Once we had moved to Nova Scotia, Annapolis Royal (which sits on the Annapolis River) became for Ian and I our replacement for Brockville (which sits on the St. Lawrence River). We first became acquainted with Annapolis Royal while still living in Brockville as it was the closest actual town to the commercial property we were interested in purchasing. I was surprised when it was referred to as the “historic Annapolis Royal”. What made it “historic”?
In the beginning, we didn’t delve much into its history. We were too busy getting used to operating our new store up on the mountain north of the town. Annapolis Royal isn’t large by any standard. The population is less than 500. But likely because of its historical value (and its distance from other centres of any size), it is relatively well endowed with commercial enterprises: two grocery stores, two hardware stores (one new since we moved there and on the outskirts of town), a pharmacy, two variety stores, a post office, two banks. And a number of small shops: gift, book, clothing. Restaurants. For its size, Annapolis Royal is well equipped with accommodations, including classic Victorian-style inns and B&Bs. And then there is King’s Theatre. Neither Ian nor I have been inside it yet, but it features plays, concerts and films. The area has true claim to theatrical fame; the first ever theatrical production in North America was performed at Port Royal in 1606.
There certainly are a lot of firsts in this small region of the continent! This area is the oldest continuing European settlement area north of Florida.
Habitation at Port Royal (present-day Port Royal, just west of Granville Ferry) was France’s first settlement in North America, founded in 1605. For a time, after British-American troops destroyed the Habitation at Port Royal, what is today Annapolis Royal was called Port Royal. It was the capital of Acadia and of Nova Scotia until 1749, when Halifax took the honor. It was the site of many battles between the French and British over the years; in fact it was attacked more times than any other place in North America. That in itself is an indication of its importance to the early European settlers. The British gave the town its final name in the early 1700s, in honor of Queen Anne. Much of what surrounds the community today (the river, the county, the valley) take their names from this central place. Fort Anne and the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are prime Canadian tourist destinations.
Another first for Annapolis Royal is the tidal-generating station on the causeway, the first and only in North America. This plant harnesses the power of the famous Bay of Fundy tides to generate electricity to thousands of homes.
Port Royal, on the other hand, is of particular significance to Ian and I as it is so close to our house on Hollow Mountain Road. We can almost picture the French and British troops of centuries past marching past the site of our house while taking a shortcut to the Bay of Fundy!