More than 500 years in the making, St. John’s has become one of the most beautiful and incredible oceanside cities in the world.
The traditional hub of St. John’s was always the downtown and nowhere was it more active than in the port. In 2015, the Port of St. John’s marked the 50th anniversary of its establishment as a federally incorporated port.
In the fifty years since the port’s incorporation under the National Harbours Board of Canada, the Port of St. John’s has undergone remarkable change.
The gradual decline of various fisheries around the island saw the replacement of annual traditions with new ones. For years the port had hosted the arrival and departure of the spring seal fishery, which brought men from all over the island to the harbour-front in hopes of securing a berth at sea. Fishermen from all over the world relied upon the Port of St. John’s as the only safe haven in the North Atlantic, and many foreign sailors became intimately acquainted with the people and geography of St. John’s. In particular, the annual visit of the Portuguese White Fleet helped strengthen a special cultural relationship that is still nurtured today.
Within the past three decades, the port has managed to reinvent itself as a major base for the oil industry, a remarkable transformation for a port that credited its existence to the salt fish trade for five centuries. Today, the Port of St. John’s has reinvented itself into more than just a shipping terminal supplying the entire island, but also as a major oil supply base in the north Atlantic.
Given that the first paved road across the island was not completed until 1965, this port served as the only transportation link to the outside world for many Newfoundlanders.
To mark the 50th Anniversary, the Port Authority has been looking back at their many accomplishments, tracing the changes that have taken place in this storied harbour. The result is a rich oral history project, edited by archivist Allan Byrne, now published as a collection of stories titled A Beautiful Sight: Stories from the Port of St. John’s. The thirteen informants interviewed range from politicians, port administrators and businessmen to fishermen, stevedores and harbour pilots.
The port of St. John’s is the birthplace of North America’s oldest and most beautiful city. It’s a great story.
Recommended Reading: A Beautiful Sight: Stories from the Port of St. John’s By: Allan Byrne,Flanker Press, St. John’s, NL September 2015
Recommended Web site: Please note that there are hundreds of incredible archival photographs of downtown St. John’s located at this site: http://www.abeautifulsight.ca/
St. John’s dressed for Christmas: Talking Shopping Downtown St. John’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnNQIJ4VUvI