ARICHAT: A monument to Isle Madame’s golden age of sail reached a significant milestone recently.
Elected officials, current and former residents, and volunteers celebrated the 50th anniversary of LeNoir Forge Museum last Sunday afternoon in Arichat.
The original forge was constructed by brothers Simon and Thomas LeNoir around 1794. From there, it was part of a successful ship building enterprise which continued through the mid-1800s. In the later half of the 19th century, the LeNoir forge was used to train young men in blacksmithing skills. It was then used as a warehouse, icehouse, and a coal shed, among other uses.
By the mid 1900s, it had deteriorated to an unusable state, but in 1967 a centennial grant restored it to its past glory. From there, the museum was taken over by the Isle Madame Historical Society (IMHS), with historian Marshall Bourinot serving as its long-time curator. In the late 1990s, the site was upgraded to add a boat born and three fish shanties. The former Irving Oil garage on the property was also renovated, to be later dubbed the Lorenzo Building, in honour of Lorenzo Boudreau, who owned the garage and was a well-known local historian.
IMHS member Anne Leavitt noted that the while the rebuilding of the forge in 1967 was a project to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday, the forge itself significantly pre-dates confederation.
“The forge sits as a constant physical reminder that one of the things that was celebrated on this spot 50 years ago was that Isle Madame’s history predates Canada’s by a long time,” Leavitt told the crowd at last Sunday’s event. “And people 50 years ago took that history seriously and wanted it preserved.”
Leavitt pointed to the efforts of community leaders like Marshall Bourinot, Harold LeBrun, Emile Benoit, and Cites Babin in making the museum a reality.
“Fifty years ago, the people who gave us the forge were committed to preserving these stories,” Leavitt noted. “They were also committed to preserving the treasury of stories of Isle Madame itself. They knew that researching, enriching, preserving, and commemorating that treasury would make demands on people’s time and talents, and certainly on their wallets. But, forgive the pun, they forged ahead anyway.
“Let’s not disappoint them, but make sure that we continue to treasure what they gave us and pass it on, just as they did for us.”
The celebration kicked-off with demonstrations from members of the Maritime Blacksmithing Association, as well as from Arichat resident Richard Boudreau, who has been volunteering as a blacksmith at the museum for a decade.
As the afternoon progressed, O Canada was sung in both official languages by Jocelyn Boudreau, accompanied by the raising of the flag since the event also commemorated Canada 150.
Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon and Richmond Warden Brian Marchand passed along their congratulationse. With the ceremony taking place days after the passing of former federal cabinet minister and Member of Parliament Allan J. MacEachen, the assembled crowd observed a moment of silence in his honour.
In addition to musical entertainment, birthday cake, food, and refreshments, there was a display in the fish shanties which included footage from a home movie of the 1967 ribbon-cutting, as well as several pictures chronicling the renovation process, which started in the mid-1960s.
On behalf of the IMHS, Leavitt thanked Susan Marchand-Terrio; IMHS board members; the Beaton Institute; the family of J.H. LeBrun; Telile; the Municipality of Richmond County; St. Joseph’s Credit Union; the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia; Boudreau’s Fuels; and the Wagmatcook Centre.