St. John’s in Newfoundland

Thursday, 22 September 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  11 minutes

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill © flickr.com - Michel Rathwell/cc-by-2.0

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill © flickr.com – Michel Rathwell/cc-by-2.0

St. John’s is the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, located on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland. The city spans 446.04 km² (172.22 sq mi) and is the easternmost city in North America (excluding Greenland). Its name has been attributed to the belief that John Cabot sailed into the harbour on the Nativity of John the Baptist in 1497, although it is most likely a legend that came with British settlement. A more realistic possibility is that a fishing village with the same name existed without a permanent settlement for most of the 16th century. Indicated as São João on a Portuguese map from 1519, it is one of the oldest cities in North America. It was officially incorporated as a city in 1888. With a metropolitan population of approximately 212,579 (as of February 9, 2022), the St. John’s Metropolitan Area is Canada’s 20th-largest metropolitan area and the second-largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in Atlantic Canada, after Halifax. The city has a rich history, having played a role in the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in St. John’s. Its history and culture have made it into an important tourist destination. St. John’s was referred to in Irish as Baile Sheáin (Johnstown), in the poetry of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara (1715–1810), and among speakers of the Irish language in Newfoundland.

St. John’s is along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, on the northeast of the Avalon Peninsula in southeast Newfoundland. The city is North America’s most easterly city, excluding Greenland; it is 475 km (295 mi) closer to London, England than it is to Edmonton, Alberta. It is also closer to all of Ireland than to Miami, also on the east coast of North America. The city is the largest in the province and the second largest in the Atlantic Provinces after Halifax, Nova Scotia. Its downtown area lies to the west and north of St. John’s Harbour, and the rest of the city expands from the downtown to the north, south, east and west. The city covers a total of 446.04 km² (172.22 sq mi) (larger than Montreal), but the majority of its area remains covered by undeveloped woods. Coniferous trees such as black spruce, white spruce, and balsam fir dominate the native vegetation. The largest deciduous tree is white birch; species of lesser stature include alder, cherry and mountain ash. Of introduced tree species, sycamore maple is most abundant and Norway maple is common. Blue spruce, common horsechestnut, European beech and littleleaf linden are among the other non-native species grown.

St. John’s architecture has a distinct style from the rest of Canada, and its major buildings are remnants of its history as one of the first British colonial capitals. Buildings took a variety of styles according to the means available to build them. Starting as a fishing outpost for European fishermen, St. John’s consisted mostly of the homes of fishermen, sheds, storage shacks, and wharves constructed out of wood. Like many other cities of the time, as the Industrial Revolution took hold and new methods and materials for construction were introduced, the landscape changed as the city grew. The Great Fire of 1892 destroyed most of the downtown core, and most residential and other wood-frame buildings date from this period. Often compared to San Francisco due to the hilly terrain and steep maze of residential streets, housing in St. John’s is typically painted in bright colours, earning its downtown the nickname Jelly Bean Row. The city council has implemented strict heritage regulations in the downtown area, including restrictions on the height of buildings. These regulations have caused much controversy over the years. With the city experiencing an economic boom a lack of hotel rooms and office space has seen proposals put forward that do not meet the current height regulations. Heritage advocates argue the current regulations should be enforced while others believe the regulations should be relaxed to encourage economic development. To meet the need for more office space downtown without compromising the city’s heritage, the city council amended heritage regulations, which originally restricted height to 15 m (49 ft) in the area of land on Water Street between Bishop’s Cove and Steer’s Cove, to create the “Commercial Central Retail – West Zone”. The new zone will allow for buildings of greater height. A 47 m (154 ft), 12-storey office building, which includes retail space and a parking garage, was the first building to be approved in this area.

Basilica of St. John the Baptist © Nilfanion/cc-by-sa-4.0 Cabot Tower on Signal Hill © flickr.com - Michel Rathwell/cc-by-2.0 Queen's Battery on Signal Hill © Martin Durocher/cc-by-sa-3.0 Quidi Vidi neighborhood © flickr.com - Jeremy Keith/cc-by-2.0 Water Street © Jcmurphy/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - Paul/cc-by-2.0
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Cabot Tower on Signal Hill © flickr.com - Michel Rathwell/cc-by-2.0
The downtown area is the cultural hub of St. John’s and is a major tourist destination in Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada. Water Street and Duckworth Street are known for their brightly coloured low rise heritage buildings, housing numerous tourist shops, clothing boutiques, and restaurants. George Street, a downtown side-street above the western end of Water Street, is the predominant home of the city’s nightlife. It holds numerous annual festivals including the George Street Festival in August and the Mardi Gras Festival in October. The street can be credited with kick-starting the careers of many musical acts and is busy nearly every night of the week. The city has a symphony orchestra, a string quartet, and several choirs. In addition the School of Music of Memorial University of Newfoundland has several ensembles, including a chamber orchestra. St. Johns also plays host to the Tuckamore Festival of chamber music, which has been held every August since 2001. Opera on the Avalon puts on performances of opera, over several days, in the summer. Established in 1987, the Kittiwake Dance Theatre is one of the province’s leading dance companies. The LSPU Hall is home to the Resource Centre for the Arts. The “Hall” hosts a vibrant and diverse arts community and is regarded as the backbone of artistic infrastructure and development in the downtown. The careers of many well-known Newfoundland artists were launched there including Rick Mercer, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones, Andy Jones and Greg Thomey. The St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre houses an art gallery, libraries and a 1000-seat theatre, which is the city’s major venue for entertainment productions. The Nickel Film Festival and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival are two independent film festivals held annually in St. John’s.

The Murray Premises is a National Historic Site in downtown St. John’s. The buildings once served as a fishery premises, with facilities for drying and packaging fish and warehouses for fish, barrels and other items. The oldest of the buildings is the one facing on Beck’s Cove. It was built after the 1846 fire and for a time served as both shop and house. The Murray Premises was renovated in 1979 and now contains office suites, restaurants, retail stores and a boutique hotel. Another National Historic Site is Signal Hill is a hill which overlooks the city of St. John’s. It is the location of Cabot Tower which was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot‘s discovery of Newfoundland, and Queen Victoria‘s Diamond Jubilee. The first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here by Guglielmo Marconi on 12 December 1901. Today, Signal Hill is a National Historic Site of Canada and remains incredibly popular among tourists and locals; 97% of all tourists to St. John’s visit Signal Hill. Amongst its popular attractions are the Signal Hill Tattoo, showcasing the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Foot, c. 1795, and the North Head Trail which offers an impressive view of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coast.

Pippy Park is an urban park in the east end of the city; with over 1,400 ha (3,400 acres) of land, it is one of Canada’s largest urban parks. The park contains a range of recreational facilities including two golf courses, Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest serviced campground, walking and skiing trails as well as protected habitat for many plants and animals. Pippy Park is also home to the Fluvarium, an environmental education centre which offers a cross section view of Nagle’s Hill Brook. Bowring Park, in the Waterford Valley, is one of the most scenic parks in St. John’s. Entrance to the park is via Waterford Bridge Road, passing a sculptured duck pond and a statue of Peter Pan. The park land was donated to the city in 1911 by Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring on behalf of Bowring Brothers Ltd. on their 100th anniversary of commerce in Newfoundland. The park was officially opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught on 15 July 1914. Bannerman Park is a Victorian-style park near the downtown. The park was officially opened in 1891 by Sir Alexander Bannerman, Governor of the Colony of Newfoundland who donated the land to create the park. Today the park contains a public swimming pool, playground, a baseball diamond and many large open grassy areas. Bannerman Park hosts many festivals and sporting events, most notably the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival and St. John’s Peace-a-chord. The park is also the finishing location for the annual Tely 10 Mile Road Race.

Read more on St. John’s, NewfoundlandLabrador.com – St. John’s, Wikivoyage St. John’s and Wikipedia St. John’s (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Johns Hopkins University & Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center - Global Passport Power Rank - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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