Halifax Citadel
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
July 2003

High above Halifax sits a star-shaped citadel, one of the greatest British fortifications of the 19th century. Here, the skirl of the bagpipes mixes with the crack of rifle fire while the noon-day gun booms overhead.

The Halifax Citadel endures as a gateway to Canada's colonial heritage and passage to nationhood. Once the command post and landward bastion of Halifax's defences, the Citadel stands watch as it has done since the city was the principal British naval station in Nort America.

Since Halifax's founding, in 1749, Citadel Hill has served as the site of four different forts. Each was built during a time of perceived threat. The Citadel we see today was the last to be built, and took over 28 years to complete. This Citadel, finished in 1856, was intended to deter an overland assault on the city in the event of war with the United States.

The fourth Citadel was established to guard against a land-based attack from the United States. This massive, star-shaped, masonry fortification took 28 years to build. Constructed originally as a smoothbore fortification, the Citadel quickly became obsolete with the introduction of powerful rifled guns in the 1860s.

The British garrison of Halifax was ultimately withdrawn in 1906 in response to growing tensions in Europe, leading up to the First World War.

The present Citadel, is an excellent example of a 19th-century bastion fortification complete with defensive ditch, ramparts, musketry gallery, powder magazine and signal masts. Although never attacked, the fort was garrisoned by the British Army until 1906 and by Canadian Forces during the First and Second World Wars.

In response to the rapidly changing times, the Citadel upgraded its armaments and for the first time could defend the harbour as well as the land approach because the new artillery fired heavier shells a greater distance and with more accuracy.

The major role for the Citadel after the turn of the century was to provide barrack accommodations and act as a command centre for other harbour defences. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, the Citadel was used as a temporary barracks for troops going overseas and as the centre for anti-aircraft operations for Halifax. The Citadel was the "last view of the country for so many thousands outward bound and the first landmark to those who returned."

The Citadel continued to serve an important role with the Canadian military. During two World Wars the Citadel served as a sentinel on the home front and a symbol for those departing for overseas. Such was the strength of the Citadel and harbour defences that no enemy ever dared attack.

In 1951, the Citadel was declared a National Historic Site, signalling the end of its proud military career.

Today, the Citadel is operated by Parks Canada and is recognized as one of the most important historic sites in Canada. Restored to the mid-Victorian period with a living history program featuring the 78th Highland Regiment, the Royal Artillery, Soldier's Wives and Civilian Tradespersons, a visit to the Citadel is an educational and enjoyable heritage experience. Guided tours, an audio-visual presentation and modern exhibits communicate the historical themes of the Citadel's commemoration as nationally significant in Canadian history.

The text materials on this page were lifted from the brochure given at the site and from the website of Parks Canada.