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History of Halifax

Halifax was founded in 1749 by Governor Edward Cornwallis and 2500 settlers to act as a naval and army base to protect them from the French, creating Canada's first permanent British town on the world's second largest natural harbor.

Before Cornwallis arrived at this southern, peninsular area, the area had acted as a French fishing station. The French-speaking people living here, known as Acadians, had a mix of Scottish, Irish and Portuguese culture. Many Acadian influences can still be seen in the area.

During the mid-18th century New Englanders moved north to Nova Scotia, attracted by Halifax's shipping and fishing industries. The 1750s and 1760s brought German, Scottish and Irish immigrants into the city.
During the early 19th century the first black community began in Halifax. The 1830s brought the first group of Irish Catholics into Halifax, introducing a new religion to the city, which had previously been Protestant. By 1851 Halifax's population had grown to 20,749.

In 1906, the Canadian government officially took over the army and naval base in Halifax from the British.
Originally known as Chebutcto, meaning "the biggest harbor", Halifax's sheltered harbor has always been important as both a trade port, as well as a naval convoy. McNabs Island at the mouth of Halifax Harbor protects it from strong ocean winds.

The land surrounding the harbor is hilly, which gives ships protection from ocean storms. The Citadel Hill in the heart of downtown Halifax has always been an important part of the residents of Halifax. The harbor's water is deep and never freezes over. The peninsula, which Halifax is located on, is 4.5 miles wide and 2 miles long.

The first half of 19th century was a prosperous time for Halifax's harbor, as trade between New England and Canada was friendly and profitable. By the second half of the 19th century Halifax's trade started slowing down, as United States ports became more desirable. During both World Wars, Halifax acted as an important naval base.

Ally ships waited in Halifax Harbor until they were able to be safely escorted across the Atlantic. In 1917 Halifax experienced a terrible disaster when two ammunition ships waiting to cross the Atlantic collided in the harbor and caused the largest man-made explosion the world had known up to this time.

The explosion killed over 2,000 people and caused $28 million in damages. Halifax spent the next several years reconstructing its northern district, which had been the hardest hit by the explosion.

Today Halifax's port is one of the busiest in Canada. Fish, lumber and agriculture are some of the most widely exported goods from Halifax Harbor. Shipbuilding and fishing have attracted people to the area for hundreds of years; and today’s economy is largely based on its waterfront and harbor. .

Halifax, Nova Scotia - © 1996-2014

Your local Halifax, Nova Scotia Guide for tourism, restaurants, hotels, business, events, sports, entertainment, coupons and more. Also for Barrington, Kejimkujik National Park, Liverpool, Lunenburg, New Ross, Peggy's Cove, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Sydney, New Glasgow, Cape Breton and more.