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Halifax city wall
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Historical Background
Landscape Setting
Archaeological Research


Historical Background

Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia and the urban center of Atlantic Canada, was founded in 1749 as a counter balance to the French fortress town of Louisbourg on Ile Royale (modern Cape Breton). Established during a brief interval of peace between two European wars, and defense of the new settlement was serious concern of its founder, Colonel Edward Cornwallis. The need for defenses was heightened by the threat posed by the region's indigenous people, the Mi'kmaq, who regarded Britain's unilateral decision to found Halifax an affront to their territorial rights, if not an outright breech of the Treaty of 1725.

During the town's first year, work began on a series of five forts ringing the settlement. Facing difficulty in finding the labour necessary to erect a palisade, the government contented itself with having the settlers throw up a temporary barrier of felled trees around the town. The summer of 1750 saw the removal of the temporary barrier and the construction of the wooden palisade. The forts were completed around this time as well, all designed to protect the new colonial capital, and the nerve center of an increasingly elaborate system of military posts gradually being established throughout the colony (including Fort Vieux Logis).

The city wall complex stood for much of the 1750s. Following the 1758 capture of Louisbourg, and the fall of Quebec the following year, the writing appeared to be on a very different wall for New France. All of the evidence suggests that the wall and its fortlets were largely in ruins by 1760, by which time land immediately adjacent to the old defenses was being sold or leased by the government.

 


Landscape Setting

In a counter-clockwise direction, the palisade began at the foot of Salter Street and met Horseman's Fort at the intersection of Barrington Street and Spring Garden Road. Horseman's Fort overlooked the town cemetery, located just beyond the city wall. It is still there, and modern Haligonians know it as the Old Burying Ground. From Horseman's, the palisade continued west, though the modern Saint Mary's Basilica to a salient at Grafton Street, where it angled in a northwesterly direction to Cornwallis's Fort (near the modern intersection of Sackville and Brunswick streets). Proceeding up Citadel Hill and bending into another salient, it intersected with the Citadel fortlet (south of the Old Town Clock) before continuing north to Fort Luttrell near the present intersection of Gottingen Street and Rainnie Drive. From here, the palisade continued downslope to Fort Grenadier and then to the shoreline, this area being entirely disturbed by modern urban development. Fort Grenadier, and one of the main gates into the town, was probably located in the vicinity of the Delta Halifax, adjacent the Scotia Square complex.

 


Archaeological Research

No archaeological work is planned at present.

SOURCE: Piers, Harry. The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress 1749-1928. Halifax: Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 1947.


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