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Halifax History May 27, 2022

The Halifax Defence Complex

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, British and Canadian military forces constructed forts and batteries to protect the city of Halifax and its harbour. The fortifications were initially built to protect the British Naval Base from attack by the French, although many continued their military functions well into the Second World War.

Five of these historic fortifications, known collectively as the Halifax Defence Complex, are now national historic sites and fascinating local attractions, owned and operated by Parks Canada.

1. Fort McNab National Historic Site

McNabs Island, Halifax Harbour | Established: 1888-1892

Through the global conflicts of the twentieth century Fort McNab served as the gatekeeper of Halifax Harbour. Fort McNab was at one time the most powerful guardian of Halifax, thanks to its strategic harbour location and powerful breech-loading guns.

Photo: Acorn Art Photography

2. Georges Island National Historic Site

Georges Island, Halifax Harbour | Established: 1750

Georges Island is a small oval island in the centre of the Halifax Harbour that was created by glacial deposits thousands of years ago. This strategic location put the island and Fort Charlotte at the heart of military action in Halifax for hundreds of years.

Photo: M. Bayer + Parks Canada

3. York Redoubt National Historic Site

Fergusons Cove | Established: 1793

York Redoubt’s original batteries were built at the outbreak of war between Britain and revolutionary France to secure Halifax from attack by sea when French warships were reported in the western Atlantic. Strategically perched high on a bluff at the narrowest point of the outer harbour, York Redoubt offers breathtaking coastal views and wooded walking trails.

4. Prince of Wales Tower National Historic Site

Point Pleasant Park | Established: 1796-1797

This solid, thick-walled Martello tower stands guard on the highest point of Point Pleasant Park and is one of the earliest Martello Towers in the British Empire.

5. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

Citadel Hill, Downtown Halifax | Established: 1749

Overlooking the city from its strategic vantage point atop Citadel Hill, the Halifax Citadel has protected the Halifax Harbour for nearly 300 years. The hilltop location was so strategically important that the fort was rebuilt three times, yet it was never once attacked.

photo: Cody Osbourne
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