Placentia, NL, incorporated as a town in 1945, population 3643 (2011c), 3898 (2006c). The Town of Placentia is located on PLACENTIA BAY on the west coast of the AVALON PENINSULA. The site, called Plaisance by the French, was a BASQUE fishing station in the late 1500s. The name the Basque had for the site, Plasencia, may derive from Plentzia, a Basque seaport on the Spanish coast. After the French claimed Newfoundland in 1627, Plaisance became the first official French colony on the island (founded in 1662 as a GARRISON TOWN). It remained the French capital of Newfoundland, guarding French fishing activities, until the Treaty of UTRECHT, 1713. It was defended by a number of forts and was the base for French raids on English settlements on the Avalon Peninsula in 1696, 1705 and 1709. After the Treaty of Utrecht, Placentia became a British stronghold and further fortifications were erected until the garrison was withdrawn in 1811.
With its wide beaches and strategic location, Placentia grew as an important fishing and trading centre in the 1800s; but it later became heavily dependent upon employment at the nearby ARGENTIA Naval Base, built 1940-41. With the phase-down of the US base in 1969 and 1974, employment depended on the fishery.
The towns economy was hit hard with the collapse of the COD fishery in 1992 and the resulting closure of fish processing plants, followed by the completed decommissioning of the American base in 1994. This resulted in Placentia merging with the towns of Jerseyside, Freshwater and Dunville, and the former naval base to create one municipal entity (1994). In addition to attracting new industries, Placentia is focusing on tourism. Attractions include the town's historic buildings, including O'Reilly House (1902), which is now a museum, and Castle Hill National Historic Site (designated in 1968).