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Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada

The current Citadel

Image of oil painting depicting the fourth Citadel Fourth Citadel, 1860
© Parks Canada/K. E. Grant

In the 1820s, tensions between Britain and the United States were running high. So much so, that Britain believed US forces would try to seize Halifax, possibly by land, if a war broke out. Once again, they set out to strengthen the town’s defences, but this time was different. This time, they decided to build a permanent fort that would protect this vital naval base for generations to come. And in August 1828, work began on a fourth Halifax Citadel.

Design delays fort’s completion

Designed by Colonel Gustavus Nicolls, Royal Engineers, this new star-shaped stone fortress was expected to be finished in just six years. Flaws in his design caused delays in construction, and the Halifax Citadel was not completed until 1856. Like the citadels before it, this new fort never saw battle, and advances in weaponry would soon render it obsolete.

New life for the Citadel

In 1906, the British handed the Halifax Citadel over to the Canadian Department of Militia and Defence. During World War I, it served as soldier barracks and a command centre for Halifax Harbour defences. It remained a temporary barracks for troops in World War II, and was their last glimpse of Canada before heading overseas.

Today, the Halifax Citadel is among the nation’s most significant and beloved historic sites. Operated by Parks Canada, it has been carefully restored to its Victorian-era glory. And its story, which endures through exhibits and living history programs, is a vital thread in the fabric of the city and the country.