Description of Historic Place
Georges Island National Historic Site of Canada is a labyrinth of military works that represented a vitally important element in the sea defences for Halifax Harbour. They cover a small island situated in the middle of the harbour directly in front of what today is the Halifax waterfront.
Georges Island was designated a national historic site for:
- its role as part of the Halifax Defence Complex which protected one of the principal naval stations of the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries,
- its representative examples of the conspectus of shore defences.
The heritage value of Georges Island National Historic Site of Canada lies in its geographic and strategic location in the middle of one of the finest natural harbours in the world, and in the range of military works constructed during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries for inner harbour defence. The cultural landscape of the island bears witness to significant changes in military strategy and defence technology through the found location, form and materials of surviving complexes of historic buildings, engineering works, fortifications, paths, landscape features and remains above and below ground, on land and in water.
The construction of defence works on Georges Island began when Halifax was established in 1749. Significant periods during which facilities were upgraded include 1794-1812 (masonry escarp linking north and south batteries, stone Martello tower - smooth bore ordnance), 1864-1869 (construction of Fort Charlotte with rifled-muzzle-loading ordnance), 1870-1879 (submarine mine period), 1902 (the breech-loading period). The island continued to play a military role in the Canadian war efforts in both World Wars. Georges Island became a national historic site in 1960 and has since been conserved.
Sources: HSMBC, Minutes, 1965; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 1996.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- siting on an island in Halifax Harbour on an axis between the Halifax Citadel and the Dartmouth shore,
- the evolved cultural landscape with its surviving remnants of 18th, 19th and 20th-century military activity,
- the drumlin land formation providing excellent viewplanes,
- roadways, pathways, channels and tunnels providing internal communications,
- viewplanes up the harbour channel outer harbour defence works, to the inner harbour, including the town, the historic navy yard and the Citadel,
- the polygonal footprint, surviving form and materials of Fort Charlotte,
- the spatial relationships of remnants of its defensive facilities during the smooth bore, rifled-muzzled-loading, breech-loading and submarine mining periods (including buildings, building complexes, fortifications, other defensive works and the barrels of ten rifled muzzle loaders that are part of the armament on the island during the rifled-muzzle-loading period),
- surviving forms, materials and spatial relationships of military remains, particularly the stone foundation of a Martello tower, and foundations for enlisted and senior non-commissioned officers’ barracks, single officers’ quarters and privy, torpedo mine store, and the drainage system related to mine assembly outside the fort.