Two recent events illustrate how difficult it is to maintaining historic buildings and properties without the proper resources.
On September 5, the historic Commercial Cable Station in Hazel Hill came down.
In 1884, the newly created Commercial Cable Company established its relay station for transatlantic traffic just outside Canso. Shortly after the turn of the century, Commercial Cable employed about 75 people. It ceased operations in 1962.
The Commercial Cable Rehabilitation Society (CCRS) owned the building and had been trying to rehabilitate it, but later turned it over to the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.
Municipal officials said the group did all it could to keep it open, but demolition became the only option after the group was unable to attract an anchor tenant, and the building became a safety hazard.
Although the foundation remains on site, the municipality is considering the installation of interpretive panels to let the public know what was there.
Not long after the station went down, another vital link to the past celebrated an important milestone.
Elected officials, current and former residents, and volunteers celebrated the 50th anniversary of LeNoir Forge Museum on September 17 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, during the area’s golden age of sail. In the latter half of the 19th century, the forge was used to train young men in blacksmithing skills.
In 1967, a federal centennial grant restored the forge. From there, the museum was taken over by the Isle Madame Historical Society (IMHS). In the late 1990s, government once again funded upgrades to the site.
The IMHS reminded those gathered at the celebration last month that the history of the island significantly pre-dates confederation and that has always been a source of pride for the people of Isle Madame.
This rich history was important to those who leveraged government support to restore the site.
On the other side of the Strait of Canso, a volunteer group was charged with finding the money needed to keep the building functioning.
But the commercial cable building is not the first casualty. For decades, historic homes, businesses, public buildings, and other structures have been demolished or left to deteriorate. In some cases, there was a lack of private interest, other times, it was beyond the financial reach of residents and groups like the CCRS.
The commercial cable building’s recent fate should serve as a cautionary tale.
Despite its historical significance, there simply wasn’t the private financing and existing infrastructure to keep it standing.
The LeNoir Forge Museum was restored and remains standing because government provided the financing and resources. The fact there were so many people driving this effort made it possible, but public money made it a reality.
History can be saved if communities get the help they need, without this assistance, it can fade away quickly.