A National Historic Site, Navy Island is a tiny, uninhabited island in Ontario, Canada. The island may be small but it has a rich history and several archaeological resources. It has a strategic location and was used for several purposes, political and otherwise, at different times in history. In fact, it almost became the headquarters of the United Nations at one point in time.
Navy Island is heavily wooded with an area of 1.2 sq.km and is located near the famous Horseshoe Falls. It served as a prominent shipbuilding centre for the French at first and later for the British. When France colonized an area of North America, Navy Island was used as a base to build four ships that would navigate the Great Lakes. Later, in the early 1760s, the British took over the island and used it as a shipyard. The British used these ships to transport troops and essential goods to Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Several years down the line in 1837, William Lyon Mackenzie, a leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion along with his supporters captured the island and called it the Republic of Canada. They established a government in exile but it lasted only for a short duration and the men had to retreat from the island. But this rebellion along with others played a major role in transforming the political system in Upper and Lower Canada. For all these reasons, Navy Island was declared a National Historic Site in 1921.
The south side of the island also served as a summer resort known as Queens Hotel in 1875. Additionally, several areas of land all over the island were used as farms and orchards. But none of this lasted. The hotel was completely destroyed in a fire after a few years and the farmlands were abandoned and later re-forested. Then in 1945-46, an international committee considered making Navy Island the World Peace Capital and headquarters of the United Nations. The island’s location between two countries (Canada and the United States) that had peaceful relations was the reason for the proposal. But this proposal was ultimately dismissed and New York City became the headquarters of the U.N.
Today the island is managed by Parks Canada and is a site that is known for both its location as well as its history. Although some years ago, camping was allowed on the island, currently Navy Island is closed to the public and has no facilities for visitors.
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