When we set out on our Atlantic Canada adventure in August we had two must-see destinations in mind. One was the Viking settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and the other was Fort Louisbourg on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island.
What's fascinating about Fort Louisbourg is when the French abandoned it in the 1760s they destroyed it. The site remained a pile of rubble until the 1960s when Parks Canada began reconstruction using the original plans housed in Paris and what visitors see today is only one quarter of the original community. It must have been truly impressive when it was operational.
From the modern interpretative centre, a shuttle bus transports visitors to the first exhibit which is just outside the fortress' main gate. The man (above) greeted us, explaining he lived outside the fort's walls, but would scurry inside if threatened by an attack. The exterior of his home is shown below and its log construction is in stark contrast to the stone buildings inside the fort.
A moat surrounds the fortress that began in 1713 after the Treaty of Utrecht handed jurisdiction of mainland Nova Scotia and Newfoundland from France to Great Britain. That year about 150 settlers sailed from Placentia, Newfoundland to Cape Breton Island. The Dauphin Gate (below) was manned around the clock by an officer and thirty soldiers and at night the draw bridge would be raised and the gate locked.
Another interesting fact is the French attention to detail when it came to census taking and death records. Thanks to these lengthy records much is known about daily life in Louisbourg including the names, occupations and social status of many individuals.
The Lartique House was built by Joseph Lartique (c1683-1743). Born in the southwest of France, he came to Louisbourg with the first settlers from Placentia, Newfoundland. Originally a fisherman and trader he eventually became the town's magistrate. With his wife, twelve children and servants he lived in this house and Madame Lartique had the distinction of being one of the few people to live in Louisbourg from its foundation to its demise.
The Frederic Gate was a focal point of the fort. It was here on a busy summer's day a multitude of languages could be heard as fishermen and traders gathered to buy and sell, drink and eat. Languages included French, English, Portuguese, Basque, Breton, German and of course Mi'kmaw.
Row upon row of homes, shops, inns and administration buildings stretched inland from the gate and harbour.
The Engineer's Property (shown above and below) was home to military engineers, town planners, architects and construction engineers. Etienne Verrier (1683 - 1747) was chief engineer from 1725 to 1745. For most of those years his wife and daughter remained in France while his two sons accompanied him. For that reason the resident retains a masculine and professional appearance.
Based on the detailed records taken at the time these rooms have been furnished with furniture and items authentic to the time period.
These next two paintings by Lewis Parker show the harbour and fort as it may have appeared in the 1700s.
|View from the Clocktower (1982) by Lewis Parker|
|View from a Warship (1982) by Lewis Parker|
Louisbourg's inhabitants were self sufficient and as such planted and tended gardens and kept livestock and poultry.
They also had a dovecote (below) for pigeons or doves.
This next home belonged to Jean-Francois de la Perelle (c1691-1747). He was town mayor in the 1740s and in 1745 he negotiated Louisbourg's surrender to the British.
Unfortunately, because we visited after Labour Day, some of the buildings were closed to visitors as summer staffing returned to university. Still, we enjoyed what was open to the public.
The King's Bastion Barracks (below) plagued residents from the beginning of its construction. Its slate roof leaked, its mortar and beams and floors were prone to cracks and rot, its fireplaces were drafty. One governor pleaded for a new barracks, while another commandeered the engineer's house, but the barracks remained a sore spot for as long as the town flourished.
The main purpose of the fort was military in design which meant Louisbourg did not have its own church, however, the Chapel inside the barracks provided spiritual care.
Down near the Frederic Gate is a restaurant for modern day visitors. The menu is limited, as is cutlery (only a spoon is provided) and costumed wait staff provide tidbits of life in the 1700s. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well as the traditional beer and wine.
We stayed two nights at the charming Cranberry Cove Inn in the Captain's Den and highly recommend it. It made our visit to Fort Louisbourg not only memorable, but luxuriously comfortable!
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