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Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Main Street Yarmouth
Main Street Yarmouth
Official seal of Yarmouth
Nickname(s): "The Gateway to Nova Scotia"
Motto: Progress
Yarmouth is located in Nova Scotia
Location of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Country  Canada
Province  Nova Scotia
County Yarmouth
Founded June 9, 1761
Incorporated August 6, 1890
Electoral Districts     

West Nova
Provincial Yarmouth
 • Type Town Council
 • Mayor Pam Mood
 • Deputy Mayor Jim MacLeod
 • Councillors
 • MLA Zach Churchill (L)
 • MP Greg Kerr (C)
 • Land 10.56 km2 (4.08 sq mi)
Highest elevation 43 m (141 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 6,761
 • Density 640.3/km2 (1,658/sq mi)
 • Change (2006-11) Decrease5.6%
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
 • Summer (DST) ADT (UTC-3)
Postal code(s) B5A
Area code 902
Dwellings 3,323
Median Income* $31,584 CDN
NTS Map 020O16

Yarmouth is a port town located on the Bay of Fundy in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. Yarmouth is the shire town of Yarmouth County and is largest population centre in the region.

Long connected to lobster fishing grounds and as a result receives Canada's largest lobster landings each year.[2]


  • History 1
    • European settlement 1.1
    • Shipbuilding 1.2
    • Railways 1.3
    • Steamships and ferries 1.4
      • CNR, CN Marine & Marine Atlantic 1.4.1
      • Lion Ferry, Prince of Fundy Cruises, Scotia Prince Cruises 1.4.2
      • Bay Ferries 1.4.3
      • Nova Star Cruises 1.4.4
    • Second World War 1.5
  • Culture 2
  • Buildings and structures 3
  • Climate 4
  • Demography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Originally inhabited by the Mi'kmaq, the region was known as "Keespongwitk" meaning "Lands End" due to its geographic isolation being located at the southwestern tip of the Nova Scotia peninsula.[3]

The region may have possibly been visited by Leif Ericson. An object known as the Yarmouth Runic Stone was found at the nearby village of Overton in 1812. It was interpreted by some to have been carved by Ericson, while others feel the markings are natural scratches gradually enhanced over the years. The stone is preserved at the Yarmouth County Museum & Archives.

European settlement

The region was visited in 1604 by Samuel de Champlain, who named it "Cap-Fourchu." The first Europeans to make a settlement on these shores were the French Acadians. They set up a small fishing settlement known as "Tebouque" in the mid 17th century and by 1750 the population was 50 people.[4] During the Seven Years' War, New England Planters settled at what is now the town of Yarmouth in 1759; these settlers were from Yarmouth, Massachusetts and there is speculation that they named Yarmouth after their former home. Yarmouth was founded on June 9, 1761 when a ship carrying three families arrived from Sandwich, Massachusetts. The ship carried the families of Sealed Landers, Ebenezer Ellis, and Moses Perry.[5] Following the war, Acadians originally from the Grand-Pré district who returned from exile in 1767. After the American Revolution, substantial numbers of United Empire Loyalists arrived in 1785.

Yarmouth's waterfront circa 1910 showing the railway and steamship connections which emerged in the late 19th century.


Through the 19th century the town was a major shipbuilding centre, at one point boasting more registered tonnage per capita than any other port in the world.[6] Yarmouth ships were found in most major ports throughout the world at this time, including ships noted for courageous crews such as the ship Research in 1861 and ships noted for great size such as the ship County of Yarmouth in 1884, one of the largest wooden hull ships ever built in Canada.

John Patch, the son of one Yarmouth sea captain developed and built one of the first modern screw propeller in 1832 (4 years before John Ericsson's patent). First demonstrated in Yarmouth Harbour during the summer of 1833, Patch was unsuccessful in a patent application in that year, but he continued to improve his propeller and received an American patent in 1849[7] which drew praise in American scientific circles.[8] However by 1849 there were multiple competing versions of the screw propeller. Patch never received money or recognition and died a poor man at Yarmouth in 1861.[9]


As wooden shipbuilding declined in the late 19th century, Yarmouth's shipowners re-invested their capital into factories, iron-hulled steamships, and railways.

The town's first railway was the locally owned Western Counties Railway which was built from Yarmouth to Digby in the 1870s. It eventually was merged into the Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR), with a network extending into the Annapolis Valley, Halifax and Truro; the DAR later became a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The Halifax and Southwestern Railway was built along the south shore linking Yarmouth with Shelburne, Liverpool, Bridgewater and Halifax in the early 20th century; the H&SW was eventually merged into the Canadian National Railway (CNR). While iron-hulled steamships had led to the decline of Yarmouth's once-thriving wooden shipbuilding industry, they also made the port a vital connection between Nova Scotia's rail lines and steamships destined for Boston and New York. Rail services were abandoned to Yarmouth in stages, beginning in 1982 (CNR) and ending in 1990 (CPR).

Steamships and ferries

Tourism has been a major industry in Yarmouth since the 1880s when Loran Ellis Baker founded the Yarmouth Steamship Company. Steamship and railway promotion based in Yarmouth created the first tourism marketing in Nova Scotia.[10] Baker's steamships operated between Yarmouth and Boston until 1900, when the company was purchased by the Dominion Atlantic Railway. The DAR and Halifax and Southwestern Railway offered connections for passengers arriving in Yarmouth with steamship services operating to New York City and Boston.

In 1939, examiners at Yarmouth's Merchant Marine Institution made seafaring history by issuing master's papers to Molly Kool, the first female ship captain in the Western World.

Steamship connections between Yarmouth and Boston / New York were maintained by Eastern Steamship Lines but ended with the start of World War II, the SS Yarmouth Castle being one of the last vessels to serve this route.

CNR, CN Marine & Marine Atlantic

Following the war, the absence of a steamship connection led citizens of southwestern Nova Scotia to undertake an extensive lobbying effort with the federal government to establish a ferry service in the Gulf of Maine connecting Yarmouth with a port in New England. In 1949 the Canadian Maritime Commission began to study the possibility of a ferry service connecting with a port in Maine and later focused its effort on a service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor. In 1954 the federal government contracted Davie Shipbuilding to construct MV Bluenose which was launched in 1955 and began service in 1956 under the management of Canadian National Railway (CNR) and later (1977-1982) under the management of a federal Crown corporation named CN Marine.

In 1978 CN Marine started operating MV Marine Evangeline on a service from Yarmouth to Portland, Maine. In 1982 the old Bluenose was retired from the Bar Harbor service and sold. CN Marine replaced her with a newer vessel MV Stena Jutlandica which was renamed MV Bluenose to prevent confusion in tourism marketing literature.

In 1986 CN Marine was reorganized into the Crown corporation Marine Atlantic and in 1997 the federal government decided to end its financial support for the Gulf of Maine ferry service, soliciting proposals from private sector ferry companies to operate the route.

Lion Ferry, Prince of Fundy Cruises, Scotia Prince Cruises

The growth of post-war automobile-based tourism saw the provincial government encourage additional ferry service with New England, a region with many family connections to the Maritimes dating to the 18th century and which accelerated during the first half of the 20th century. In 1970 the MV Bluenose service operated by CNR was joined by the MS Prince of Fundy on a route connecting Yarmouth with Portland, Maine operated by Lion Ferry. The service was supplemented between 1973-1976 by MS Bolero, however by 1976 both vessels were replaced by the MS Caribe. Lion Ferry sold Yarmouth's second ferry service to Prince of Fundy Cruises who purchased MS Stena Olympica and renamed it MS Scotia Prince. The service underwent another ownership change in 2000 and was renamed Scotia Prince Cruises. In 2004 the company discovered toxic mould in its Portland terminal, owned by the City of Portland, canceling its 2005 season. The City of Portland subsequently canceled the company's lease and evicted Scotia Prince Cruises, thus ending this ferry service.

Bay Ferries

HSC The Cat in Yarmouth Harbour

In 1997 Bay Ferries, a subsidiary of Northumberland Ferries Limited, was the successful bidder for the federal government's Gulf of Maine ferry service. Only the operating licence was transferred as well as the right to be the primary user of the federal government-owned ferry terminals in Yarmouth and Bar Harbor; the service would receive no subsidy from the federal government. Bay Ferries purchased MV Bluenose from Marine Atlantic and used that vessel for the remainder of the 1997 season before selling it.

In 1998 Bay Ferries introduced the first high speed catamaran passenger-vehicle ferry service in North America when it purchased HSC Incat 046 from Incat in an aggressive bid to expand the Yarmouth - Bar Harbor ferry service. Throughout the 1990s the market for ferry services in southwestern Nova Scotia were threatened by significant expansions of 4-lane expressways in northern Nova Scotia and across southern New Brunswick so it was theorized that the Yarmouth - Bar Harbor ferry service could maintain market share if the ferry voyage time was shortened. Marketed as "The Cat", the use of the ferry service grew largely due to Bay Ferries' investment and the novelty of riding the ultra-modern high speed catamaran. In 2002 Bay Ferries traded in HSC Incat 046 for a larger vessel HSC The Cat which was also marketed as "The Cat". Beginning in 2003, Bay Ferries began operating HSC The Cat during the winter months on services in the Caribbean.

Following the end of the service offered by Scotia Prince Cruises in 2004, Bay Ferries began operating HSC The Cat in 2006 between Yarmouth to Portland, in addition to Bar Harbor; the old Portland ferry terminal being replaced by the newly built Ocean Gateway International Marine Passenger Terminal. Following a decline in American tourism to Nova Scotia, as well as record-high fuel prices, Bay Ferries sought subsidies from the federal and provincial governments for its Gulf of Maine ferry service. The federal government refused to provide a subsidy, having removed itself from operating such a service in 1997. However, the provincial government offered a subsidy to cover the operating loss and this was subsequently provided in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2009 the provincial government canceled the subsidy and Bay Ferries announced in December 2009 that it was ending its ferry service and sold the vessel.[11]

Nova Star Cruises

In 2013 the provincial government posted a request for proposals for re-establishing a Yarmouth - Maine ferry service, stating that a successful proponent would receive a $21 million subsidy over a 7-year period. In September 2013 it was announced that Nova Star Cruises was the successful proponent and in November 2013 it was confirmed that the service would start May 1, 2014 with the MV Nova Star offering daily round trips between Yarmouth and Portland. Nova Star Cruises has also announced it is examining the possibility of using the vessel during the winter months on a service between Colombia and Panama bypassing the Darién Gap.

Second World War

During the first year of the Second World War, Yarmouth was selected as the location for a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) facility. RCAF Station Yarmouth was originally opened in 1940 as three separate training sites (the East Camp, the West Camp and the Air Base).

The East Camp was home to a detachment of the Royal Air Force's No. 34 Operational Training Unit (from RCAF Station Pennfield Ridge), who trained bomber crews, as well as the Royal Navy's No. 1 Naval Air Gunners School who were located at Yarmouth from 1 January 1943 to 30 March 1945.

The West Camp was home to an RCAF Anti-Submarine Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron and several Eastern Air Command Bomber Reconnaissance Squadrons, such as 162 Squadron.

The Air Base was home to the 9th Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery, various RCAF and RAF Bomber Squadrons and an Army Co-operation Reconnaissance Flight. Its primary function was as an administrative and logistical support base to the RAF and RCAF squadrons in the area, in addition to providing a Weather Information Section, an Armament Section and a firing range.

A Hudson bomber from Royal Canadian Air Force Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron 113 in Yarmouth became the first aircraft of RCAF's Eastern Air Command to destroy a submarine, sinking U-754 about 100 mi (160 km) south of Yarmouth on July 31, 1942.[12]

Several smaller installations associated with RCAF Station Yarmouth were located in southwestern Nova Scotia, including a bombing range at Port Maitland, a fuel depot at Digby, and radar detachments at Plymouth, Tusket, Bear Point, Port Mouton and Rockville. In 1944, a detachment of the US Navy briefly came to Yarmouth to test the effectiveness of a blimp service. After a crash, the RCAF decided against this venture.

RCAF Station Yarmouth closed in 1945. The airfield was sold to the Department of Transport in 1946 and became the Yarmouth Airport. A Canadian Army training camp (known as Camp 60) on Parade Street also provided basic and artillery training for 20,000 soldiers during the war.[13]

Fishing boats in Yarmouth


The Western Branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is located in Yarmouth. The town is also home to the Yarmouth County Museum & Archives which preserves the history of the town and surrounding county and operates the Killam Brothers building on the waterfront. The Firefighters Museum, part of the Nova Scotia Museum system and the privately run Sweeney Fisheries Museum are also located in Yarmouth.

The Izaak Walton Killam Memorial house, founded in 1963, serves as the town's public library. It is the largest branch of Western Counties Regional Library and houses the regional library's headquarters.

The Yarmouth Arts Regional Council was established in 1974, under the leadership of Lydia Davison, a local music teacher. Over the next five years, with the assistance of the Canada Council and many volunteers, the Yarmouth Arts Regional Centre (Th'YARC) was constructed on the site of a former garage on Parade Street. Th'YARC continues to operate to this day, with the 350-seat Lydia Davison Theatre, an art gallery and a print-making shop.

The Victorian Gothic style Eakin/Hatfield House in Yarmouth

A popular but unsupported cultural belief in Yarmouth holds that the American composer Meredith Willson wrote his well-known song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" while staying in Yarmouth's Grand Hotel.[14]

In August 2004, a record mako shark was caught off the coast of Yarmouth during the Yarmouth Shark Scramble. It weighed 1,082 lb (491 kg) and set a new Canadian record. It is considered one of the largest mako sharks ever caught.[15]

Buildings and structures

Yarmouth is known for some of the most exuberant examples of Victorian houses styles in the Maritimes, a legacy of the wealthy captains and shipowners of the town's seafaring Golden Age.[16] A heritage district preserves several blocks of these residences, including the Lovitt House and Eakin/Hatfield House. On the waterfront, two historic warehouses survive from the sailing era, the Killam Brothers and Parker-Eakin's buildings, each with an associated wharf, which are the focal points of summer waterfront events.

Yarmouth's Main Street is marked by several distinctive Victorian commercial buildings such as the turreted Yarmouth Block Building.[17] The largest building in the town is a 1970s hotel, the Rodd Grand Hotel. It is built on the site of the original Grand Hotel, a Second Empire hotel which was the town's landmark for many years.

A landmark for Yarmouth Harbour is the large Cape Forchu Lighthouse which is located a few kilometeres way at the headland of Cape Forchu, the peninsula that guards Yarmouth Harbour. The tall "apple core" style is a notable example of modernist style light tower.[18]


Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Environment Canada[19]

Yarmouth has a climate defined as either a humid continental climate or an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb/Cfb).[20] Winters are cold and snowy with a January average of −3.0 °C (26.6 °F) though owing to strong maritime influences, temperatures below −20 °C (−4.0 °F) are rare.[19][21] During this period of time, the weather can be unsettled and cloudy due to the Nor'easters coming up the coast from the southwest.[21] As a result, Yarmouth averages only 68–100 hours of sunshine from December to February or 25%–34% of possible sunshine.[19] The average annual snowfall is 207 centimetres (81 in), which can come from Nor'easters from the southwest with a maximum snow depth of 7 centimetres (3 in) in January, owing to its mild winters.[19][21]

Yarmouth's summers are cool due the strong coastal influence from the sea which keeps summer temperatures cool, meaning temperatures above 30 °C (86.0 °F) are very rare.[21] The average temperature in the warmest month, August is 17.0 °C (62.6 °F). Spring and fall are transitional seasons in which falls are warmer than spring since the waters are at the warmest temperatures in fall and the coldest during early spring.[21] Precipitation is significant, averaging over 1,292 millimetres (51 in) a year, with July and August the driest months on average and November the wettest month on average. An outstanding feature is Yarmouth's late-fall to early-winter precipitation maximum, owing to the combination of intense storm activity from November to January and relatively more-stable summers, with thunderstorm activity here much less frequent than in the U.S. Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and points southward. Yarmouth averages 1898 hours of sunshine or 42% of possible sunshine with summer being the sunniest and winter being the cloudiest.[19] Yarmouth averages 191 days of fog each year.[22]


The town has long held the highest teen pregnancy rate in the province.[23][24][25] Many studies have been done using teenagers in the town to examine the phenomenon.[23][24][26]

Education (2006)
Level of education Population Pct (%)
No certificate, diploma, or degree 2,090 36.34%
High school certificate or equivalent 1,215 21.13%
Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 630 10.96%
College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma 1,060 18.43%
University certificate or diploma below the bachelor level 220 3.83%
University certificate, diploma or degree 540 9.39%


  1. ^ a b 2011 Statistics Canada Community Profile: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
  2. ^ Town of Yarmouth website
  3. ^ Yarmouth: Lands End - Bay of Fundy
  4. ^ Acadian Population Acadian Population Acadienne 1750 - University of Maine
  5. ^ A History of the County of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia - John Roy Campbell (Page 32)
  6. ^ Yarmouth: Lands End
  7. ^ Mario Theriault, Great Maritime Inventions Goose Lane Publishing (2001) p. 58-59
  8. ^ website retrieved 31 January 2010The Archimedes Screw, Vol. 4, No. 5 (October 10, 1848) p. 33, featured in Scientific America"Patch's Propeller",
  9. ^ retrieved 31 Dec 2010Famous, should-be Famous and Infamous Canadians"John Patch", .
  10. ^ Jay White, "Canada's Ocean Playground: The Tourism Industry in Nova Scotia, 1870-1970", Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management
  11. ^
  12. ^ The Creation of a National Air Force W.A.B. Douglas, (University of Toronto Press, 1986) p. 520
  13. ^ RCAF Yarmouth East camp/West Camp Hank Reed, (East Camp Veterans, Yarmouth, 1996)
  14. ^ It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Was it written in Yarmouth?
  15. ^ Mako Shark caught off Yarmouth
  16. ^ Mark Myers & Margaret McBurney, Atlantic Hearths: Early Homes and families of Nova Scotia, University of Toronto Press (1994), p. 160
  17. ^ Elizabeth Pacey and Alvin Comiter, Landmarks: Historic Buildings in Nova Scotia, Nimbus (1994) pp. 136-137
  18. ^ "Cape Forchu Lighthouse", Nova Scotian Lighthouse Preservation Society website
  19. ^ a b c d e f
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c d e
  22. ^ Yarmouth fog data
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ 1762 Census
  28. ^ [1], Censuses 1871-1931
  29. ^ [2], Census 1941-1951
  30. ^ [3], Census 1961
  31. ^ 1971, 1976 data: Table 1, Population Growth, Southwestern Region Statistical Profile, Nova Scotia Department of Development, April 1987, p, 7
  32. ^ [4], Censuses 1981-2001
  33. ^ [5], Census 2006
  34. ^ Statistics Canada Religious make-up, for Yarmouth, 2001 census - 100% data
  35. ^ 2006 Statistics Canada Census Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada: Town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

External links

  • Town of Yarmouth - official website
  • Town of Yarmouth on facebook
  • Canadian Encyclopedia Yarmouth Lighthouse perched atop Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia
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