Posted in Canada 150, Projects, Travel

Signal Hill

A surprise post just in from Newfoundland and Signal Hill. That sneaky man of mine, on a business trip in October, failed to mention that they’d actually made time to go anywhere other than the hotel and George Street. So I am thrilled to add one more to the Canada 150 Series .

I usually do an intro to the writer and in this case it just happens that I have an entire blog post about the man  I’ve shared almost four decades with and it’s called Trust Me, I’m …

In September, our company was contracted to deliver a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This was an exciting opportunity and Bernie and I discussed the possibility of making a trip out of this, as neither of us have been to Newfoundland. In the end however, with everything that was happening with the house (we were finishing up the second retaining wall and looking to complete the patio area), we decided not to extend the trip. As such, for me it was a quick in and out trip, flying to St. John’s on Tuesday, delivering the workshop on Wednesday, then flying home early Thursday morning (back in Saskatoon by 9:30 a.m.).

With this being such a quick trip, I was not sure what I would be able to squeeze in for sightseeing. Bernie had hoped that I would be able to make it to Signal Hill, as this is a National Historic Site, so that I could contribute to her series of Canada 150 posts. Murray (my business partner) and I had rented a car in order to get around (he was staying an extra day) so after a very successful workshop we headed off to see what we could find.

As it so happened, this was Murray’s first trip to St. John’s as well. Not knowing how far anything was, I plugged “Signal Hill” into my phone and then proceeded to navigate Murray to the hill. We only made a couple of wrong turns but considering the roads are like, straight out of England (ie. anything but straight), we did a good job of getting to the site before darkness descended upon us.

A couple of wrong turns but here we are as the sun is starting to set

Signal Hill holds a prominent position in St. John’s, both from its physical and a historical perspective. Overlooking the Narrows leading in to St. John’s Harbour, Signal Hill offers a defensive position enviable of any military commander. From the 1600’s through to the Second World War, the primary purpose was that of a defensive nature and from what I could gather, St. John’s was never overthrown from the sea, although it did change hands between the British and the French on numerous occasions during the 1700’s.

View of Atlantic Ocean from the top of Signal Hill

Signal Hill also played an important part in communications and perhaps this is the reason for the name “Signal Hill”. Before the advent of electronic communications, signalmen would monitor the incoming ship traffic and ‘signal’ what ships were coming into port with the use of signal flags. This would then give the merchants in the port a heads up so that they would be prepared for the ship when it arrived. On Dec 12, 1901, Signal Hill then ushered in the wireless communications era when Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal from England.

Cabot Tower is arguably the most prominent landmark in St. John’s, located at the top of Signal Hill. Begun in 1898 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to the New World, the tower opened in 1900 and served as a signal station until the mid 1900’s. Today, Cabot Tower serves as a museum and gift shop. Of course, we arrived just as the building closed for the day, so did not get a chance to poke our heads inside.

Murray in front of Cabot Tower

Being late in the day, with a cold wind blowing, we opted not to explore the trails to their fullest extent, limiting our visit to the area immediately around the Tower. There is certainly a lot more to the park than we were able to fit in so will have to look forward to another visit in the future (with Bernie).

Besides, we needed to save time to visit George Street for some good food, a few beer and some eastern hospitality.

Entrance to the Narrows, leading in to St. John’s Harbour
St. John’s Harbour. The green space at the top of the point holds the battery of cannons.

Being a national historic site, Parks Canada, in partnership with the local Johnson Family Foundation, has established a series of walking trails in the hill.

No red chairs today but we will return someday.

2 thoughts on “Signal Hill

  1. Signal Hill is one of my favorite places! The walk down into downtown is truly breath taking and we have done it a few times. Newfoundland is one of our favorite places to visit. I hope you get back there!!


    1. It’s sure on our list. It was just a whirlwind day for Ron. We need to go with some time to spare next time.
      Nice to have you back here commenting — I was thinking yesterday that it had been a while since you dropped in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s