Fort Charnisay National Historic Site of Canada
Fort St. Jean
The Old Forts - Les Vieux forts
The Old Forts - Les Vieux forts
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Fort Charnisay National Historic Site of Canada, of which there are no visible remains, is located in Saint John, New Brunswick. Between 1645 and the early 19th century, the site hosted a succession of forts due to its strategic position overlooking the St. John River on the western edge of the city’s harbour. The site is marked by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque and cairn, situated approximately 400 metres to the south of the designated place, on Market Place Street. The footprint of the fort is located in the vicinity of what is today the Harbour Bridge toll plaza, a site that served as an industrial area related to the Saint John Harbour and railway during the early 20th century. Official recognition refers to the fort on its footprint, including the glacis, at the time of designation.
Fort Charnisay was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1923 because:
- between 1645 and 1775 it was the site of several French and English forts protecting the mouth of the Saint John River;
- originally a small wooden fort was built at this site by Sieur d’Aulnay de Charnisay in 1645;
- Fort St. Jean was built here in 1698 by Governor de Villebon and dismantled circa 1700;
- in 1749 Fort Menagoueche was built here, which was burned in 1755 during the Seven Years War;
- rebuilt as Fort Frederick in 1758 by General Monckton, it was abandoned and eventually burned by American privateers during the American Revolution.
A rivalry between Charles Menou d’Aulnay de Charnisay and Charles de la Tour resulted in the construction of Fort Charnisay. Charles de la Tour, who had constructed Fort Sainte Marie (also known as Fort La Tour) on the east side of the Saint John Harbour in 1631, contested Charnisay’s 1632 appointment as Lieutenant-Colonel to the King in Acadia. Charnisay attacked and destroyed Fort Sainte Marie in 1645 and subsequently built Fort Charnisay, a fortified trading post, on the west side of the harbour.
Joseph Robinau de Villebon constructed the first military installation on the site, Fort St. Jean, to protect Acadian settlers from the British. His successor, Jacques-François de Monbeton de Brouillan, dismantled the fort and moved to Port Royal in 1700 because he considered its defensive position and drinking water sources inadequate. The fort was rebuilt as Fort Menagoueche in 1749 when Lieutenant Charles Deschamps de Boishébert et de Raffetot was ordered to secure the mouth of the Saint John River and defend it against the British. Fort Menagoueche was destroyed when Lieutenant de Boishébert burned it while retreating from British Colonel Robert Monckton at the beginning of the Seven Years War (1756-1763), leaving Louisbourg as the sole French fortification in Acadia.
Monckton rebuilt the fort in 1758, naming it Fort Frederick. American privateers destroyed this incarnation of the fort in 1775. The fort was repaired a final time in response to the outbreak of the War of 1812. The successive forts thus demonstrate the power struggles that took place in this region during the 17th and 18th centuries.
For much of the first half of the 20th century, the site was part of an industrial area serving the harbour and the railway, until it was cleared in the mid-1960s for the construction of the Harbour Bridge toll plaza, which opened in 1968.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1924, 1980.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location at the western edge of Saint John Harbour, overlooking the Saint John River;
- its footprint in relation to Navy Island and the nearby harbour area;
- its setting in downtown Saint John near the Saint John Harbour Bridge, 400 metres north of its Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque located on Market Place Street;
- its strategic setting in relation to the river and the harbour;
- the remains of the various phases of the fort, in their location, extent and materials, both discovered and undiscovered;
- the viewscapes between the site and the Saint John River, Saint John Harbour and much of urban Saint John.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1812/01/01 to 1812/01/01
1645/01/01 to 1775/01/01
1698/01/01 to 1700/01/01
1749/01/01 to 1755/01/01
1758/01/01 to 1758/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Governing Canada
- Military and Defence
Function - Category and Type
- Military Defence Installation
Architect / Designer
Governor de Villebon
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection