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Protecting history at Fort Anne

For the week of Monday, January 16, 2017

On January 19, 1917, the federal government received a proposal to designate Fort Anne a Dominion Park. Within the week, on January 24, Fort Anne, near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, became Canada’s first national historic site managed and maintained by the Dominion Parks Branch.

This aerial view of Fort Anne shows the star-shape known as the Vauban style popularised by French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban
© Parks Canada / R. Garnett

The Fort Anne site, upriver from Port-Royal (the first French attempt to establish a settlement in North America in 1605), has been home to the Mi’kmaq people for thousands of years. The first fort at this site was Fort Charles, built in 1629 by Scottish settlers. It was renamed Fort Anne by the British in 1636. After passing between French and English control several times, France built the existing star-shaped fort in 1702. Then it was taken by British forces after a week-long siege in 1710. The fort was degarrisoned in 1768, but troops returned in the mid-1770s, during the American Revolutionary War, and again during the War of 1812. After the British Military left in 1854, the fort fell into disrepair. 

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The Officers’ Quarters at Fort Anne
© Parks Canada / Chris Reardon

In 1889, a blockhouse was torn down, sparking a community movement to protect the fort. Nova Scotia’s Minister of the Militia Office, Robert Borden, took an interest in Fort Anne in the early 1900s. He provided funding to the Garrison Commission, a local association dedicated to the fort’s preservation. After Borden left the Militia Office, the Garrison Commission had to look elsewhere for support and asked the former Dominion Parks (now Parks) Branch to take over the site.

Fort Anne’s protection as a Dominion Park was part of a growing interest in Canadian heritage surrounding Canada’s 50th anniversary. It marked a first step in the creation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1919. Fort Anne was officially designated a national historic site in 1920. Fort Charles and Port-Royal are also national historic sites. To learn more, read Chief Membertou: The Great Captain, Champlain Charts Coast, Peace Treaty at Utrecht Changes Map of North America, and National Acadian Day in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

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