Besides its governmental functions, Charlottetown services a considerable agricultural hinterland and is the focus of Island communications. Its favourable climate and nearby beaches have made it a major tourist centre.
|Charlottetown: Statistical Summary|
|Population (City):||32 174 (2006c); 32 245 (2001c)|
|Population (CA):||58 625 (2006c); 57 234 A (2001c)|
|Rate of Increase (City):||-0.2% (2001-2006); -0.9% (1996-2001)*|
|Rate of Increase (CA):||2.4% (2001-2006); 2.0% (1996-2001)*|
|Rank in Canada (by CMA and CA in 2006):||Fifty-fourth|
|Year of Incorporation (City):||1855|
|Land Area: (City) 44.33 km2;||(CA) 728.03 km2|
|Average Daily Temperature July:||18.9ºC|
|Average Daily Temperature January:||-7.5ºC|
|Yearly Precipitation:||1171.7 mm|
|Hours of Sunshine Per Year:||1858.6|
|*Based on 2001 boundaries|
History and Development
Although the city was incorporated in 1855, settlement in the region dates back to 1720, when an expedition sent by the Comte de Saint-Pierre established itself west of the harbour's entrance at a site named Port La Joie. After the assumption of direct control of Île Saint-Jean (the Island's former name) by the French government in 1730, Port La Joie was retained as the administrative centre, even though other Island locales showed more commercial promise. This decision was confirmed by the British when they finally achieved mastery in the region following the capitulation of LOUISBOURG in 1758.
Port La Joie, which never had a population much over 100, was renamed FORT AMHERST, and its defences were strengthened. In 1768, however, Charles Morris, chief surveyor of Nova Scotia, laid out a new town site across the harbour, and the community was christened Charlottetown, after Charlotte, wife of King George III. While the area was distant from the lucrative fisheries, it offered excellent transportation corridors to the interior via the rivers and was close to Nova Scotia and a road to Halifax.
The original town plan provided for broad streets on a grid pattern, with the main axis running north from the Hillsborough River, a common for future expansion and a royalty for pasturage and gardening. Sites were designated for a market house, church, courthouse and jail, but it was some time before all of these facilities were provided. Meanwhile, defence works were begun and, after American privateers ransacked the settlement in 1775, strengthened. By then the town's status had been enhanced by a decision of the British government in 1769 to separate the Island, renamed Prince Edward Island in 1799, from Nova Scotia and to make the little community the capital of the new colony.
The first governor, Walter PATTERSON, began establishing essential administrative services, but just as significantly commenced work on roads to more distant parts of the colony. As settlement of agricultural areas progressed, Charlottetown became a market town as well as a communications and administrative centre. These functions remain essential elements in the city's economy.
Throughout the 19th century Charlottetown's population averaged about 9% of the Island's total and grew as the Island grew. Most settlers were of English, Scottish or Irish origin, with a sizable ACADIAN element and smaller numbers of other ethnic groups, but by 1848 over half of the population were native-born Islanders. When Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873, Charlottetown was the eleventh-largest city in Canada.
In the 20th century the population of Charlottetown and its environs grew steadily as part of the Island's total, but it failed to keep pace with massive urban growth in the rest of Canada. The city's population decreased 3.1% from 1976 to 1991, but in the same period the metropolitan area population grew by 38.5%. In April 1995 an amalgamation of the city with 6 surrounding towns (West Royalty, East Royalty, Sherwood, Parkdale, Hillsborough Park and Winsloe) and the lands of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital increased the size of the city by more than 6 times and doubled its population.
In 2006 the population of the city was 32 174 and the census metropolitan agglomeration (CMA) numbered 58 625. The ethnic origins of the residents are remarkably similar to those of a century and a half ago. Although over 80 different ancestral backgrounds, other than Canadian, were listed in the most recent census, the Scots, followed by the English and Irish were by far, the most numerous. Persons of French origin followed in number, while the Germans and Dutch formed substantial minorities. The Lebanese and Chinese were the largest non-European ethnic groups. Over 30% identified their ethnic background as Canadian, and nearly half of those mentioned no other ethnic affiliation.
Shipbuilding and ship-owning, plus small-scale manufacturing such as tanning, brewing and shoe production, diversified the economy somewhat. The prosperity, however, was sufficiently limited to ensure thrift in the provision of community services. Vigorous opposition to taxes meant that improvements to counter fire and disease tended to follow disasters such as the Great Fire of 1866 or the SMALLPOX epidemic of 1887. Nevertheless, by the end of the century, Charlottetown possessed modern water and sewer services, electric street lighting, proper hospitals and schools and a varied cultural life.
Communications links, including coastal steamship service, the railway, and the telephone and telegraph, allowed the city to expand its influence over more distant parts of the Island, although communications difficulties with mainland centres of commerce highlighted Charlottetown's relative isolation.
Many 19th-century industries, including shipbuilding, have disappeared. In their stead are plants processing fish and seafood, beverages and dairy products and manufacturing marine and meat products. The city is home to new biotechnology and information technology industries. Through the port pass outbound agricultural produce and imported petroleum products.
While all these activities contribute significantly to the local economy, over half of the jobs are concentrated in government service, retail trade, the hospitality industry, health and social service and education. The tourist trade, first encouraged by the erection of a major railway hotel in 1931, was expanded by motel construction in the 1950s and 1960s and more recently by new hotels. A convention facility has further enhanced the city's tourist appeal.
In 1964 the Confederation Centre of the Arts, a large performing arts, museum and library complex, was opened to commemorate the CHARLOTTETOWN CONFERENCE of 1864, an event that gave the city the title the "Cradle of Confederation," though largely ignored by the citizens of that era.
The province has established a capital commission to promote the city as the "Birthplace of Confederation" and to encourage tourism and local economic development. It currently promotes special events that enhance the "Birthplace of Confederation" theme, such as the Festival of Lights, a celebration of Canada's birthday. The commission created Founders' Hall as Prince Edward Island's major millennium legacy project. It tells the story of Canada from 1864 to the present and anchors the eastern end of the revitalized Charlottetown waterfront.
Charlottetown today is a city of contrasts. A market-town atmosphere exists beside extensive cultural facilities, large government offices and 2 institutions of higher education - Holland College, a community college, and the UNIVERSITY OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND. Expansive suburbs with modern shopping malls are strikingly dissimilar to "Old Charlottetown," the well-preserved downtown core. The relative economic tranquillity of the 1950s and 1960s saved Charlottetown's older-built environment from the twin ravages of neglect and urban renewal.
The city remains richly endowed with stately old mansions, such as Beaconsfield, now fully restored as a historical site and headquarters of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, and pleasing 19th-century streetscapes like Victoria Row and Great George Street. Important public buildings include the Victorian city hall, the classical revival legislature known as Province House and the Georgian Government House.
There are several outstanding examples of church architecture, the most striking of which are St Dunstan's Basilica with its soaring towers and exquisite All Souls Chapel, which is richly adorned with Robert HARRIS paintings. The Sir Louis Henry Davies Law Courts Building borders a harbourside redevelopment that includes homes, shops and offices. Adjacent industrial land was transformed by the opening in the late 1990s of the Water Street Parkway and the creation of a shopping area on Peake's Wharf and a spacious park at Confederation Landing. Care has been taken to ensure that improvements such as these and Founders' Hall echo the city's built heritage while helping to maintain a vibrant urban core.
Government and Politics
Before incorporation of the city in 1855, government was provided by the colonial administration, volunteer organizations and individual citizens. Incorporation was prompted by the need to improve the physical services and by 2 external events: the achievement of RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT on the Island in 1851, which encouraged greater citizen participation in politics, and the end of the CRIMEAN WAR in 1854, which led to the departure of the garrison of British regular soldiers who preserved law and order. The city was divided into 5 wards, each of which elected 2 members to a Common Council that was headed by a mayor. Elections were held annually with all male freeholders eligible to vote.
In subsequent years the term of office and the number of councillors were altered and women were given the vote in 1927, but the essential structure of government remained stable until the annexation of Spring Park in 1958. Like most cities, considerable growth occurred in suburban communities, such as Sherwood and Parkdale. The resulting administrative challenges were finally addressed by the 1995 amalgamation. Council now consists of a mayor and 10 councillors, each representing one of the city's 10 wards.
Politics was dominated by commercial interest during the city's first century. The mayor's office was widely considered to be a position of honour that was to be shared by long-serving members of the city's establishment. Emphasis was placed upon frugal, pay-as-you-go administration that would not overburden taxpayers. There was little room in such a situation for formal political parties.
Nevertheless, several mayors left their marks on the community. Thomas H. Haviland (1857-67), who held office for an exceptionally long period, set the tone for modest civic budgets. Lieutenant-Colonel J. David Stewart (1951-58) seized the opportunities of post-World War II expansion to direct the city onto the road of new development. Dorothy Corrigan (1968-71) was Charlottetown's first woman mayor and the first to make the position a full-time job. She also made city hall both figuratively and literally more open to the general public.
In recent decades the city has increased its sway over the province's communications. Improved highways have made it easily accessible from all parts of the Island, and its remoteness from other Canadian centres has been mitigated by a modern airport and improved ferry service, followed in 1997 by the completion of the "fixed link" or Confederation Bridge spanning the Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Charlottetown has a daily newspaper (Guardian) as well as 3 private and 3 CBC radio stations and a CBC English-language television station. A number of small local publishers, including Maplewood Books, TWiG Publications and Acorn Press, issue works of literature, poetry and history.
From William Happeny, a bronze medallist in pole vaulting at the 1912 Olympics, to David "Eli" MacEachern, in BOBSLED at Nagano in 1998, Charlottetown has been well represented in the elite of international sporting competition. Lorie Kane is currently one of Canada's leading women professional golfers. After a brief period in which the OTTAWA SENATORS had a farm team in the city, the focus for hockey returned to the amateur ranks with the APM Abbies, a member of the Maritime Junior A hockey league. In harness racing, the Charlottetown Driving Park is one of North America's premier tracks.
Charlottetown has contributed a number of well-known artists to the music scene, the most notable of whom are Mobile Preid, a jazz group gaining international attention, vocalist Nancy White, Joey Kitson of the former Celtic rock group Rawlins Cross and Haywire, a popular rock band in the 1980s. The Confederation Centre of the Arts is home to 2 well-known choirs, the Confederation Singers and the Confederation Centre Children's Choir. The centre also houses the very successful CHARLOTTETOWN SUMMER FESTIVAL of music and light entertainment. Its art gallery and museum is the largest such facility in Atlantic Canada and boasts an exceptional collection of artwork by Robert Harris.
Overall, the cultural life of the city continues to draw inspiration from the surrounding rural areas, providing a unique blend of urban taste reflecting traditional values.
Author PETER E. RIDER
Douglas Baldwin and Thomas Spira, ed, Gaslights, Epidemics and Vagabond Cows (1988); Benjamin Bremmer, Memories of Long Ago (1930); A.H. Clark, Three Centuries and the Island (1969); Edward MacDonald, If You're Stronghearted: Prince Edward Island in the Twentieth Century (2000); Irene L. Rogers, Charlottetown: The Life in Its Buildings (1983); A.B. Warburton, A History of Prince Edward Island (1923).
Links to Other Sites
The official website of the City of Charlottetown.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Take a virtual tour of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island at this peisland.com tourism website.
Port-la-Joye -- Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada
This Parks Canada site commemorates the first permanent European settlement on Prince Edward Island and location of French and British fortifications.
Geographical Names of Canada
Search the "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base" for the official name of a city, town, lake (or any other geographical feature) in any province or territory in Canada. See also the real story of how Toronto got its name. A Natural Resources Canada website.
This “Canadian Confederation” website focuses on the delegates and major issues discussed at the Charlottetown Conference. Includes photos, an account of the proceedings and other archival materials. From Library and Archives Canada.
The Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives
The Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives (ACVA) is designed to showcase some of Atlantic Canada's rich archival sources. From the University of New Brunswick.
The website for the Confederation Centre features an annual events calendar, a biography of “Lucy Maud Montgomery,” audio highlights from “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical,” a virtual tour of the Art Gallery.
Created by the Capital Commission of Prince Edward Island, Founders’ Hall tells the story of Canada from the meetings of 1864 in Charlottetown to present day. Their website is a great information source about the prinicipal players and issues related to Canadian Confederation.
The website for Holland College, a community college in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Gold Cup Parade
The website for Charlottetown's "Gold Cup Parade," Atlantic Canada's largest parade and a feature event of the Old Home Week Festival.
Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce
The website for the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce (APCC), formerly the Maritime Board of Trade. Formed in 1896, this organization promotes and supports business and economic development in Atlantic Canada. Click on "Chambers" for links to local Chambers of Commerce.