The Town of Carbonear is one of the oldest settled communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishing admirals visited Carbonear as early as the mid 1500s as part of the migratory fishery and Carbonear was raided by pirates such as Sir Henry Mainwaring as early as 1614. Early planters recognized the worth of Carbonear Island at the mouth of the harbour and took refuge there during the tumultous days of the 17th and 18th centuries. This small island with its cliffs and rocky shoals was the only place in Newfoundland during the French and English conflicts of 1697 to remain in English hands. and it is a National Event site because of its historical defense. Today an archaeology exploration is on-going with approximately 6,000 artifacts having been recovered from those historic times to date.
Long a commercial centre, early West Country merchants seemed to have taken a great interest in Carbonear and Pike and Green were busily employed in their Water Street premises as early as the 1750s. Historical documentation states that William Pike of Poole and Carbonear had purchased the CB Green premises in Carbonear which then became the early Pike and Green establishment, followed by George and James Kemp in 1790 and still later by Slade and Elson. John Rorke became the final owner of the old Slade and Elson premises in the late 1830s and these eventually succumbed in 1860 to one of several Carbonear fires which would plague planter and merchant alike in those earlier days. Despite these challenges, downtown Carbonear has always risen like a phoenix from the ashes and today is undergoing a resurgence of activity and interest in Water Street as entrepreneurs recognize the value of this historic street in attracting custom.
Carbonear's historic mercantile success as a regional service center earned it the name of "Hub of the Bay". A growth area, it provides goods and services to the Baccalieu Trail region and beyond, in the areas of health care, education, recreation, culture, and retail. A number of government offices and organizations are are also available and accessible within the Town, including the Regional Economic Development Board and the Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Inc. The Town also offers banking services from three locations: the Bank of Nova Scotia, Imperial Bank of Commerce, and the NL Credit Union. Please view www.carbonear.ca and view the many business and service locations found within the Town.
Home to the Princess Sheila NaGeira theatre, a 384 seat air-conditioned venue for live theatrical performance situated in the Regional Community Centre as well as The Loft little theatre located in the Rorke Store Museum, Carbonear is well known for its cultural interest. As early as April 1842, Carbonear was one of the first towns outside of St. John's to present live travelling theatrical performance to the public, when a group known as the Corps Dramatique, which consisted of four actresses and an actor, brought entertainment to the stage from St. John's. Local performers have been following in these early footsteps for many years, and one of these noted actors was former Mayor, George W. Earle, who was one of a Carbonear troupe who often took their own well-received productions on the road within the region, as well as provided excellent entertainment to Carbonear audiences.
The Town of Carbonear has always been a focal point for the fishery with a strong affinity for the ocean, as many families within the Town are directly connected to the sea since the very early days of settlement within the Town. Carbonear had the distinction in the days of sail as having the most sea captains sailing from its shores and "iron men in wooden ships" was an apt description of these courageous mariners.
Three museums are found in Carbonear, each detailing specific periods in its considerable history. Exhibits speak to the Labrador fishery, the salt fish trade overseas, and of course, the history of Carbonear Island. The Town is proud of the legacies of earlier residents whose determination, hard work, and courage set the standard for our present day lives.
The Town of Carbonear honours its past, is proud of the present, and looks with great anticipation to the future as we welcome visitors and look forward to forging many more long lasting friendships.