St John's, Newfoundland Real Estate & Community Overview
St. John's with a population over 100,000 is the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. The city is progressive and has world-class facilities in marine science and technology and in offshore oil development. St. John's is the headquarters those companies that are exploiting the underwater offshore resources in the Hibernia and Terra Nova oil fields.
The city is surrounded by a mosaic of fishing villages, and hosts several cultural festivals, sports clubs and recreation facilities, to provide big city amenities with "small town" quality of life. The city's music scene is vibrant and eclectic with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, renowned choral groups and a variety of traditional Irish, jazz, and rock performers.
Shoppers can stroll the aisles of national retailers or visit charming boutiques along Water Street, the oldest commercial street in North America, with most shops open seven days a week. Our nightlife scene is one of the most vibrant in Canada. St. John's has featured lively pubs and taverns since the 1600s. Featuring 1920s light fixtures and cobblestones, George Street is said to have more pubs per square foot than anywhere else in North America.
History of St John's
Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (anglicized to "John Cabot") arrived in St John's harbour on June 14, 1497 seeking New World opportunities for British merchants. He described the waters as "full of fish" and by 1502, the Portuguese began a fishing industry, to exploit the Grand Banks. In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert take possession of Newfoundland for England's Elizabeth. In 1623, Sir George Calvert began a colony on the Avalon peninsula (around what is now Ferryland) and the French also began to colonize the island. Following some bck & forth wars, the 1763 defeat at the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gave North America to the British, leaving France only the islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, off the south coast of Newfoundland, along with some fishing rights.
From 1550 to 1610, the Basques of Spain also hunted whales in the Labrador area, using shore stations to process blubber into oil, before returning to Spain. By 1763 some English fishermen began the seal fishery during the winter, which grew to include 50 schooners by 1807 (and employed 400 schooners by 1850). Newfoundland grew after 1650 trading with salt codfish and fish oil New Englanders for their sugar, molasses, salt meats, flour, woolens and rum. This stopped abruptly in 1662, when Britain's Navigation Acts forbade trade between its various colonies, which also ended up building into the American Revolution.
In 1811, Fort Amherst Light House was built at the entrance of St. John's Harbour, showing the growing British efforts to secure the Colony of Newfoundland. Following the establishment of the first courts in 1793, and a Supreme Court in 1824, Britain established a local parliament in 1833. In 1850, the Colonial Building, today called The House of Assembly, was opened.
The Colony was beginning to modernize. In 1866, the Atlantic telegraph cable laid by the steamship Great Eastern was successfully landed at Heart's Content. In 1881, the first sod for railway construction turned, with St John's railway depot where the Newfoundland Hotel now stands, and the first train (and mail) ran in 1898, all the way to Port-aux-Basques. In 1886, the streets of St. John's were first lighted by electricity. In 1888, Newfoundland switched its currency from shillings & pence to dollars & cents. In 1895, the Wabana Iron Mine (on Bell Island in Conception Bay, 12 miles from St. John's) opened, shipping a million tons per year to Europe and America. In 1908 the first newsprint mill was established.
In the 1890s the Colony suffered several major setbacks. The Dominion of Canada overruled them on an 1890 reciprocal trade treaty with the United States. A bank failed leaving Newfoundland without a currency, St John's suffered a major fire. Canada invited Newfoundland to join Confederation, but would not absorb the Colony's debt, so the offer was rejected.
During the First World War, the Colony of Newfoundland sent a 1000 mqan regiment over to Europe, who fought their first battle at Gallipoli (Turkey) in 1915,and in the next year were almost completely wiped out in the battle of Beaumont Hamel, losing 710 of 790 men. Today, July 1, the day of the battle, is commemorated as a solemn day across Newfoundland.
The First World War also brought prosperity, with rising demand and prices for salt codfish, but afterwards trade declined and by 1932 Newfoundland had exhausted her trade credit.
Newfoundland's isolation was reduced when in 1919, Capt. Alcock and his pilot, Lieutenant A. Whitten Brown crossed the Atlantic from St. John's to Clifden, Ireland, flying 1,800 miles in 15 hours and 57 minutes. In 1921, the first long distance telephone was instituted.
The Second World War brought economic and social revolution. While the demand for all Newfoundland's resources & products increased, the establishment of American air and naval bases (under the Lend-Lease program) provided islanders full-employment incomes and exposed to the ways of the outside world. The newsprint industry also grew quickly, as did the iron ore mines on Bell Island. The fishery raised output from three million pounds in 1939 to 40 million in 1945.
After the War, Newfoundland became a key player on the world stage, as longer range airplanes made refuelling stops at Gander airport between Europe and North America. By the mid 1960s, new long-range jet planes were able to by-pass Gander, though Soviet and East Bloc countries continued to stop here on their way to & from Cuba (causing many to defect on their stop-overs). Gander airport was back in the limelight on September 11, 2001 when the US closed off its airspace following the terrorist attacks on New Yorks'e World Trade Center towers, many trans-oceanic flights were diverted to Gander.
After the Second World War, Britain's massive war debt & post war reconstruction devalued its currency to rebuild its economy, which affected Newfoundland's export industries like lumber and fishing. Those out of work were looking for a government "social safety net", as well as Newfoundlanders looking to fund & build a roadway around the Island, quickly realized that there were benefits to joining Canada. In 1948 a referendum was held (it actually took two referenda), allowing people to choose self-government, remaining a British Colony, or union with Canada. Newfoundland joined Canadian Confedration in 1949, and Joey Smallwood who championed the cause became the new province's first premier.
The 1960s were a time of great change in Newfoundland. The Hamilton Falls (renamed Churchill Falls) hydro-electric in Labrador was built, selling its power output to Quebec, The Trans-Canada Highway was built and paved, connecting the many towns and cities around the province. The government also moved many thousands of people from smaller isolated outports to larger centres where health care and education could be cost-effectively provided., causing upheaval for many.
In the 1970s, the offshore fishery began to decline as fish stocks declined greatly from European overfishing. Canada extended its territorial sea to 12 miles in 1970 and unilaterally declared a 200-mile economic zone in 1977. In Newfoundland, the number of registered fishers had increased by 41%, registered vessels by 23%, and the total catch by 27% by 1981. Then, in the 1990s, the government declared a moratorium on fishing some species, to enable stocks to rebuild (though the Europeans continued to fish).
Oil was discovered in the Grand Banks, which could only be explored and extracted using very expensive offshore drilling rigs, built to withstand not only North Atlantic storms but the iceflows that are brought to the area by the Labrador Current. The royalty income from this is hoped to help the Newfoundland & Labrador government self-sufficient.