Explore Argentia, Newfoundland

Explore Argentia, Newfoundland


The Canadian harbor and industrial park Argentia is in the Town of Placentia in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is on the southwest side of the Avalon Peninsula and is surrounded by a triangular headland that sticks out into Placentia Bay to the north, making a natural harbor that is 3 km (1.9 mi) long.

The French first lived there in the 1630s, and the fishing village was called Petit Plaisance, which means "Pleasant Little Place." When the French lost control of the area in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht, the name stayed in English as "Little Placentia." 

The 1706 census lists 149 people living in 14 homes. The town got its current name because of the silver ore that was found near Broad Cove Point on the east side of the harbor. This happened loosely in 1895 and formally in 1901.

Its name comes from Latin and means "Land of Silver." Father John St. John, who was the parish priest at Holy Rosary Parish from September 18, 1895, to February 11, 1911, picked it. The Silver Cliff Mine was open until the early 1920s, but it never made any money. 

During most of the 1800s, fishing was the main source of income for the area. In 1936, the Newfoundland Commission of Government constructed a herring factory in Argentia, Newfoundland.

It was Father Pelagius Nowlan who built the first church and school in 1835. He wasn't from Newfoundland; he moved there as a Catholic priest. In 1836, there were 484 people living in 76 homes.

Railway Routes.

On October 14, 1886, work began on a branch line from the Harbour Grace Railway route near Whitbourne to nearby Placentia. This line would later become part of the Newfoundland Railway, and by October 1888, the 26 mi (42 km) of track were finished. 

The "Placentia Branch" name came to this line, which was an important way to get to Placentia and the close harbour and port of Little Placentia. From there, ferries would go to outports on the south coast of the island.

In 1893, the western end of the Newfoundland Railway was chosen to be Port aux Basques. In Scotland, a new boat was built to go to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. The SS Bruce, a brand-new ship, arrived in October 1897, but the docks at Port aux Basques were still open. 

So, the Bruce ran from Placentia to North Sydney and then from Little Placentia to North Sydney from October 1897 until June 1898, when it went back to Port aux Basques.

The Second World War

After Adolf Hitler's troops invaded Poland on September 3, 1939, Britain and Nazi Germany went to war.

In 1940, Argentia was chosen as the site for the US Navy's Naval Station Argentia. This was made possible by the US-British Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which gave fifty old US destroyers to Britain in exchange for control of certain lands in the Western Hemisphere. 

This agreement happened before Lend-Lease began in 1941. The Argentia site was chosen because it was close to Europe, Placentia Bay didn't freeze over much of the time, there was a safe navigational access channel. 

There was a sheltered harbor with safe deepwater anchorages nearby at Fox Harbour and Ship Harbour, and there was land available for an airfield and an existing railway line.

As part of the trans-Atlantic supply line that linked North America to Britain, the base was needed right away to protect ships from the German U-boat force with anti-submarine patrols.

Relocation of people

Most of the people moved to Freshwater or Placentia, which are nearby towns. But the small amount of money that homeowners in Argentia got as compensation—usually not more than a few thousand dollars—was not enough to build new homes that were the same. This was because of serious wartime shortages of workers and materials.

People buried in the three local cemeteries were dug up and reburied in a new cemetery built by US forces. This was done at the request of Father A. J. Dee, the local parish priest, who was also upset about how long it was taking to find new homes for the people who were being forced to leave Argentia because of the war. In the end, the empty houses were either burned down or levelled by bulldozers.

The Argentia Naval Station

Because the roads in the area were bad, the US Navy built an airfield, a navy station, and an extension to the Newfoundland Railway from 1940 to 1941 to help service its facilities. Building the navy bases was especially important, and Navy Operating Base Argentia opened for business on July 15, 1941.

The Atlantic Charter

On August 7, 1941, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived on board the heavy cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31) at a mooring outside of Argentia near Ship Harbour, what the rush was all about became clear. 

Over the next two days, Roosevelt checked on the work of building the base and went fishing from Augusta. It was joined by the British warship HMS Prince of Wales, which was carrying Winston Churchill, who was Prime Minister of Britain at the time. 

From August 9–12, the chiefs of staff of both Britain and the US met in Ship Harbour to talk about how to win the war and how to handle operations once the US joined. 

A news release that the two leaders called a "joint statement" was also worked out by them and their staff. 

Even though it wasn't written as a legally binding contract, Roosevelt and Churchill did sign their own drafts of the joint statement that was sent out as a press release on August 14, 1941, in both Washington, D.C., and London, England, at the same time. 

A few days later, the London newspaper Daily Herald would call what was in that press release the Atlantic Charter statement.

The US Navy publicly opened Naval Station Argentia on August 28, 1941. Argentia would become an important base for the US war effort. By 1943, when the US was fully involved in the Second World War, more than 10,000 US soldiers were going through on their way to the European Theatre. 

The nearby US Army base was named Fort McAndrew so that the navy base and naval air station could have anti-aircraft artillery defence. In 1946, Fort McAndrew joined the US Army Air Forces. In 1948, it changed its name to McAndrew Air Force Base.

Cold War 

In 1945, when VE came to power, there were fewer people working in Argentia. But by the start of the Cold War in 1947–1948, there were 7,000 people working there. Around 8,500 people were stationed in Argentia by the end of the Korean War in 1953.

In 1955, McAndrew AFB was shut down and given to the US Navy. At the same time, the US Air Force moved its staff to more northern and remote sites along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador to build radar stations that would be part of the Pinetree Line and DEW Line systems. 

The US Navy's SOSUS underwater hydrophone system made Naval Station Argentia an important "node" in the 1960s. The Soviet Union tried to spy on the base several times because of this. The number of US Navy and Marine Corps troops had dropped to 3,000 by 1969 and to 1,000 by 1971.

Closing down

Under the terms of the U.S.-Britain lend-lease scheme, assets were given to the Government of Canada as facilities and buildings were shut down. Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1949. 

It was closed in 1973, and by 1975, the US no longer controlled the whole north side of the base. Naval Operating Base Argentia was officially shut down in 1994, and the land was given to the Canadian Government. 

From 1994 to 2007, the Canadian government spent $106 million cleaning up the environment at Argentia. As part of this, many buildings were torn down, and dangerous materials on the land and in the water around the site had to be cleaned up, removed, or kept safe. 

At the same time, in 2001, the land was given to a private, non-profit group to oversee and guide the redevelopment of Argentia.

Since the military station is no longer open, there are no permanent residents in Argentia. It is zoned as an industrial area to help it become a seaport and industrial park for the Town of Placentia.

Developing again

Along with Freshwater, Dunville, Jerseyside, and townside Placentia, Argentia joined the Town of Placentia in 1993.

By the end of 2001, the Canadian government had reached deals to transfer land that would give back the land that used to be the US Naval Base to local control and ownership. 

Being in charge of the port and property in the industrial area, Port of Argentia is using these old naval base properties to lead the redevelopment of the site to boost the local income and quality of life.

Inco and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador agreed on a three-step plan to develop the Voisey's Bay nickel discovery in June 2002. 

The first part of the Voisey's Bay agreement, worth $1 billion, was for building up the mine and mill facilities at Voisey's Bay. 

It also included a research and development program in hydrometallurgical processing, which included building a demonstration plant at Argentia. 

This was the first step toward building and running the Long Harbour Nickel Processing Plant, a commercial hydrometallurgical processing facility that will be built and run in Long Harbour. 

The demonstration plant was built and run at Argentia from 2004 to 2007.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Husky Energy, agreed to change the White Rose Development in October 2013. An oil field off the coast of Newfoundland is called White Rose. 

In the statement, it was said that this oil resource could be used by putting a "wellhead platform" structure on the ocean floor about 120 meters (390 feet) below the western part of the oil field and letting it fall naturally. 

Husky said it would build a graving dock on the Northside Peninsula at Argentia to help with the building of the wellhead platform's concrete base. 

This was part of a $1 billion project to build a wellhead platform. Late in 2013, work on the graving dock began, and it was finished early in 2015. 

However, in December 2014, Husky said that the choice to build the Concrete Gravity Base (CGS) had been put off because oil prices were going down.



The airstrip that used to be part of the US Navy Air Station on the Northside Peninsula hasn't been used for anything but the Air Cadet Gliding Program since 1973.

Pier for ferries

By the middle of the 1960s, the roads between Argentia and Whitbourne, where the Trans-Canada Highway had just opened, had been improved. 

Canadian National Railway opened a new ferry terminal in 1967, and the Ambrose Shea was the first summer ferry to stop at the port. 

It was mostly tourists going from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to the Avalon Peninsula, which takes 19 hours to cross. In the 1980s, CN Marine improved the terminal. 

In 1989, Marine Atlantic, the company that took over from CN Marine, received the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood ferry (which takes 14 hours to cross) on the summer run to Argentia. 

It stayed there until 2011, when the MV Blue Puttees and MV Highlanders took its place.

As of now, Argentia is a business seaport and industrial park in the Canadian town of Placentia in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The French moved there in the 1630s and called it Petit Plaisance. Because there was silver ore there, it was later renamed Argentia. In the past, fishing was the main source of income for the town. 

In 1936, the Newfoundland Commission of Government opened a herring factory. Over the years, Argentia has seen changes, such as the coming of the railroad and the return of land that used to be a U.S. Naval Base for business and industry.

In the past few years, Argentia has worked on big projects like developing the Voisey's Bay gold mine and building a graving dock facility to help with the construction of oil platforms. 

Even though the old U.S. Navy Air Station airfield hasn't been used since 1973, the area's traffic has gotten better with new roads and a ferry terminal that connects to the Trans-Canada Highway at Whitbourne.


Frequently Asked Questions about Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada:

Q1. What is the history of Argentia, Newfoundland?

Argentia, originally known as "Petit Plaisance," was inhabited by the French in the 1630s. It was later renamed due to the discovery of silver ore in the area. The town played a significant role during World War II as a strategic military base for the US Navy.

Q2. How did Argentia get its name?

The name "Argentia" is derived from Latin, meaning "Land of Silver," reflecting the silver ore found near Broad Cove Point in the early 1900s.

Q3. What was the significance of Argentia during World War II?

Argentia became a crucial military base for the US Navy after being chosen as the site for Naval Station Argentia in 1940. It served as a strategic location for anti-submarine patrols and played a key role in trans-Atlantic supply lines.

Q4. What happened to the residents of Argentia during World War II?

Many residents were relocated to nearby towns such as Freshwater and Placentia to make way for the military base. Compensation provided to homeowners was often insufficient to rebuild comparable homes, leading to significant disruptions in the community.

Q5. When did Naval Station Argentia close?

Naval Station Argentia was officially shut down in 1994, and the land was handed over to the Canadian government. Since then, efforts have been made to repurpose the area for industrial and commercial use.

Q6. What developments have occurred in Argentia in recent years?

Argentia has been involved in significant projects such as the development of the Voisey's Bay nickel mine and the construction of a graving dock facility to support oil platform construction. These projects aim to boost the local economy and create employment opportunities.

Q7. How is transportation facilitated in Argentia?

While the former US Navy airfield is no longer in use, transportation to and from Argentia is facilitated primarily through roadways and a ferry terminal connecting to the Trans-Canada Highway at Whitbourne.

Q8. Is Argentia a residential area?

Argentia is primarily zoned as an industrial area and an industrial park within the Town of Placentia. Since the closure of the military base, there are no permanent residents in Argentia.


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