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However, before 1876, there was no inland rail link, and so the port was not particularly useful for passenger or cargo service to the rest of Canada. Other ports, notably along the St.Lawrence and in the Great Lakes, had immigration facilities dating back to the 1820s, and were critical to ocean transportation to Canada before the Halifax rail line was complete. However, in the fifty-year gap between the completion of the railway and the opening of Pier 21 in 1928, many people who arrived by sea in Halifax –with some exceptions—arrived by way of Pier 2 in Halifax’s North End.Given this shortcoming, steamship companies preferred to land their passengers at Pier 3, next to Pier 2.It was longer and served on one side by a wider basin – the basin shared with Pier 2 was narrow enough that having two ships in at once was the cause of damaging accidents.This left a triangle of open ground at the top of the piers, in which immigration authorities cooperated with railway agents to build a 200-foot-long immigration shed.The shed was complemented by an additional small out-building, offering a kitchen, dining rooms, and sleeping accommodations.
The flow of people and baggage in and out of the shed meant that the shed doors were often left open, and in Halifax – mainly a winter port – this was a miserable situation for passengers waiting to be admitted, or to join their trains.
Although a bit further from the railway station, the pier and shed at Richmond had been used at times to assist in clearing immigrants after the February fire.
Despite the pressing need for a replacement, it was two full years after the original fire before a new building was ready.
This new facility for immigration at Pier 2 was completed in the winter of 1890. The work to establish proper reception facilities was undone by fire in February of 1895.
Much of the infrastructure at the Deep Water Terminus burned, including the immigration quarters. In the absence of proper landing facilities, passengers were landed at Cunard’s wharf (just south of Pier 2) and examined at the North End railway station. The Intercolonial Railway moved quickly to rebuild, and had plans in place by the end of the next month. However, the search for replacement accommodation became even more pressing in the spring, as a blaze took the Intercolonial Railway’s Richmond terminal (in the North End of Halifax, near the foot of Richmond Street) in May of 1895.