Discovering the secret city from the 1700s under Halifax
The city of Halifax has always been known for its abundance of history, with Citadel Hill being one of the best-known landmarks in the region.
Citadel Hill was constructed as a strategic fortification in the city’s defence complex during the days of British North America.
The Hill was first built and fortified in 1749 when the English founded the town of Halifax. In the same year, a wall was built protecting 2,000 settlers behind it.
“The British built what’s called a palisade around these blocks that survive today in downtown Halifax,” said historian David Jones.
The wall wrapped around most of what we call the city’s downtown today, and featured five forts with 200 soldiers posted at each.
“Horseman’s Fort, Fort Grenadier, Fort Luttrell, Fort Cornwallis, and the first version of the citadel,” said Jones.
The forts were strategically placed around the wall structure.
Fort Cornwallis was located where the Royal Artillery Park stands today. Horseman’s Fort was located at the corner of Barrington Street and Spring Garden Road in Halifax, while Fort Grenadier was down the hill, closer to the waterfront.
“It’s kind of the hidden fabric of the city,” said Peter Ziobrowski, a history blogger in Nova Scotia. “The history is in plain sight and people don’t appreciate it in their day-to-day lives.”
“I think it’s interesting for the people of HRM to know what lies underneath their feet,” said Jones.
The wall was taken down in the 1760s. Jones believes there is still physical evidence of the wall lying just beneath Haligonians feet.
“The archeological community in Halifax is hopeful that traces of these fortifications, and the walls, could be found,” said Jones. “We’re starting by looking at old maps and talking to people who work in the city.”
On Sunday, May 5, at 1:30 p.m., Jones is meeting with a group of local historians at Saint Mary’s Basilica and leading a walk around where the historic wall once stood in Halifax’s downtown.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Paul Hollingsworth