Historic properties destroyed by fire

Pictured is the fire which destroyed the historic Our Lady of Assomption Convent in Arichat in the early 1960s.

At one time Arichat’s main street was one of the busiest and most progressive in the province.

There were hotels, barrooms, a Chinese laundry, a photography studio, ice cream/candy parlours, 10 or 11 general merchandise stores.

Many iconic buildings in Arichat and many more family residences were lost to history as they fell victim to fire. In an era when fire protection was all but nonexistent, a blaze was virtually unimpeded as it consumed everything in its path.

Perhaps the earliest recorded and the greatest loss to fire is that of 1838 when the glebe house, which housed the parish documents, burned, taking with it the records which hearkened back perhaps for almost a century.

There was activity here and in Petit de Grat and D’Escousse from early in the 1700s and in 1768 when the church established a presence after Father Bailley de Meissen was posted here. Imagine the treasure trove of information that existed before 1838.

One of the most prominent wharfs and commercial operations on the Arichat waterfront in the early years of the last century was that of John LeBrun. He had come to Arichat as young man from Brittany in France in the mid to late 1800s. He began a small concern which quickly grew into a large and thriving business. In 1908 the original store, which had been built in 1883, fell victim to fire, but was rebuilt the following year by the MacDonald Construction Company of Antigonish. The original structure continues into the present day.

Early in the last century the pharmacy of Dr. A.A. LeBlanc fell victim to fire. This building was located between the present home of Nancy Britten and that of Jack and Peggy Ouellette.

The 1960s and 70s were particularly devastating. The American House Hotel had been a fixture on the busy lower street. In fact, legend has it that the famous actress, Catherine Hepburn, was once a guest at the American House. The Babins ran the hotel until it passed into the hands of Warren Jones who attached a restaurant to the west side. Closely adjacent to the old hotel on the east side was the home of the Bart LeBlanc family.

As would be the case with the Marbro and the Chediac store, both the hotel and the residence were destroyed on that day.

Ironically and unfortunately the homeless LeBlanc family moved into the unoccupied OLA Convent. This grand, iconic building had begun life in 1856 when Bishop MacKinnon welcomed Le Congregation de Notre Dame sisters to oversee education for young ladies. It gained a well-earned reputation as one of the foremost educational institutions in Eastern Canada. This, however, did not protect it from becoming another victim of fire in the early 1960s.

The location of the apartment building on the main street was once occupied by two residences, that of Charlie Latimer and one belonging to Charlie Malzard. Ernest and Ty Marchand bought the Malzard home and turned it into the Marbro Hotel and Restaurant. In the early hours of a brutally cold night circa 1966 the Marbro went up in flames. The Latimer house, which was practically attached to the former Malzard place, had reinvented itself as the furniture store of Monier Chediac and suffered the same fate as the Marbro.