The Founding of Halifax

Halifax was founded in 1749 as a result of Louisbourg being handed back to the french in 1748. The American Colonies, led by Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts wanted a buffer between them and the french, as did the Board of trade and Plantations, led by Lord Halifax, whose job it was to Advise the king on Colonial matters.
The town site was laid out by military engineer John Brewse,and Capt. Willliam Morris, from Boston, who would become the first surveyor general of Nova Scotia. Halifax was surveyed into 5 blocks in the  North/South direction, and 7 blocks from the Harbour up citadel hill. these blocks were then subdivided into lots. The whole town was surrounded by a Palisade and several blockhouses for defense. The first Citadel was built at this time, atop citadel hill opening on Sept 11, 1749. Constructed of wood, this Fort would be replaced in 1761, having succumb to rot and deterioration due to weather.
Lots were assigned in August 1749, and Construction Began. Houses outside the Pallisade are thought to have been built from logs, though those within the town site were built of framed lumber. Military Barracks and officers quarters were delivered pre-cut and labeled from Boston. It’s believed many other buildings were constructed this way to ensure all the new inhabitants had shelter by winter.
The first views we have of Halifax are from drawings done by Richard Short, and latter engraved.the drawings depict the town  as it was in 1759 shows a view of Halifax from the Corner of Hollis and George Streets. You can st St. Paul’s in the background, and the Governors mansion in the foreground. The Original governors mansion would become the site of Province House in 1809, and St Paul’s still stands as the last building in Halifax original to Cornwallis’ time in town.
Settlers from England and the American colonies were in short supply and there was a need to bolster the population of Halifax. Many of these settlers were German speaking Protestants, who built a community just north of the original town site, located where the little dutch church stands to this day. Built of logs, and covered in clapboards, it was constructed in 1756

the building that is now know as The Carleton began as Richard Bulkeleys mansion, built in 1760, it has been suggested that the stone used was salvaged from the Second Fall of Louisbourg in 1758. One of the Fireplace mantels was originally from the French Governors residence there. a 5 bay Georgian, with Hipped roof, it became The Carleton Hotel in 1867, and was expanded several times over the years. The original Mansion is still Contained within the Current Building.


The need for a landfall lighthouse for Halifax was apparent early on, and in 1752 a lottery was formed to fund the construction. It failed to raise the necessary funds, and the First act passed by the first legislature in 1758 was a tax on ships to fund the light. Landfall lighthouses are tall structures, designed so that the light can be seen at a great distance, to point ships to a harbour.


The Nova Scotia Archives recently released a number of documents and photos related to the Light, including the Tax Records for the lighthouse funding.


Landfall lighthouses are tall structures, designed so that the light can be seen at a great distance, to point ships to a harbour. The light is octagonal in shape, and constructed of masonry, covered with wooden shingles due to early moisture issues. The Sambro Island Light, as it exists today, is visible for 24 Nautical miles (44km)


(Above) Sambro Island Light as built, An additional 22′ of height was added in 1906 to increase the lights Range.


(above) the Heightening of the Sambro Light. Photos from the Department of Transportation Albums at the Nova Scotia Archives. (below) the completed tower. the Red White the stripes were added in 1908.


The Sambro Light is the oldest Lighthouse in North America and the Caribbean. Louisburg’s lighthouse was originally built in 1733, but was destroyed by the British during the Siege of Louisburg. Boston Light location dates to 1716, but the original was destroyed in 1776 by the British, during the revolutionary war. The current light was rebuilt on the foundations of the original light in 1783.

One final note on the founding and layout of Halifax. Could it be, that the main street running through the heart of Halifax, may have been the victim of a typo? When Halifax was founded, Streets were named after British Statesmen. There was no Barrington in 1749 prominent enough to have a street named after them.

 There was the Earl of Harrington however. – He was Secretary of State.

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