Halifax Walking Tour 1
Twelve years ago, when I moved from Montana to Halifax, I traveled light, or heavy, depending on how you view it. I came with a half-dozen partly-written manuscripts, a few dozen history and science books, and a lot of ideas. It’s a wonder the car tires weren’t flat.
Sisterhood of the Sword (available September 1, 2023) is not one of those books. It came into being as I became acquainted with my new home. Jamie has a habit of stalking me, so it came as no surprise when she asked that I write a book about Halifax. “We’ll get back to the partly-written manuscripts,” she bargained. “Write this first.” So I did.
And now I would like to take you on a walking tour of Halifax as Jamie saw it. Because Sisterhood of the Sword is dominantly set in Halifax, and with bits set elsewhere in Nova Scotia, I have broken the tour into 4 parts. Note: There is one brief part set elsewhere as we do have Nazis. Part of the book is set in World War II, after all. What follows will be text from the book with any spoilers redacted so as not to spoil the story. It will give you a feel for the characters, if you have not as yet met Jamie, and it will give you a feel for the book. To preface this tour, Jamie attends university in Montana but comes to Nova Scotia on the the quest of a stolen supernatural statue. Her friend, Nick Fagan of Halifax, becomes our tour guide as he drives Jamie and her friend Lenore across town to a house of interest--you'll have to read the book to understand why.
In this blog, we will begin at Nick's house which is situated on a side street off Flamingo Drive. The tour will take us from Nick's house to Walter and Hazel's house on Young Street. Read as following:
Nick said, “We’re headed toward the harbour then downtown. Not sure how much you know of the city.”
At the base of the hill, Nick turned right at the T-intersection. Beyond the intersection was the ocean.
“That’s the Bedford Basin. This is one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Cornwallis’s original settlement was in this area. During World War II they used the basin to stage war ships crossing the Atlantic to Britain. You’d be surprised how many ships fit. Canada entered the war in 1939. For a couple years American tourists vacationed here to see what a city at war looked like. It took Pearl Harbor to get you Americans to join. The ocean’s big, but not that big.
“Halifax—and all of Nova Scotia really—felt real effects of the war. There were blackout regulations across the province. Always paranoid of German attack from air or sea. And don’t think they weren’t here. I have a buddy whose great-grandfather first entered the city in a U-boat. My buddy said it scared his great-grandfather to be in a city where he didn’t know the language, and him the enemy. Imagine! I’ll show you the defenses when we get to York Redoubt. Halifax has always been a garrison town, and they still fire a cannon to announce the noon hour.”
Lenore leaned in, “Being brutally honest, this is actually my first visit. I wasn’t exactly close to my Aunt Hazel.”
We drove around a bend, and before us loomed walls of stacked shipping containers and hulking cranes loading a
ship with cargo. They resembled AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars as they hunkered on the harbour’s edge. Train tracks paralleled the highway. Idling trains sat loaded with containers and awaiting transport.
“One of three container terminals in the city, counting the one across the harbour in Dartmouth. They’ll transport stuff all over North America.”
We continued along the highway past piers and naval ships. “They’ve built ships here since Cornwallis’s day too. That’s the Royal Naval Dockyard. Canada’s navy on the East Coast. The Royal British Navy remained here until 1910, a few years after the bulk of British forces left. Americans sometimes forget Canada is part of the British Commonwealth.”
Lenore swiveled left for a better look. Ships, mostly Canadian, but a couple American, docked beside some buildings.
We drove under two bridges which spanned the harbour and into a downtown where past and present united. Street-facing buildings appeared as a centuries-old stone and brick structures with old windows and doors. Then, soaring like phoenixes above these structures, towered modern buildings. Nick explained it was a historical area and the original buildings had to be preserved. City planners had built atop the old structures while keeping their essence intact. He pointed to an area walled off from view. Archaeologists were actively excavating a guardhouse from the 1700s before new construction could continue.
“Quick side trip. I gotta show you the Citadel while we’re downtown, even if there’s no time to really look, especially since Robbie wants Lenore to see the other military site. We can check out this one tomorrow, if you have time.”
“I don’t know how long we’ll be here,” I answered honestly, and he nodded. The architecture certainly was the oldest I’d ever seen. I could almost see Cornwallis and his men marching between buildings. Red uniforms, ancient rifles, ghosts from the past.
“I understand.” And he turned right. “This won’t take us far out of the way. Walter’s house is maybe ten minutes away.”
After a couple blocks, the road came to a T and an enormous hill.
“Here’s Citadel Hill. Cornwallis fortified it when he built the original settlement. There have been four different defensive fortifications here. The last one dates to World War II when they built barracks. From up there you can see across the water and watch for enemy ships at the harbour’s mouth. This is also where they fire the noon cannon. There’s a whole ceremony, if you want to see it.”
“Maybe,” I said hurriedly, not wishing to offend. We intended look for Richard Strand after visiting Walter. I suspected Mr. Strand had associated himself with one of the local universities. Associating himself with a university was how he’d found Dad and begun sponsoring his digs in Egypt. I’d sent emails to local universities over the last couple weeks, and I planned to follow up in person. I wished Grandpa John would materialize with information, but maybe he left this detective work to us.
Nick turned left, driving parallel to the hill, toward Walter’s house again.
Lenore nudged me. “Check out the big clock.”
An old clock tower rooted into Citadel Hill. The base was a rectangular clapboard structure. Rising from the middle were two more tiers: all pillars and antique windows covered with a domed copper roof and fitted with a giant clock with Roman numerals.
“I’m feeling a bit Back to the Future.” She grinned wickedly.
“It’s lovely,” I said to Nick, ignoring her.
“The British army was going to tear it down before they left. The city convinced them to leave it. Now it’s a famous landmark. It’s even been featured in Marvel comic books.”
“I had no idea.” I continued to gape like a tourist. Growing up in the Midwest, World War II seemed a distant point in history that had no impact on me directly. Stuff of history books.
Of all people I should never have thought history could be contained in books. History was alive. History—Time—could be rewritten, even if Nick disagreed. He just didn’t know how to do it. Lumen twitched reflexively against my thigh. Even if the sun shone, I suddenly felt very cold. I rubbed my arms to warm myself.
Nick said, “Did you know during the war Halifax was full of spies? Some historians claim that’s an exaggeration...”
And here we will leave Jamie, Nick, and Lenore having arrived on Young Street in one of the large older houses on that street. The house would not be so far from Point Pleasant Park, which has its own ruins that date to World War II and before.
Watch for the next blog! Their visit will lead to York Redoubt and a hop back in Time.
You can also purchase any of the Jamie Poole Books directly from the author. Arrangements can be made by emailing JamiePooleBooks@gmail.com. In working with Hal-Con there can be arrangements for drop off within Halifax as we are a virtual vendor. Additionally two preferred vendors can also assist you in getting the books: