This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
Before 1941, Stephenville was a quaint, little village on the shores of Newfoundland's Bay St. George. The traditional ways of farming and fishing were the mainstays of the population of around 500 people. This was soon to change when the United States of America decided that Stephenville would become a vital refueling stop for American aircraft en route to Europe.
The economic impact of the base on the area during its construction phase was immense. The community was transformed into a boom-town overnight. The population increased to over 7,000 people. An extensive array of buildings was constructed and an elaborate infrastructure for servicing the base was developed. During its operational phase over 4,000 soldiers were permanently stationed at Harmon Field, with an additional 132,000 military personnel passing through each year.
The short-term economic viability of the area grew significantly as a result of the base, offering many benefits to area residents. However, no matter how many new structures the Americans put on the base, the town of Stephenville was always under the threat of the base closing. The base did not offer long-term viability, or stability. As a result people built to the minimum standards required with little thought given to the future of the town.
In 1966 the fears of many people regarding Stephenville's economy became a reality when Ernest Harmon Air Force Base closed. The town's economy began to slump drastically. In an attempt to keep Stephenville from going off the map, The Harmon Corporation was born in February of 1966. The Federal Government of Canada gave the corporation some 150,000,000 dollars worth of property on 8,000 acres of land. These were the tools used to attract industry and create jobs in the area after the base closed.