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Old Posted Dec 28, 2019, 2:41 PM
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Originally Posted by wardlow View Post
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.
This is one of my favourite bits of Newfoundland trivia because it's so different from how municipalities developed in most other countries. We had only one level of government, whether colonial or national, and there was tremendous pushback from Governors and Prime Ministers against any attempt to weaken their jurisdiction. Even when St. John's was finally allowed to incorporate in 1888, its council was simply an advisory committee to the Prime Minister, and led by an appointed chairman. When you drive around the island here, you'll constantly see signs like, "Welcome to Calvert. Founded 1610. Incorporated 1956." It was only post-Confederation with Canada that other municipalities were allowed to be incorporated, and since Canadian law now applied, only then that there was any real benefit to doing so.

Today we have a system where almost all of the province's municipalities are governed by a single Municipalities Act, written to do the bare minimum to comply with Canadian jurisdictional standards. These are all towns, doesn't matter if they have 25 people or 25,000. There's no such thing as a village, hamlet, etc. To become a city, a municipality must have 20,000 people and apply to the provincial government for its own Act (for example, the City of St. John's Act). The two levels of government negotiate how to divide jurisdiction as legal and appropriate. To date, only three cities have done it - St. John's, Mount Pearl, and Corner Brook - and only St. John's pushed hard to wrestle any authority from the province.

In the outports it gets a little more complicated. Beginning in 1634, they were ruled by the first Fishing Admiral to arrive to that particular station in the spring. As permanent year-round settlement increased, this eventually led to protests from livyers (settlers) and the British assigned a permanent Governor position to the island in 1729.


As for urbanism here, early 1800s is when things started to take shape. By the mid-1800s the core was comparable to what it is today. There was a great fire in 1846 that destroyed much of the commercial core and many public buildings but lots of surviving replacements date to this time. And the current flavour of the city, especially its rowhouses, dates to the period of reconstruction following another, bigger Great Fire in 1892. One of the changes implemented at that time (wider streets) actually reduced urbanism a bit in my opinion. So our golden urbanism era was likely 1830s-1892. That also coincides with the period during which we were one of the larger cities in this part of the world.
Note to self: "The plural of anecdote is not evidence."
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