PlacentiaPlacentia ...
Where History Comes Alive

Brief Overview of the Town

 Placentia, or Plaisance as it was once called, is a town replete with a truly colorful and rich history. Amalgalmated as a part of the new Town of Placentia back in 1994, it is situated on a large beach near a coastal forest area. This historic town is one of the oldest inhabited communities in Newfoundland. It is located approximately 100 km. south-west of St. John's and can be accessed either by the Argentia Access Road off the Trans Canada Highway (approximately 50 km. from the TCH), by the Colinet Road, which connects to the TCH via the Salmonier line, or, for visitors from outside the province, by the North Sydney-Argentia ferry which docks just a few kilometers from the town. History comes alive in this ancient French capital, for within its foothills and waters there lies an enthralling and unique story.

Although the French occupied Placentia at one time, the culture and lifestyle of the people today is not of a French nature. With the decline of the French, English and Irish immigrants resettled Placentia bringing with them a folk culture apart from that of earlier inhabitants. This Irish-English tradition is the basis for the beliefs, customs and mannerisms found among the people of Placentia today.


Today Placentia is a growing Newfoundland town which provides a wide array of services to its residents. To name some of those, it has a bank (the Royal Bank), two restaurants, fast food services, service stations, garages, a small shopping mall, small department/clothing stores, supermarkets, hospital, nursing home, night clubs, pool hall, hotel, bed and breakfast, hardwood store, building supplies, drugstores, beauty salons, RCMP station, post office, library, town hall, two churches, dentist office, Historical Society, and real estate services. As well, it has the very important services of the Town of Placentia Fire Dept. The town has a high school, providing programs to students of Grades 9 - 12 (Laval High), a primary/ elementary school for grades K - 8 (St. Edward's) and a district college - a campus of the College of the North Atlantic - which offers a wide variety of full-time and part-time courses.

 Placentia residents are involved in many worthwhile volunteer groups including scouting movement groups, church groups,Star of the Sea Men's & Lady's groups, Placentia Area Historical Society, Hospital Auxiliary, Cadets, and Placentia Lions Club.

Many Placentia area residents were once gainfully employed at the former U.S. Naval Station in Argentia and at the Long Harbour phosphorous plant. With the closure of these facilities, as well as the phase down of the Hibernia site at Bull Arm, there is presently a high rate of unemployment in the area. An announcement on Nov. 29, 1996 of the construction of the Voisey's Bay smelter at Argentia gave the area renewed hope for future prosperity. However, to this day that announcement has not become a reality.

Historical Information

Some historians maintain that Basque fishermen were taking cod from Placentia Bay before the voyages of Columbus and Cabot. As early as 1592 an English sea captain reported sighting 60 Basque fishing ships in Placentia Harbour. After the Basque came the French who, in 1662 decided to include Newfoundland in its western empire because of the rich fishing waters.

Strong French forts were built at Placentia where army units were garrisoned and from which several naval vessels operated. When war broke out between the French and the English near the end of the 17th century it was from their fortified forts at Placentia that the French attacked the English capital at St. John's three times and overran the Avalon Peninsula, destroying English settlements. It was the defeat of the French forces in Europe and the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht that eventually dislodged the French from their foothold in Newfoundland.

Under this treaty the French were forced to surrender many of their colonies in the New World including Placentia.
 When the French inhabitants left Placentia they took with them their culture and lifestyle leaving only the military redoubts and fortifications as well as place names such as Crev-ve-coeur and Brulee as evidence of their occupation. While there are signs of French occupation in the area today, the culture and lifestyle is not that of French origin.

For Visitors - Historical Landmarks Found in Placentia......A Walking Tour

As mentioned, the town of Placentia is rich in history and culture. To showcase the historical landmarks and sites, a historical walking tour of the town is presented. This tour will hopefully help you experience a true sense of the past. The tour begins at the Sir Ambrose Shea lift bridge, and continues to the given sites in the order in which they appear throughout the town, ending at the "White House".

The short version of the tour sites is given below. For a more detailed description and pictures of some of the sites, follow the links provided.

1. The Sir Ambrose Shea lift bridge.

This bridge was built in 1961 to connect Placentia to the surrounding communities and to allow the many fishing boats and other craft to leave and enter the two Arms - the North East Arm and the South East Arm. Crossing the gut before the building of the bridge was quite an adventure.

2. The Site of Fort Frederick.

Fort Frederick, completed in 1721, is one of the most significant forts in Placentia for it was Newfoundland's first English fort, signifying the final English take over of Placentia beginning with the signing of the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. As was the tradition in many early Newfoundland towns, Fort Frederick was named for Royalty - the Prince of Wales, H.R.H. Prince Frederick. The first Commanding Officer was Colonel Phillips of the 40th Regiment of the Prince of Wales Volunteers. Within the Fort Frederick enclosure an area known as the "Earthen Mounds" is a point of curiosity. It consists of an indentation in the ground surrounded on all sides by earthen mounds.

3. Belle's Restaurant/Telegraph Office/Rosedale Manor.

This dwelling, once known as Belle Burns store, was erected about 100 years ago. It no longer serves as a store, but is now operated as a restaurant, having been completely renovated as a heritage building. It brings us a step back in time to the heyday of retailers in historic Placentia. Just up the street is the former Telegraph/Cable Office. This building was the office and staff house of the Anglo-America Telegraph since 1873, and while used today as a private dwelling, it still houses the original wicket and table used then. Up a little ways further is Rosedale Manor, a building which was constructed in 1893 and has been recently restored to that era. Now it serves as a bed and breakfast, offering visitors a place to spend a night.

4. Site of old Placentia Cottage Hospital.

 This hospital served the Placentia area for more than fifty years since it was moved from its former site at Argentia. In June, 1996 a new cottage hospital was opened as an attachment to the Lions Manor nursing home. The older hospital building has been removed.

5. St. Luke's Anglican Church and Cemetery.

 This church was built in 1905, but the site itself is very historic, for it dates back as far as 1689 when Recollect Fathers arrived from Quebec and built our Lady of Angels Monastery on this site. With the arrival of the English in 1714, the old French chapel was taken over for Anglican services. This structure was demolished and replaced with the present building in 1905.

The graveyard deserves attention as it contains the deceased of all nations who have occupied Placentia. The Basque tombstones in the Visitor Reception Centre at Castle Hill originated from this graveyard. The oldest of these was dated 1667.

6. The Courthouse.

This building was constructed in 1902 and boasts details of architecture of that time with beautifully curved brackets and you can see where the clock tower, signifying its builder, has been removed.

7. Star of the Sea Hall.

This society was founded in 1876 and its meetings were moved to this site in 1889. The building was constructed in the early 1950's and was renovated in the 1970's. At the front of the building stands a War Memorial dedicated to local men who sacrificed their lives in WWI.

8. Sacred Heart Church

The church was begun in 1878 with the laying of the stone foundation and actual work began in 1886. The initial plan was to build this structure from stone, but due to economic reasons, wood was used. In recent years there has been an extension added to this church and more recently it has undergone considerable interior renovations.

9. War Memorial Monument.

 In close proximity to the Church entrance stands the War Memorial monument commemorating war dead from the area in World War I. Just up the street stands a new memorial erected in the past few years..

10. Presentation Convent.

This building is the only stone building in Placentia. The stone is supposed to have come from an abandoned Fort Frederick redoubt. It was opened in 1864 and was the home of the Presentation Sisters who came to Newfoundland from Ireland in 1835 to provide education which was badly needed. In Sacred Heart Church, Placentia, one of the stained glass windows is dedicated to the Presentation Sisters. On the Presentation Convent property was erected a Marian Year Grotto in 1954.

11. O'Reilly House..

 This house was the home of Placentia magistrates until the late 1970's. Built in 1902 it is now owned by the Placentia Historical Society.

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This Page is part of a Historical and Cultural Web Site created by students of Laval High School, Placentia, NFLD (A0B 2Y0) Edited March, 2000.