Built on hills overlooking a fine harbor, it is the commercial and industrial center of the province and the base of its great fishing fleet. The city is mainly a service center, however, that relies heavily on civil service jobs for its stability. Although the exact date of its 1st settlement is not known, St. John's is one of the oldest settlements in N. Amer. In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert took possession of the region for England. Since that time fishing boats from many countries have based here. The settlement was captured and recaptured by France and England, becoming permanently British in 1762 and serving as a naval base during the Amer. Revolution and in the War of 1812. It was at St. John's that Marconi heard (1901) the 1st transatlantic wireless message and from here that the 1st nonstop transatlantic flight was made in 1919. The city has been partially destroyed by fire several times. It is the site of the provincial govt. offices, of R.C. and Anglican cathedrals, of the N.F. Mus., and of Memorial Univ. of N.F.