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Old Posted Dec 27, 2019, 9:18 PM
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wardlow wardlow is offline
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How old are Canadian cities? Initial settlement and the foundation of urbanism

Yes, yes, I think we can all safely assume Quebec City has the rest of us beat in in terms of age. But wondering if it’s worth getting into a little bit of a nuanced discussion on the beginning of Canada's settlement and urbanization, and the distinction between the two. Aside from an actual date of incorporation, is there a well understood date or era when one’s city came to be?

More of an existential question, when does a city begin? Official incorporation as a city doesn’t always tell the story.

For example, St. John’s was a place of (seasonal) European settlement dating back to the 1500s, but any semblance of urbanism (ie, a density and diversity of people and commerce) came some 200 years later, but at least a century before incorporation occurred in 1888.

In my own Winnipeg, the date 1812 is well known as the beginning of an agricultural colony undertaken by displaced Scotch Highland crofters in what is now inside city limits. (The basic framework of Winnipeg odd grid pattern follow these settlers' river lots.) Additionally, the Forks of the Red and Assiniboine were an important fur trading and administrative centre at the time. However, the basic foundations of a city did not emerge until the 1860s, when commerce began to coalesce around what became Portage and Main. Incorporation came in 1873, but even so, Winnipeg would not really look and feel like a city until the early 1880s, when railways and rapid growth hastily established the urban pattern of a defined central business district and stratified residential neighbourhoods.

Would be interesting to see what the oldest towns and cities area in each province, as either a site of settlement (trading post, religious mission, colony, administration/military fort, &c.), or as a functioning urban place.

(And yes this post has completely left out pre-European indigenous trading and settlement centres, but please feel free to share that history as well!)
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