settled in Chester, N.S., the home of his uncle Charles Walters (Walther), a boat builder. Like James Charles Philip Dumaresq, who also designed and built wooden houses, Busch was described as a carpenter until he went to Halifax. He built in Chester and in nearby Hubbards’ Cove (Hubbards), where he met his wife. At the time of his marriage he moved to Halifax and became a draftsman to architect Henry Elliot. In 1861 Busch worked on the details and oversaw the construction of the Union Marine Insurance Company building.

Busch arrived in Halifax when architectural work there was in transition. Three major fires between 1857 and 1861 had created opportunities to rebuild blocks of the business district. In addition, from the spring of 1857 to 1863 legislation prohibited the use of wood in the city centre and required the use of fire-proof materials such as brick, ironstone, and cast iron. At the same time, and perhaps as a result of this change in material, architects such as Elliot and David Stirling* established themselves at the expense of self-trained designer-builders such as Henry George Hill*. Hill and others continued to build, but increasingly it was architects who designed important buildings, drew up the specifications, and supervised the construction. Busch was able to take advantage of the changed circumstances.

In February 1862 Elliot gave Busch sole credit for converting the former Supreme Court building into the Legislative Library. By April the two men were partners, and during the next few months they designed and supervised the construction of at least five three- or four-storey business blocks, most of brick, stone, fire-stone, and granite. In the summer of 1863 they successfully tendered for the new Halifax County jail, and they used slate, granite, and oak in its construction. About 1864 one or both of them designed Oaklands, a large brick and ironwork house for William Cunard.

Elliot and Busch also received commissions for larger buildings. Some of their work was lavish and perhaps too expensive. In 1867 the Board of School Commissioners of Halifax was unhappy at additional costs on a project and removed the account from them. The partners were responsible for the Halifax Protestant Industrial School, with its striking and bold arched windows and numerous gables, which opened in 1871. The Presbyterian church on Tobin Street that they designed the same year to replace St Andrew’s Church was largely in wood and its “richly carved walnut pulpit [was] said to be the finest piece of carved church work in the Lower Provinces.” During 1872–73 they remodelled a large house for Charles William Black, with Henry J. Harris supervising the construction.

From 1868 to 1875 Busch was involved in several real-estate transactions, including three with his wife. These transactions and his growing family suggest that he had become established. In 1874 he became a British subject. Three years later he began to practise on his own, and during the next decade he produced some of his finest buildings. The Halifax High School building, on which construction began in 1878, is in the Second Empire style, and features fine brick arches above doors and windows, yellow bricks for accent, and complex patterns of decorative brick. The quality of this work shows that by the end of his partnership Busch had become skilled and confident with brick. The next year, however, his plans, specifications, and details for the provincial Normal School at Truro encountered difficulty because the contractors were unfamiliar with brick. Perhaps as a result, Busch was not paid his full commission of $1,736, five per cent of the building’s cost, and he had to request the $336 owed him from Premier Simon Hugh Holmes*. Busch’s supervision of construction can be seen in detail in documents concerning his 1888 addition to the Provincial and City Hospital in Halifax. He scheduled the construction of brick walls, approved work on the roof, confirmed the costs of the boilers (including labour costs), accepted an agreement for heating and venting, and changed plans for the laundry and washhouse. His design for the new Halifax Poor’s Asylum (1886) appears to have involved him in similar tasks.

Despite his extensive use of brick, Busch continued to design ornate wooden buildings, such as the bandstand in the Halifax Public Gardens, which was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. In 1889 he resumed dealing in real estate, and in the following ten years he was involved in 15 transactions, often with his wife or son Ernest. When he died he owned three houses and two lots. Busch had retired in 1899 and was in comparatively good health until a few days before his death. Combining Second Empire and Romanesque features in well-balanced buildings, his work is not as elaborate as that of Stirling or Dumaresq. Busch was a respected architect, and a significant part of his work, in wood and brick, still stands.

Brian D. Murphy

[I am grateful to Garry Shutlak of the PANS for sharing his research notes with me.  b.d.m.]

Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), Estate papers, no.5568. Halifax County Registry of Deeds (Halifax), Deeds, vols.140, 158–62, 168, 195, 197, 269–70, 279–80, 283, 303, 308, 313–15, 319–20, 323 (mfm. at PANS). PANS, MG 100, 104, no.22; RG 7, 86, no.623; RG 18, A, 1, no.25A; RG 25, B, 1; RG 32, 162, 27 Dec. 1860; RG 35–102, ser.53A, June 1867. Acadian Recorder, 28 Jan. 1902. Evening Express (Halifax), 12 Feb. 1862, 26 Aug. 1863. Halifax Herald, 29 Jan. 1902. Halifax Reporter, 31 Jan. 1863; 22 Jan., 28 April 1874. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 29 Jan. 1902. P. R. Blakeley, Glimpses of Halifax, 1867–1900 (Halifax, 1949; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973), 84, 95, 135. Susan Buggey, “Building Halifax, 1841–1871,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 10 (1980–81), no.1: 90–112. N.S., Provincial Museum and Science Library, Report (Halifax), 1933–34: 39–40. C. J. Oberworth, A history of the profession of architecture in Kentucky (n.p., n.d.), 13.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Brian D. Murphy, “BUSCH, HENRY FREDERICK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 21, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/busch_henry_frederick_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/busch_henry_frederick_13E.html
Author of Article: Brian D. Murphy
Title of Article: BUSCH, HENRY FREDERICK
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 1994
Access Date: November 21, 2014