Sydney, Nova Scotia

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Sydney (2001 population: 24,115) is a Canadian urban community in the province of Nova Scotia. It is situated on the east coast of Cape Breton Island and is administratively part of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Sydney was incorporated in 1904 and dissolved on August 1, 1995 when it was merged into the regional municipality. Sydney is the largest urban centre on Cape Breton Island. Together with Sydney Mines, North Sydney, New Waterford and Glace Bay it forms the Industrial Cape Breton region.



Sydney was founded by Col. Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres in 1785, and named in honour of Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney who was serving as the Home Secretary in the British cabinet. Lord Sydney appointed Col. DesBarres governor of the new colony of Cape Breton Island. Col. DesBarres landed a group that consisted primarily of poor English citizens and disbanded soldiers. A group of Loyalists from the state of New York, fleeing the aftermath of the American Revolution, were added to the immigrants upon their arrival in the neighbouring colony of Nova Scotia. The site DesBarres chose for the new settlement was along the Southwest Arm of Sydney Harbour, a drowned valley of the Sydney River, which forms part of Spanish Bay. Between 1784-1820, Sydney was the capital of the British colony of Cape Breton Island. The colony was disbanded and merged with neighbouring Nova Scotia as part of the British government's desire to develop the abundant coal fields surrounding Sydney Harbour; the leases being held by the Duke of York. In 1826, the leases were transferred to the General Mining Association and industrial development around Sydney began to take shape.

By the early twentieth century Sydney became home to one of the world's largest steel plants, fed by the numerous coal mines in the area under the ownership of the Dominion Coal Company. Sydney's economy was a significant part of Industrial Cape Breton with its steel plant and harbour and railway connections adjoining the coal mining towns of Glace Bay, New Waterford, Sydney Mines and Reserve Mines. The economic boom brought about by industrialization saw the community incorporate in 1903. By the late 1960s the coal and steel industries had fallen on hard times and were taken over by the federal and provincial governments and both industries were permanently closed by the end of 2001. Forced to diversify its economy, Sydney has examined a variety of economic development possibilities including tourism and culture, light manufacturing and information technology.

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