The history of Fairview/ Clayton Park is almost as old as Halifax itself.

The first European colonizers settled in the area west of the peninsula between the Northwest Arm and the Bedford Basin in the 1750s.

The “foreign protestants” had been brought over from continental Europe to secure Britain’s claim to the territory. They built a community that was called Deutsch Village, because most of the settlers were Deutsch — German.

The farming community was mostly self-sustaining and, for the first couple of decades, a bad road was all that connected it to Halifax. In 1766, the Germans convinced the city to extend Bayers Road all the way out to Dutch Village.

According to Don and Devonna Edwards’ history book, The Little Dutch Village, it was variously known as Neunhausen (nine houses), Westernwald, Westervolt and Westwood. The settlers’ descendents called it Geizer’s Mountain, a name that was current into the 19th century, when the old name was anglicized to Dutch Village.

For a time, Andrew Downs’ property on Dutch Village Road (the area now called Joseph Howe Drive) was famous around the world as a five-acre retreat for Maritime wildlife.

Opened in 1847, Downs Zoo was the first of its kind in North America. Within 15 years, it grew to encompass 100 acres, featuring a museum, aquarium and greenhouse. The animals were kept in their natural habitats, living amid ponds, waterfalls and flowers. The zoo had deer, moose, elk, caribou, black bears and even seals.

“The smell of the sea sent out an irresistible call to (the seals) and once they escaped, flip-flapping their way out of captivity, sliding down the hill and bumping along down the road towards the Northwest Arm,” the Edwardses write. “They didn’t quite make it; response to an alarm following the escape was speedier than they were.”

Downs eventually sold off most of the land, which was turned into residential properties.

In 1894, the Fairview Cemetery Company decided to turn its 45 acres of woodland into a park, the Edwards write. It slowly grew into a settlement, often referred to as “Squirrel Town,” probably because of the high populations of the woods creatures.

In 1959, St John’s Church was built at the corner of Dutch and Bayers roads. It served Anglicans in the area until recently, when the church moved and the site redeveloped into a drug store.

Clayton Park has a less glamorous history. It was first developed in the 1960s as a residential community, with a major second burst of development starting in the 1990s, known as Clayton Park West.

Clayton Park does have a rock album named after it: Clayton Park by Thrush Hermit. Singer and Clayton Park native Joel Plaskett left the group to form the Joel Plaskett Emergency.