The Fairbanks Centre, located at the entrance of Shubie Park, serves as the headquarters for the Shubenacadie Canal Commission. A gallery and interpretive center are open to the public (at no charge) during regular business hours, year-round, with exhibits that illustrate the historic Canal Waterway. The building proudly bears the name of the men who dared to dream of a canal to cross our Province from Halifax Harbour to the Bay of Fundy.
The Avery Room, named after the canal's first tugboat Avery, which pulled barges laden with lumber, bricks and gold along the canal, is a modern meeting facility available for rental as a corporate meeting space. It is popular with groups seeking off-site planning and visioning sessions. More information on renting the Avery Room can be found here.
The Fairbanks Family and the Shubenacadie Canal
This Centre is named after the Fairbanks family, and refers specifically to Charles R. Fairbanks and his son Charles W. Fairbanks. Father and son were driving forces in the building of the Shubenacadie Canal during both of its construction phases in the 1820s-30s and the 1850-60s respectively.
Charles R. Fairbanks was born in Halifax in 1790. He studied law and was called to the Bar in 1811, after which he ran a successful law practice. In 1823 he contested a by-election in Halifax Township and won. As a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature he gained a reputation as an eloquent speaker and political reformer. One of his first proposals as an MLA was the idea of constructing a canal for transporting goods and troops across the Province. Apart from his promotion of the Shubenacadie Canal, he was also a champion of public education. In 1823 he was appointed Nova Scotia’s first Solicitor General. It is highly unlikely that there would be a canal waterway here today, had it not been for Charles R. Fairbanks.
Unfortunately, the high costs and many difficulties of building the canal in the wilds of this new colony in the 1830s, discouraged even such a strong supporter as Charles R. Fairbanks. One year before his death, his eldest son Charles W Fairbanks stepped in to complete his father’s dream. He had studied hydraulic engineering in London and one of his first projects when he returned to Halifax was to design the first system of waterworks for the city. In 1850, he submitted a formal proposal to the Governor for re-mounting the construction effort with smaller and fewer locks, based on the American style of canal construction and with two marine railways, his plan succeeded and the Shubeanacadie Marine Railway operated from 1856 to 1871.
* Taken from “River of Dreams, The Saga of the Shubenacadie Canal” by Donna Barnett.