Feb 2018. Photo by Linn Atkinson

Feb 2018. Photo by Linn Atkinson



The Fairbanks Centre, located at the entrance of Shubie Park, serves as the headquarters for the Shubenacadie Canal Commission. A gallery and display area 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 for crossing our Province from Halifax Harbour to the Bay of Fundy.

The Avery Room, named after the first tug boat which pulled barges laden with lumber, bricks and gold, is a modern meeting facility available for rent as a corporate meeting space. It is popular with groups seeking off-site planning and visioning sessions. Catering is available, as well as standard AV equipment and free parking.

The Centre is appropriately named after the Fairbanks family, which played an integral role in the building the Shubenacadie Canal. “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 NS 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.”*

Unfortunately, the high costs and many difficulties of building the canal in the wilds of this new colony 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. He submitted a formal proposal to the Governor for re-mounting the construction effort with smaller and fewer locks. His plan succeeded and the Canal operated until 1871 with the coming of the railway.

*  Taken from “River of Dreams, The Saga of the Shubenacadie Canal” by Donna Barnett.