Moncton incorporated as a city in 1890 and is the largest city in New Brunswick. The City of Moncton is situated in eastern New Brunswick on a bend of the Petitcodiac River. The Greater Moncton region includes the rapidly growing city of Dieppe and the town of Riverview. Moncton’s motto is Resurgo, which is Latin for “I rise again”.
The city’s first settlers were Acadians who settled at what they called Le Coude, or “the elbow.” These Acadian settlers were rounded up for deportation in 1755. In 1766 settlers of German origin arrived from Pennsylvania and called their community “The Bend”. The modern name, first used in the 1860s, honours Robert Monckton, a British commander who was lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia during the time of the deportations. Today, almost one-third of the population claims French as a mother tongue; the remainder is English speaking.
Moncton’s early prosperity was intimately linked to shipbuilding. The turning point in its economic history was the establishment of a shipyard by George and Joseph Salter in 1849. By 1850 the shipping trade had become important enough that Moncton was made a port of entry.
The town was incorporated in 1855 with Joseph Salter as its first mayor, and that same year the first bank, the Westmorland Bank, was established. The decline of wooden ships wreaked disaster on Moncton. The bank collapsed and Moncton lost its status as an incorporated town in 1862. The beginnings of a new era, however, came with the railway, especially in the post-Confederation period when Moncton became the headquarters of the shops for the Intercolonial Railway (1871) and a booming railway centre. This development led to reincorporation as a town in 1875.
Moncton is often referred to as “The Hub of the Maritimes” because all railway lines in and out of the Maritimes must pass through it and it is a central point for road and air transportation. This has made Moncton a regional centre and a major distribution and telecommunications centre for Atlantic Canada. A stable, bilingual white-collar workforce and the fibre optic expertise of NBTel have given the city a new role as a national telemarketing and telephone services centre. CN was one of the city’s largest nongovernment employers and has played a vital part in the well-being of Moncton.
While CN employed as many as 6000 workers at its peak, this number has dropped significantly since the closing of its repair shops in 1986 and their demolition in 1988. The remaining 200 jobs or so are mainly administrative, clerical and technical at the Hump Yard on the western margin of the city. Illustrative of a shift towards a post-industrial economy, the vast CN lands have been decontaminated and redeveloped to include a technological park and sports facilities such as playing fields and an arena complex. The regional economic base is diversifying, partly due to the presence of post-secondary institutions and technical schools.
In 2002, Moncton was the first Canadian city to become officially bilingual. Moncton is home to Université de Moncton, a French-language university established in 1963, and Crandall University, formerly the Atlantic Baptist University. Université de Moncton also has the distinction of having the first law school in the world teaching common law in the French language. A campus of New Brunswick Community College is also located in the city.
The Capitol Theatre, restored to its 1922 elegance, is the venue for regular performances from Theatre New Brunswick, Symphony New Brunswick and Théâtre populaire d’Acadie. Other cultural venues include the Aberdeen Cultural Centre, and the facilities of Théâtre L’Escaouette. The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is a professional touring company based in Moncton.
The city hosts a number of festivals including Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie (with neighbouring Dieppe), FrancoFête en Acadie (for the arts) and the Northrop Frye International Literary Festival.
The Acadian Museum, located at the University of Moncton, has a collection of artifacts dating back to 1604 including a book written by Samuel de Champlain. The Moncton Museum traces the history of Moncton back to when the site was the western end of a Mi’kmaq portage with Northumberland Strait.
Other sites of interest in Moncton include Magnetic Hill, where cars appear to coast uphill, and the tidal bore, a small wave that travels upstream twice daily on the Petitcodiac River, heralding the arrival of the Bay of Fundy tides, the highest in the world.
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