Summerside (2006 pop. 14,500) is a Canadian city in Prince County, Prince Edward Island. It is the second largest city in the province and the principal municipality for the western part of the island. Summerside was officially incorporated as a town on April 1, 1877 and reincorporated as a city on April 1, 1995.
The land occupied by the present city was settled by members of the Mi'kmaq Nation for centuries. The first settlers of European descent would have been a limited number of Acadians during the early 1700s. The community saw its first permanent European settlement in 1840 when a wharf was constructed and a road was built to St. Eleanors, which was then the shire town of Prince County (after the failed settlement at Princetown). Joseph Pope soon built a shipyard at the wharf, and the town began to grow.
The arrival of the Prince Edward Island Railway in 1872 saw Summerside became a seaport connecting Prince Edward Island with steamship service to mainland railway connections at Shediac, New Brunswick. The port grew into an important import/export facility for all manner of consumer goods, as well as the Island's agricultural exports such as potatoes.
Shipbuilding went into decline by the early 20th century and Summerside transitioned to become a service centre for the trading of fox pelts. The town grew during the 1940s after the Royal Canadian Air Force built RCAF Station Summerside on the outskirts of the town. The base (renamed CFB Summerside in 1968) closed in 1991 and has been converted into a business park named Slemon Park. The federal, provincial, and municipal governments have undertaken community economic development initiatives in an effort to diversify the regional economy. The community's reincorporation in 1995 coincided with municipal amalgamation which saw the adjacent communities of Wilmot, St. Eleanors and Sherbrooke merged with the larger town to form the new city.
Summerside's waterfront is situated on Summerside Harbour along the island's southern shore fronting the Northumberland Strait. The city occupies 28.36 square kilometres on a 4 km wide (citation needed) isthmus separating the Northumberland Strait from Malpeque Bay, a sub basin of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; this is the narrowest part of Prince Edward Island.
The city's neighborhoods vary from working class (especially in the outlying regions) to upscale and affluent (near the downtown area and parts of the suburban areas). A number of stately Victorian homes near downtown have been converted into bed-and-breakfast businesses. Summerside is well known throughout Canada for its splendid nineteenth century and early twentieth century residential architecture.
Summerside has been aggressive in courting new business opportunities and has created an Economic Development Office for the purpose of encouraging investment in the city.
The Summerside area was at one time home to the world's largest concentration of Tame Silver Fox farms. This is highlighted at the Silver Fox Museum.
The city of Summerside has its own electric generator to deal with power outages. This is useful as most of the province's normal electricity comes from the mainland.
Summerside's public schools include four elementary schools (Elm Street, Greenfield, Parkside and Athena Consolidated), two middle schools (Summerside Intermediate and Athena Consolidated), and one high school (Three Oaks).
Holland College maintains two campuses in Summerside, one in the downtown core which includes a marine training centre, and another in the Slemon Park business park which includes the Atlantic Police Academy.
The city is home to the Prince County Hospital, the second largest hospital in the province.
The Summerside Raceway is a standardbred harness racing track which is adjacent to the Credit Union Place, the largest indoor sports facility in the province with a large hockey arena seating 4000 and fitness facility. Other attractions include the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club, the Summerside Golf & Country Club, the PEI Sports Hall of Fame and Spinnaker's Landing.
The city has recently incorporated several waterfront industrial sites that were abandoned by the railway and marine terminal during the 1990s into new parkland. A major reconstruction of the west end seawall has resulted in a new boardwalk for residents and visitors along the waterfront.
Summerside is the birth place of current NHL player Steve Ott, and is home to former NHL players John Chabot, Gerard Gallant, Errol Thompson, Doug MacLean, and Forbes Kennedy as well as Canadian recording artists Nathan Wiley and Al Tuck.
Summerside has one radio station, FM 102.1 CJRW-FM, which plays an adult hits format. CJRW is the only commercial radio station in the province whose studios are located outside of Charlottetown. Summerside is otherwise served by media based in Charlottetown. CBC Television has its Prince County bureau situated in Summerside.
Summerside's daily newspaper is The Journal Pioneer.
Summerside City Police Services patrol the city. Approximately 35 officers are on the force. The East Prince Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also have their headquarters in Summerside assist in patrolling Summerside and the surrounding area. Prince County House is situated in downtown Summerside and serves the Prince County district.