Rockingham, Nova Scotia
Rockingham is situated on the western shore of Bedford Basin.
It is north of Clayton Park and Fairview and south of Bedford; specifically, Birch Cove and Princes Lodge. Its eastern extent is formed by the shore of the Bedford Basin and its western extent is generally the top of the ridge that rises from the Basin, although this was subsequently extended westward to an area near the Birch Cove Lakes and Highway 102.
The first Europeans to settle in what was to become Rockingham were foreign Protestant farmers and innkeepers, starting in 1784. While the inns were too close to the city to benefit from stage coach traffic, they were conveniently located for drovers bringing their livestock to the Halifax market. Drovers lodged at the inns and kept their animals in the pastures while they arranged for their sale and slaughter.
In the 1840s William Evens and William Davey bought properties on the western shore of the basin. Evens, a butcher, built a slaughterhouse, while Davey established a large inn called the Four Mile House. When the Nova Scotia Railway was being built the two men persuaded the railway board to locate the first stop at Four Mile House. On February 1, 1855, the first ceremonial run of the Nova Scotia Railway came to Four Mile House. The village that grew up around the railway station took the name Four Mile House.
In 1886, the residents of the Four Mile House district decided their community needed a name that better reflected its growing prosperity. The name Rockingham Station was inspired by the Rockingham Inn that had been located two miles north at Prince's Lodge. This particular inn had burned down in 1833 but lived on in memory due to its links with Lieutenant Governor Sir John Wentworth, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, a powerful English noble and friend of the Wentworths.
The construction of the Nova Scotia Railway in 1855 altered the character of the community. Destruction of the shoreline cut off farmers from some resources, but eventually the railway helped the village to grow and prosper. Country life was now easily accessible; wealthy families built grand summer homes and transient visitors enjoyed staying at the Wayside Inn (formerly the Five Mile House) and other tourist accommodations in Rockingham.
The Four Mile House district was selected by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in the early 1870s for a convent and institution of higher learning. "Mount St. Vincent" was built up the hill on a large parcel of land almost directly opposite the NSR station. The convent, along with its women's finishing school, Mount St. Vincent Academy and associated residence facilities opened in 1873 following approximately one year of construction.
The Intercolonial Railway (ICR), which had taken over the NSR, expropriated waterfront land at Rockingham Station from the Sisters of Charity during the early 1900s to widen its trackage leading to Fairview. Immediately prior to the Halifax Explosion, telegraph operator Vince Coleman (train dispatcher) managed to warn an incoming passenger train to hold at Rockingham Station's passenger station (the last ICR station stop before Richmond terminal), ultimately saving countless lives. The new rock cut being built for the railway through south end Halifax was finished in 1918 under the newly created Canadian National Railways (CNR), with some of the blasted rock being used as infill to create the Halifax Ocean Terminals in the south end of the city, as well as infill of Bedford Basin off Rockingham Station to create what is now the Rockingham Railway Yard.
In 1925, Mount St. Vincent Academy was upgraded in status to a women's junior college. The community of Rockingham Station began to experience some subdivision of land as it was located in a cheaper tax jurisdiction (the Municipality of the County of Halifax) as opposed to the adjacent city which ended at Fairview. On April 5, 1961, the village's name was formally simplified by the provincial government to just Rockingham.
The creation of Bicentennial Drive, an all-weather bypass highway to Bedford, likely spurred construction of the first major subdivision developments in 1962, although much of the Rockingham area on the hillside overlooking Bedford Basin would require significant blasting to create streets and underground services. Mount St. Vincent College was upgraded to a full university, named Mount St. Vincent University, in 1966.
Rockingham continued to benefit from being located immediately north of the peninsular city on the Highway 102 corridor to Bedford and beyond. The opening of the A. Murray MacKay Bridge in 1970 led to improved connections between Rockingham and western Halifax to the City of Dartmouth and particularly a new industrial park named Burnside which would become a major regional employer. A smaller industrial park named Bayers Lake was also built near Rockingham on the west side of Highway 102. New residential developments in the expanding city were subsequently built in Rockingham such as the Clayton Park subdivision, located along the eastern slope of Geizer's Hill on the Rockingham-Fairview boundary.
During the 1970s-1980s, CN Rail and later Via Rail operated a form of commuter rail passenger service on the railway line along Bedford Basin into downtown Halifax using frequently scheduled Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) which were destined for Yarmouth, Moncton and Sydney. Rockingham's station was closed after the January 15, 1990 budget cuts to Via Rail saw these services discontinued. The Bedford Highway was redeveloped during the early 1990s into a major collector road from Birch Cove into the city.
On April 1, 1996, the City of Halifax was merged into the Halifax Regional Municipality. Preceding and following amalgamation, subdivision development in the western part of Rockingham continued apace, spurred in particular by the opening of Dunbrack Street and Northwest Arm Drive, however the most significant period of recent growth in Rockingham occurred between 1997-2003 with the Clayton Park West subdivision which was a 20-year development that filled within a quarter of the budgeted timeframe. Clayton Park West became one of the fastest-growing, densest new developments in Nova Scotian urban history. The rapid development was spurred by the conversion of the Bayers Lake Industrial Park into a "business park" model containing Halifax's first big box outlet stores, as well as new highway interchange construction between Lacewood Drive and Highway 102.
Today, the focus of Rockingham has moved from the former suburban centre located on the Bedford Highway, slightly north of Mount St. Vincent University and the CN station, to the new development at Clayton Park West which now extends to the northern extents of Rockingham at the Kearney Lake Road.
- Mount St. Vincent University (post-secondary)
- Halifax West High School (10-12)
- Clayton Park Junior High (7-9)
- Park West (k-9)
- Duc d'Anville Elementary (k-6)
- Grosvenor-Wentworth Park Elementary (k-6)
- Rockingham Elementary (k-6)
- Sharon and Wayne Ingalls, Sweet Suburb: A History of Prince's Lodge, Birch Cove, and Rockingham (Glen Margaret 2010) 55-63 and 111-114.
- Ingalls and Ingalls, Sweet Suburb 153-164.
- Ingalls and Ingalls, Sweet Suburb 178-179
- Ingalls and Ingalls, Sweet Suburb 178-201.