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 succumbed to rot and deterioration due to weather.
Lots were assigned in August 1749, and construction began. Houses outside the palisade 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 labelled 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 later engraved. The drawings depict the town as it was in 1759, and shows a view of Halifax from the corner of Hollis and George Streets. You can spot St. Paul’s in the background, and the governor’s mansion in the foreground. The original governor’s 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’s 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 known as The Carleton began as Richard Bulkeley’s 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 Governor’s 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 light is octagonal in shape, and constructed of masonry, covered with wooden shingles due to early moisture issues. An additional 22′ of height was added in 1906, and the stripes were added in 1908.
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.