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History of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada

Updated on September 10, 2014

he founding of Halifax, 1749


Colonel Edward Cornwallis

In July 1749 Colonel Edward Cornwallis sailed south along the coast of Nova Scotia with 2,500 soldiers and settlers. His mission was to establish a strategically situated counterpart to the French fort of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, and in a large bay known to the local Indians as chebucto he found his site. The little settlement that grew up around this first fort was named after the Earl of Halifax , who was then president of the British Board of Trade.

Fortified harbor

Over the years the British added fortified harbor installations for their warships and a massive citadel bristling with cannon. Commercial vessels also began to use the conveniently situated, ice-free harbor, and privateers—officially licensed pirates—put in here to sell their booty. Before long, Halifax had developed into a turbulent seaport, and by the early 19th century it was a town of taverns and brothels, warehouses and shipyards.

Nova Scotia history is very interesting

The Famous Troopship Olympic at Halifax


Canada's principal Atlantic port

In 1867 Nova Scotia became one of the founding provinces of Canada, and Halifax was named its capital. Thereafter, the town consolidated its reputation as Canada's principal Atlantic port. The First World War brought further development. In the city's sheltered harbor, supply ships and troop transports assembled in large convoys prior to crossing the Atlantic.

Tragically, Halifax paid a heavy price for this wartime prosperity: in December 1917, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc collided with another vessel in the Narrows outside the Bedford Basin, the main harbor area. The explosion that followed—the largest man-made explosion in history until the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima— killed almost 2,000 people and destroyed the entire north end of the town.

Halifax Explosion Blast Cloud


Historic Places in Halifax

The Clock Tower erected in 1796-1797 by George Ill's son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, then commandant of the town, its purpose was to remind his troops of the need for punctuality.

Beyond it, at the highest point of the hill, is the imposing mass of the star-shaped "Citadel. In their present form, the massive bastions and moats of the Citadel date from between 1828 and 1848. Commandingly situated above the town, it was designed to protect the harbor, but its cannon were never fired in anger. In fact, the only enemies who ever got near the Citadel were German POWs who were confined there during the two world wars.

In 1956 it was restored and became the Halifax Citadel National Historic Park. A drawbridge leads into the spacious inner courtyard, where students in historic military uniforms are on parade during the summer months. The old barrack quarters now house an Army Museum and displays of military technology. An audio-visual presentation in the main building, "The Tides of History," graphically illustrates the civic and military history of the city.

Citadel hill


Shattered City -The Halifax Explosion


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    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      I love history and this was very interesting. Great to learn about places in Canada.