Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton
A visit to Fortress Louisboug takes you back in time to when the French controlled what was then Île Royale as a part of New France. Established in 1713 due to the cod fishing and adjacent deep water port it became a primary commercial port for the French. Here you get a taste of the French and Acadian influences across Cape Breton.
The entire Historical Site is a reconstruction of about a quarter of the town. The story of the reconstruction is as interesting as the site itself. The French kept meticulous records. As this was one of the first planned French communities in North America, those records survive to this day. Every building in the site is constructed on it’s original foundation, according to the architectural plans, furnished and decorated according to inventories completed at that time. An official inventory of personal possessions was taken at the death of the owner, to ensure that all outstanding debts and taxes were paid. Reconstructionists used these plans and inventories to complete their work.
Much of the reconstruction took place in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s and employed out of work coal miners for the task. These workers where taught new skills and trades, and then had jobs completing the work.
The place is massive and will take up an entire day to see it properly. It’s all the more impressive when you understand that only about a quarter of the fortified town has been reconstructed. Very little of the fishing village, outside of the walls has been reconstructed.
Your visit begins at the Parks Canada Visitors Center where you board a shuttle bus that takes you to the entrance. You arrive at the Desroches House, representative of the numerous homes of the fishermen who drove an industry that, for France, was more valuable than the North American fur trade.
The house is constructed of wood, and has a foot compacted dirt floor. Just able to shelter the occupants, a large fireplace was built to cook food and warm the occupants. In order to make ends meet, and earn a bit more money, most of these homes also served as taverns, where you could get a cooked meal and something to drink.
A short walk past this humble home, you approach the Dauphin Gate, the entrance to the fortress and the Dauphin Demi-Bastion. You are addressed by a French sentry who informs you of the rules. Establishing that you are English, he informs you that should you be encountered after 5PM, when the gates are closed, you would be considered a spy and dealt with accordingly.
|The King’s Bakery|
|The Engineer’s Office|
|The Engineer would entertain in his parlor. Throughout the site enactors in period costume were available to talk about life in the city.|
|An expansive kitchen suitable for meals and entertainment|
|The clock like mechanism controlled the rotation of the fireplace spit while at the same time worked as a kitchen timer|
|The Frédéric Gate accessed the harbor directly. It was here that a prisoner would be “ringed” to a stand, awaiting transport to a French prison elsewhere.|
|Today, you can reserve a night for an 18th century camping experience on the parade ground of the King’s Bastion. Sadly, we were unable to secure a site for AIROSMITH.|
|On the upper floors of the Ordonnateur’s Residence were several contemporary murals that depicted what the Louisbourg harbor would have looked like at it’s height. This view is from the clock tower at the King’s Bastion.|
|This would be the view from the harbor, looking toward the city.|
|Not to be lost in all of this history are the original settlers of this land. The Mi’kmaq lived here for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the European settlers, who then stole their land. Throughout our travel in Canada, we always find references to the Mi’kmaq, and other First Nation Peoples who’s land upon which we stand. The Canadian government at least acknowledges that this land was unceded lands. We have found this unique to these public lands in Canada and would hope to see similar acknowledgment about the native lands within the States.|