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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
THE CONSTRUCTION AND OCCUPATION OF THE BARRACKS OF THE KING'S BASTION
(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report H A 13)
CHRONOLOGY OF CONSTRUCTION
All these problems were given prompt attention by Maurepas. With regards to the Ganet-Planton affair, he approved the cancellation of the agreement and the decision that the sister would continue the contract herself. A Sr. Boevin, Isabeau's brother-in-law, was on his way to carry on the work, and officials in Louisbourg were instructed to watch that work was well done. Verrier was to prepare a statement of the work which Ganet had done for Isabeau since 1725 and a new and larger contract was made with Ganet (1) whose prices were the same as Isabeau's for the majority of items.(2) Verrier's statement, one of the three important construction documents mentioned above, was concerned mostly with the south half of the barracks and gave important information concerning the governors wing and the officer's quarters. In its 150 pages specifications were given for the balcony which led from the governor's bedroom out on to the left flank rampart, for the widening of fireplaces, a buffet in the dining room, paving in the central passage, a buffet, sink, drain, and warming oven in the kitchen, a library in the governor's wing, locks and bolts, and even fire ladders on the roof.(3)
Maurepas approved that Verrier had only worked on the south half of the building the previous year, but he urged him to give attention to the other half, especially to the roof and water problem. Verrier was also to make any necessary repairs and, where they were the result of Isabeau's negligence or poor workmanship, was to charge the cost to the estate. The engineer was urged to be fair in his assessment, and compensation was to be given Ganet for damage caused to his warehouse by a storm the year before.(4)
Little new work was undertaken in 1727 and Verrier recorded only a number of repairs. The level of the ditch was lowered in an attempt to prevent water from seeping into the various basement rooms, and stone floors were added to make them more usable. Fireplaces and a stairway were added to the three rooms of the north wing, providing room for a whole company of troops. The panelling in the armory over the central passage was extended to cover the walls as well as the ceiling in an attempt to prevent dampness, but the clock tower still only had a temporary roof and would not be safe until a permanent tower was erected. Because of smoking, the bays of the fireplaces were widened "so that the greater part of the soldiers of one room can warm themselves". Almost all the shutters were broken and it would be said they were too weak, but Verrier insisted this was because of the carelessness of the soldiers who did not fasten them properly.(5) The jambs of doors and windows were also suffering damage in bringing firewood into the rooms.(6) He again said Saint Ovide's criticism of the poor distribution of the barracks. Verrier's opinion was that it was a good solid building laid out almost the same as those in France, though much later, in 1739, he would assert that fireplaces should be built in the middle wall to support the ridge. (The first of De Verville's plans included this feature). To alleviate the water problem Verrier proposed to raise the ridge of the roof three pieds when slating was done, thus steepening the slope so that rain and snow would not so easily blow back under the slates. He also felt that some of the problem was caused by leaky dormers, and 25 were eliminated, while he tried to seal the others using plaster and lead. Finally, he enclosed a plan for a lighthouse to be built on the point opposite the channel into the harbour, apparently abandoning the idea of a light in the clock tower of the barracks.(7)
Saint Ovide and De Mesy also commented on the water problem."The rains inundate the barracks and make it practically uninhabitable," but they added that they could not determine who was responsible for the poor work which caused the wetness.(8) This last statement was obviously a compromise between the two officials, and in their own letters to Maurepas they were more definite. Saint Ovide felt that Verrier and a sub-engineer, Boucher, were concealing Isabeau's poor work and making the royal treasury pay for it. He would prefer, he said, to have Boucher dismissed from the colony.(9) Interestingly enough, Verrier had specifically praised Boucher to Maurepas.(10) De Mesy sided against Saint Ovide. Isabeau, he pointed out, had only followed the plans which had been given to him. Nor were De Verville's plans to blame, but rather the high winds at Louisbourg. De Mesy had his own solution for the water problem. By keeping the roof at the same height but shortening the chevrons by 4 to 5 pieds the roof would be steepened and a small terrace formed around the perimeter of the Barracks. With plaster, lead and gargoyles, the water would flow away, and the roof would have the required slope at less than it would cost to raise the roof. Going back to the idea of a light over the clock in the Barracks, De Mesy claimed that it would easily be serviced from this terrace.[See Fig. 11, [ND-87: Presently Unavailable](11) drawn before the 25 dormers were eliminated.]
By this time the situation in Louisbourg had resulted in new alliances. De Mesy obviously had some sort of association with the widow Planton. Though he had signed joint reports which criticized her brother's work he had not complained of it in his private letters to the King and had lately taken to blaming the weather for the faults in Isabeau's construction. Verrier supported this position and also backed De Mesy in some other projects. As he had from the beginning, Saint Ovide usually opposed De Mesy, and of course supported the contractor. Arrigrand returned to France in this year leaving Ganet alone in Louisbourg. The partnership was not functioning smoothly, and was not renewed when it expired in 1730. Arrigrand later accused Ganet of playing politics while he was away. What actually took place is not known, but the result was that Ganet got a new contract by himself in 1730 and Arrigrand, inevitably, sued. This, however, did not mark the end of Arrigrand's direct involvement in Louisbourg for he was to return in the 1730's.(12)
In December an unsigned memorandum, probably written by Saint Ovide, complained that most of the floors in the soldiers' barracks were rotten, that plastering was still not done, and that stairs, beds, windows and shutters still were needed. For the first time, a criticism of Verrier was recorded:
It is absolutely necessary that Your Grace give orders to M. Verrier to begin by putting the barracks in condition to be able to lodge the officers and troops away from the effects of the weather. (13)
Verrier reported some problems of his own. He requested a shipment of cut-stone from Rochefort to replace the brick door and window surrounds which were deteriorating quickly and could not hold their pintles.(14) The major work remaining undone was the tower for the clock, but it was to be some years before this feature dominated the outline of Louisbourg.(15)
1. Minister to Saint Ovide and De Mesy, 10 June 1727, AN. Col., B. vol. 50(2), ff. 577-78.
2. Prix des ouvrages..., no date or signature, AN., Col., C11B, vol. 8, f. 225.
3. Toisé signé par Verrier, 1 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, ff. 180-249.
4. Minister to Verrier, 10 June 1727, AN. Col., B. vol. 50(2), ff. 595-97.
5. Verrier to Minister, 17 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, f. 142.
6, Verrier to Minister, 9 December 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, f. 150.
7. De Forant to Minister, 23 December 1739, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 21, ff. 90-91. Verrier to Minister, 17 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, ff. 141-47v.
8. Saint Ovide and De Mesy, 26 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B vol. 9, f. 32v.
9. Saint Ovide to Minister, 19 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, ff. 60-63v.
10. Verrier to Minister, 16 December 1725, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 7, ff. 328-32.
11. De Mesy to Minister, 24 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, ff. 93-99.
12. Dossier Arrigrand, letter to Minister, no date, AN. Col., E, vol. 9, f. 11.
13. Saint Ovide 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 27, ff. 315-15v.
14. Verrier to Minister, 9 December 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, ff. 150-50v.
15. Verrier to Minister, 17 November 1727, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 9, f, 152.