Accommodations Nova Scotia

Your Guide To Accommodations In Nova Scotia

Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia

Port Hawkesbury is the business and recreational centre of the Strait Area. The Town is located on the Cape Breton shores of the Strait of Canso - a deep, narrow channel of water separating northeastern Nova Scotia from Cape Breton Island.

People first began settling in the Port Hawkesbury area in the late 1700s. The actual town plot of Hawkesbury was surveyed in 1789. People had to work very hard to survive, and spent the winters tending live stock, preparing timber for export and trapping animals such as muskrat and caribou. In the spring, oil from dogfish, cod and seal was collected for the export trade to England. Gypsum from the Strait of Canso was being shipped to the Southern United States.

By the 1830s, shipbuilding and fishing establishments were present and created opportunities for employment in the area. Smaller business now had a reason to open, to serve the public and larger establishments. Due to the increase in population, local courts were established in 1831 to server the needs of the people, who previously had to travel to Sydney for their ordinary legal work.

From 1854-1866, during the Reciprocity Treaty, (a trade agreement between the United States and British North America) the Town of Port Hawkesbury went through a growth period and was faced with increasing requests for town lots. The repeal of the treaty in 1866 was followed by Canadian Confederation in 1867, and during this time, shipbuilding began to decline as wooden boats were replaced with steel, and local shipbuilders were not prepared for the change in technology.

By the 1880s, Port Hawkesbury was gaining quite a reputation as a sea-faring port, and by the middle of the decade, the Port Hawkesbury waterfront was bustling with activity created by businessmen. Many privately owned wharves had been erected to serve various commercial enterprises, and in 1889, with a population of 658, the Town of Port Hawkesbury was incorporated.

The only way to cross back and forth to the mainland was by boat. Numerous ferries operated over the years, many of them being private. A private operator, able to accommodate horses or an automobile, was assured a good business. However, come the winter months, things were much more difficult. Travel on land was next to impossible for anything but a short distance, and ice would clog the harbour, virtually cutting the residents of Port Hawkesbury and surrounding area off from travel and goods.

The arrival of the railroads in the 1890s marked a new era. Different routes were built as rail companies came and went over the years. Railroad ferries began running between the mainland and the island, keeping a constant means of travel and transportation of goods available. The railway became an important employer, with many residents of Port Hawkesbury working with the rail companies.

By the early 1900s, Port Hawkesbury had all the establishments one would expect to find in a town of its day. On a typical day there were a hundred or more vessels in the harbour, from small rowboats to steamships. Ferry services, fish plants, and boatbuilding are some the industries one would find at the waterfront. The town itself was growing and had businesses such as a lobster cannery, cobbler shop, watchmaker, and a telegraph office. Since Port Hawkesbury was a convenient stop-over point for travelers leaving or arriving on the island, there were always several hotels and eating establishments.

Ferry and rail service to the Island continued through the years, going through various changes. Completion of the Canso Causeway joining Cape Breton Island to mainland Nova Scotia in 1955 enabled the Strait of Canso to become one of the deepest, ice-free ports along the east coast of North America.

Many opposed the building of the causeway as it meant an end to the ferries and the rail businesses of the day which so many people relied on. Although the causeway did close some doors, it opened up many more. By the 1960s and 70s, the people of the Strait of Canso found themselves in one of Canada's most rapidly developing areas.

Port Hawkesbury and the neighbouring Strait communities of Point Tupper and Mulgrave, are the ports of call for thousands of vessels. In 1994, more than 2,300 vessels used the docking facilities of the Strait of Canso to ship pulp and paper, aggregate, oil, gypsum, wallboard, fish and other products around the world.

These Communities have diverse economic and cultural activities which offer much to visitors and residents alike. Port Hawkesbury and the surrounding Strait Area exhibit the qualities of small town living but offer the amenities of a larger urban centre.

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