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Friday, May 12, 2023

Historic Halifax

Friday, May 12, 2023

Hi Blog!

We drove into downtown Halifax with three things on our minds - coffee beans, history and hiking boots. Two out three ain't bad. More on that later.

Our day started off like most days, with the cats waking us up with the sunrise. This gave us plenty of time to map out our objectives over breakfast. Once Ruby finished her post breakfast walk, it was time to explore. Our first stop was Java Blend Coffee. Unfortunately, they were all out of light roasted whole bean coffee. Don't worry. We still have a couple bags in reserve.

Despite our disappointment, we soldiered on. Our second stop was the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. Kathy had high hopes of scoring another pair of Parks Canada Red Chairs. She was not disappointed. We even met a lovely park ranger who was kind enough to take our photo.

On June 21, 1749, Edward Cornwallis arrived in Chebucto Harbour with 2,576 colonists from Britain. Work began immediately on clearing land for a new settlement named for their patron, the Earl of Halifax. Soon after, a series of fortifications appeared, including a wooden garrison near the top of a mighty hill overlooking the harbour. This was the first Halifax Citadel. There were two more wooden citadels built before the 4th and final Citadel was finished in 1856. Like the citadels before it, this new fort never saw battle, and advances in weaponry would soon render it obsolete. However, it is an imposing structure sitting high above the city center.

When a guard appeared, Dave was worried he entered the wrong gate:

While the Citadel is owned by Parks Canada, a concessionaire runs the tours and gift shop. The interpretive guides are dressed in period costumes from 1869, when the Citadel was manned by the 78th Highlanders Regiment of Foot and the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery. 

While the Citadel was designed to defend against a land based attack from the west, several big guns were pointed toward to harbour to catch any ships that made it past the outlying forts.

If an attacking army managed to breach the outer defenses, there was still a 50 foot wall to climb with Highlanders firing down on them.

With all of the focus on history in the park, it was weird to see a robotic lawn mower cutting the parade grounds.

Our tour guide Elsy was wearing a period frock. One of the Highlanders was getting ready to demonstrate the rifle used during that time period.

They warned us it would be loud and it was. The solid walls of the fort seemed to make the sound even louder.

After a walk through the black powder magazine, which was too dark for photos, we climbed up the ramparts. We passed several cannons in various stages. During World War II, many of the fort's cannons were melted down to provide metal for the war effort.

The view from the top is pretty impressive.

Since 1857, every day (except for Christmas Day), a cannon was fired at 12:00 noon. Today, gunners dressed in the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery uniform of 1869 fire a cannon to announce the noon hour. The gun itself is a reproduction of a 12 pounder, smooth-bore, muzzle loading gun used during the reign of King George III. The soldiers call it a "gun" because "cannon" is French!

Our tour ended after the firing of the noon cannon. We made our way down off Citadel Hill toward the waterfront. We walked right by the Halifax City Hall at the north end of the Grand Parade. Designed by architect Edward Elliot, and constructed for the City of Halifax between 1887 and 1890, it is one of the oldest and largest public buildings in Nova Scotia. The property was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1997.  (A very small Kathy poses in the arch to the right in the photo.)

As we reached the waterfront, we noticed this really cool clock. The HMC Dockyard Clock is valued as Canada's oldest working clock, for its superb craftsmanship, and as the last tangible evidence of the original naval dockyard in Halifax. Constructed by Aynesth Thwaites in Clerkenwell, London in 1767, the clock itself is a masterpiece of traditional craftsmanship. The clock was completely hand tooled; from its forged shafts to its gears. A two hundred and fifty pound weight drives its nine foot pendulum.

We found a nice harbor-front restaurant for lunch. We enjoyed watching the ferry boats go back and forth between Halifax and Dartmouth. After lunch, we continue our stroll along the waterfront.

We noticed that the Cable Wharf was built in 1913 by the Western Union Telegraph Company. It is one of the last original structures on the waterfront. Cables ran along the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean connecting Europe and North America via Newfoundland. Messages were carried along a cable by signals transmitted in Morse Code.

CSS Acadia is a former hydrographic surveying and oceanographic research ship of the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Acadia served Canada for 56 years from 1913 to 1969, charting the coastline of almost every part of Eastern Canada including pioneering surveys of Hudson Bay. She was also twice commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as HMCS Acadia, the only ship still afloat to have served the RCN in both World Wars. Today she is a museum ship, designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. We didn't go on the dock because they were holding a boat safety course.

While we didn't score any more red chairs, Kathy did manage to find a red hammock.

After our walk along the waterfront, it was time to hunt down those hiking boots. Canada's version of REI is MEC (Mountain Equipment Company). Their downtown store is on the way back up Citadel Hill. After several attempts, Dave is now the proud owner of new hiking boots.

Before heading back to the Jeep, we took a stroll around the Halifax Public Gardens. The Victorian-era public gardens were formally established in 1867, the year of Canadian Confederation. The gardens were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.

The Public Gardens encompass 16 acres. They are open annually from approximately May 1 until November 1. The landscaping style is Victorian formal and provides a popular setting for wedding and prom photos. 

In addition to statues and extensive flower beds, there are three fountains, two stone bridges, three ponds (one large and two small), and a small concession building. We thought this little pond was particularly picturesque.

The gardens also feature a bandstand that is used for free public concerts on Sunday afternoons during the summer. There are celebrations in the gardens every year on Canada Day (July 1) and Natal Day (the official birthday of the province of Nova Scotia, celebrated on the first Monday in August).

We were surprised to see a replica of the Titanic in the park. However, Halifax played a specific role in the Titanic story. White Star Line officials in New York at first believed that the damaged Titanic would sail to Halifax, the closest major port. Trains with relatives and immigration officials departed from New York to Halifax. Hours after Titanic sank, White Star Line commissioned cable ships based in Halifax to recover the bodies of victims. Of the 209 bodies brought to Halifax, 150 were laid to rest in three cemeteries in Halifax.

Tomorrow we move further north. This will be our last stop before catching the ferry to Newfoundland.


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