Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Council Adds St. John River to Local Historic Places Register (July 28, 2010)

The section of the St. John River granted to the City of Fredericton by Queen Victoria in 1848 was added to the City’s Local Historic Places Register during a meeting of City Council here today.

The 1848 Act of Incorporation granted the City the portion of the St. John River bed bounded by the eastern and western City limits, including the Nashwaak River, and extends from the south shore to the high water mark on the northern bank.
This designation acknowledges its importance to not only Fredericton’s past but also its present and future. It’s a beautiful river and one of Fredericton’s greatest assets.Its historic association with First Nations people and the role it played in facilitating settlement of this area make it a suitable candidate for inclusion in the Register.

In fact, the river was called the Wolastoq or “beautiful river” by the First Nations people who settled along its banks, long before Samuel de Champlain discovered its mouth on June 24, 1604 and renamed it after St. John the Baptist, on the occasion of the Saint’s feast. The presence of the “people of the beautiful river” endured even in the midst of French, British, and American colonization efforts.

A fur trading post was established on the site of Fort Nashwaak in 1765 and another across the river at near the present-day site of Government House, paving the way for the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783. The river soon became a hub of activity bringing passengers and supplies to the area. River boats plied the waterway between Saint John and Fredericton, and ferry boats connected Fredericton to the opposite shore.

The dependence on the river spawned a local shipbuilding industry that continued into the 1870s and 1880s. The river was also a source of domestic water consumption until the City switched to ground water in 1955.

The age of ferry service came to an end with the completion of a highway bridge in 1885 which revolutionized travel and communication by providing free and year-round passenger traffic across the River. Three years later, Fredericton’s first railway bridge was completed. The first highway bridge, also known as the Carleton Street Bridge, has been replaced by the Westmorland Street Bridge. The Princess Margaret Bridge also spans the St. John River while all that remains of the Carleton Street Bridge are the granite piers.

The Local Historic Places Register is a list of places deemed to be of local historical significance. It was established as a result of a Federal Government Program called the “Historic Places Initiative” and designed to raise awareness of historic places and encourage conservation.

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