University History 1802 - 1929

Edmund Burke arrives in Halifax in 1802 and opens the college that will become Saint Mary's. Permanant degree granting status is granted in 1852. Changing location several times, in 1903 the campus moves to Windsor St.. ‌ ‌‌‌‌

Look at covers of Saint Mary's publications from this time period. Visit the for many 
more copies of the Journal as well as other university publications...


Santamarian cover
contentspage one

Tatler cover
page one

Tatler cover,
page one


November, 1908

Oct. 29, 1923

March 25, 1924



Father Edmund Burke arrives in Halifax.

1 March, 1802 

Edmund Burke writes for permission of the Governor of Nova Scotia to establish a college in Halifax for the education of young men.

10 July, 1802 

Edmund Burke writes to the Bishop of Quebec that the College building has been completed: "a house of two stories, with kitchen and dining room in the basement, as well as cellar and storeroom. It is sixty feet by forty within the walls.".


A license for Burke's school is granted; only Catholics admitted.


Edmund Burke consecrated as Bishop.‌

29 November, 1820 

Edmund Burke dies.‌


John Ryan, a Halifax seminarian in Rome, bequeaths a valuable estate and library for the College in Halifax.

September 1839 

Father Richard Baptist O'Brien and Father Lawrence J. Dease arrive in Halifax having been sent by Archbishop Murray of Dublin to re-open the College; Father O'Brien is named Superior of the College.

1 January, 1840 

Saint Mary's Seminary opens in its new premises on the East Side of Grafton Street near Spring Garden (currently the Catholic Pastoral Centre). There are approximately 80 students.

29 March, 1841 

"An Act for Incorporating the Trustees of St. Mary's College Halifax" is passed, bestowing degree-granting privileges for 11 years and a grant of $1,622/annum for 4 years.

18 April, 1852 

The College receives permanent degree-granting power.


Administration of the College is undertaken by the Christian Brothers of the Congregation of Saint John the Baptist de la Salle.


The College moves to Belle Air Terrace at North and Agricola Streets.

30 April, 1873 

"An Act Respecting St. Mary's College" is passed, reviving the forfeited legislation of 1841, and establishing a Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Senate.


Saint Mary's closes and the de la Salle Brothers leave Halifax.


The College moves to Barrington and Tobin Streets under administration of the Archdiocese.


The "University Act" establishes the University of Halifax (Saint Mary's, Dalhousie, King's College, Acadia, Mount Allison and St. F.X.).


Degrees at Saint Mary's are conferred under University of Halifax.


Saint Mary's is forced to close its doors because of financial constraints brought about by the refusal of the government to provide the annual grant.


Cornelius O'Brien becomes Archbishop of Halifax and begins efforts to reopen Saint Mary's College.


Archbishop O'Brien effects the purchase of fifteen acres at Windsor Street and Quinpool Road for the building of a new campus.

21 September, 1903 

Saint Mary's College reopens at Windsor Street (currently St. Vincent's Guest House).


A dormitory residence added to the College.


Archbishop McCarthy and the Knights of Columbus petition the Christian Brothers of Ireland to send Brothers to Saint Mary's.

8 September, 1913 

The Irish Christian Brothers take over the running of Saint Mary's.

6 December, 1917 

The College is used as a hospital by the Boston Unit of the American Red Cross following the Halifax Explosion. The College reopened on February 8, 1918.


The student yearbook, The Collegian, is published for the first time.

September 1923 

The student newspaper, The Tattler, was launched as a monthly publication; it was later replaced by the inception of The Collegian and The Journal.

In Your Own Words...

Read the history of Saint Mary's in the words of students, faculty and staff. Do you have a memory to share about your time at Saint Mary's? Please contact us!

"College Notes, 1908" 

"There are now seventy-five students in attendance at the college. A large increase over last year.

A student commencing first year work had the choice of two courses, either a Commercial or Classical course. The Commercial and Classical oppose each other in all contests.

The Debating Society which was established about three years ago, is composed of members of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. During the greater part of the year, weekly sessions take place, some of which are very interesting.

The opening debate of the present season was held on Monday evening, September 28th. The subject before the meeting was, - Resolved that the colonies contribute to the support of the British Navy.

The debate was very interesting, many good arguments being put forth by both sides. When the points were counted, the result stood ten to nine in favour of the Classicals, who upheld the motion.

Seven of the fourth year students have commenced Philosophy this year and are making good progress under Father McManus.

The foundation has been laid for the extension of the college rink. When completed this rink will be 145 feet long, and 40 feet wide, having an ice surface of about 139 x 45 feet. Here the hockey teams will practice for the coming season. There was splendid ice last year and that it was appreciated, was evident from the crowd of patrons.

The new professor arrived at College lately and gained much favour among the boys by obtaining a holiday for them.

The Classicals have won two games in the Lacrosse series, and if they win one more they will hold the cup till hockey season.

The Athletic Association has control over all games. The fee of ten cents a month is extracted from members of the Association for the purpose of supplying articles such as bats, balls, sticks, etc for the different games." 

(Article from the Santamarian, November 1908. Author uncredited.)

"The Battle of the Century" 

"The long-looked-forward-to fight between "Kid" Chisholm and "Spike" McKay took place in the Assembly Hall on Monday afternoon, April 7th. "Rex Tickard" deserves great credit for promoting such a remarkable battle which got together two of the greatest two-fisted fighters who ever stepped into a squared ring. The boxers themselves in their anticipation to please the fans spent many hard minutes in training, McKay especially doing a lot of road work. 

"The fight itself will be a memorable one in the sport annals of St. Mary's and in the minds of the boxers especially as they forget to hit on many occasions. The fight was rather fast and resulted in a draw, although a decision in "Spike's" favor would have appeared more correct to the fans..." 

(Article from the student newspaper "Tatler", April 15, 1924. Author uncredited.)

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