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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


H F 25 1975-12


April 8, 1975

Private Buildings In Louisbourg, 1713-1758

It is not my intention here to attempt a blow-by-blow description of features found in each of our reconstructions, for I think they more than adequately speak for themselves on an individual basis, but rather to present a point form addition to some of the topics already discussed in Canada: An Historical Magazine, Vol. I, No. 4. June 1974. Then when we go and examine these buildings, we can see which features are present, which are not, why not and what errors we have made.

One 18th century Louisbourg document which architectural historians have found invaluable is called a toisé. While such "descriptions of construction" were relatively rare, some like the one for the engineer's house in Block 1, have proven highly informative. General headings in an outstanding toisé would have been:

Like a road map, these headings direct the historian to different parts of a building. From the involved work particularized under each heading (and from other sources like sale and rental agreements) he has extrapolated the historical data and grouped it under new headings, such as those discussed in Canada Magazine:

He might have also included the following points: 




-from Cape Breton Island }
-from New England          }   (provided the greatest quantities)
- from Quebec                   }

- Pine (softwood) - most common
- Fir (softwood)
- Spruce (softwood)
- Oak (hardwood) - somewhat rare
- Type of birch called merisier (hardwood) - more common than oak

- Boards are always one pouce thick - Planks are always 2 pouce thick (or larger)

- French boards and planks: 10-12 pouces would be most common 
- New England boards and planks: rarely under 15 pouces wide

- French boards and planks were likely shorter than their New England counterparts: for example, 10-12 pieds long versus 18-25 pieds might have been common.


- Once boards or planks have been sawn, a variety of joints, depending on their use, are possible: for example, tongues and grooves, bevels, butts, mitres, laps. These we will see at the site. 
- Boards and planks might be planed or not planed, again depending on usage.



- from New England - most common by 1745
- from Cape Breton Island - of poor quality

- depends on the quality of the clay and on the efficiency of the brick kiln in which the bricks were baked
- both clay and kilns of Cape Breton Island were not the best

- the New England bricks which the French imported were smaller than the ones the French made locally;
- tell the tourist that the average size of bricks found in Louisbourg would have been 8 pouces long x 4 pouces wide x 2 pouce thick and you would be close enough.

- because bricks must be made while rubblestone need only be removed from the ground where it sits, things built in brick would have been more expensive than things built in rubblestone;
- thus there were never many buildings in Old Louisbourg built totally in brick;
- on the other hand, brick was a common material found in several features of a building, such as for fireplaces, or window and door surrounds;



- it was not common to have a ceiling other than the exposed floor and floor joists of the room above.

- boards used [See B-boards and planks];
- boards planed one side - the side you see;
- boards joined together with tongues and grooves;
- boards fastened to the ceiling with nails;
- the common moulding between edge of ceiling and main walls and partition walls were called tringles.



- does not include the fireplaces or its associated parts; 
- that part which contains the flue(s) which in turn carries away the smoke of the fireplaces which in turn are built into the chimney.

- Rubblestone - common 
- Bricks

- the French usually built them so that they projected 2-3 pieds above the roof ridge

- Crepi - common - plaster



- 1/2 glass, 1/2 wood;
- unlikely in a front door location for security reasons;
- if lighting requirements proved necessary at front door locations. an emboitée or batten door would be built and a small transom (with glass panes - thus a small window) would be placed above the doorway - hence light but not thieves could enter into the room behind the door.



- think of dormers as windows for they serve the same function; namely, to provide light for the interior of a building (also for ventilation considerations) .

- because windows are placed in perpendicular walls they can be placed flush with the wall and be reasonably waterproof;
- because dormers are placed in a roof which angles away from its perpendicular walls they would be susceptible to rain or snow falling directly on them if they were placed flush (like a skylight of today);
- so the French instead built dormers which are like little houses with roofs over the top and a window in front (now, instead of facing into the sky, the dormer window faces straight-out, like ordinary windows).



- the hole carved out of a chimney where one burns combustible materials;
- the hole is connected to the flues of the chimney so that the smoke in the fireplace can be carried above the roof and outside the building.

When one places a hole in a masonry chimney, so much pressure is exerted by the weight of the heavy masonry above it that the masonry would collapse into the fireplace if certain structural precautions were not taken - so above the fireplace opening look for wooden and iron lintels, stone and brick arches. etc.

- there are front and back hearths;
- their function is to absorb the downward heat of fire, ashes and sparks.



- because planks of assorted widths were used, the French most often laid the floor in panels of equal lengths;
- look where two panels meet.



- French glass-blowers made window glass by first blowing out a bubble of glass on the end of a long iron-tube;
- they then flattened out this bubble creating a "sheet" of glass;
- shipped to Louisbourg, the sheet was then cut into the required sizes by the user;
- this glass would have had an uneven surface and bubbles, but not too many bubbles.



- the lime used in the making of a lime and sand mortar comes from the limestone found on the Island;
- this limestone must first be broken, then burnt in a lime kiln (like the one near Lartigue 1) producing quicklime;
- the quicklime is placed in what are called slaking pits - pits full of water in which quicklime is submerged;
- after some time passes the slaked quicklime is placed in maturing pits where it is left to settle, forming a kind of lime putty;
- when a mixture of 1/3 of this lime putty and 2/3 of sand are brought together the mortar normally used in Louisbourg is created;
- this is the common mortar used to bond stones together.

- would have been rarely used



- the tourist might ask why clapboard was not used by the French since overlapping boards would seem more waterproof than bevelled boards placed flush one against each other;
- we wonder too!
- however, as the French explained this type of joinery: this bevel will be made so that rain water will flow from one to the other [board] without penetrating to the facing of the wall [behind];
- So you see, the French thought bevelled boarding could serve the purpose meant for it more than adequately. (Incidentally so did some house builders in Connecticut at least as early as 1688).



- one to 1 1/2 pieds long;
- 4 to 6 pouces wide;
- one pouce thick at one end;
- much thinner at the other end (i.e. the shingle is feathered).

- 5-8 pouces wide;
- of a convenient length, i.e. proportional to its width, whatever that means (I would think 1 - 1 1/2 pieds long as with shingles).



- readily available;
- came out of the excavations in Louisbourg and would have been gathered together in piles for later use;
- while not smoothed off in order to have fine joints (i.e. the mortar joints are then wider and more distinct) they were usually built up in distinct parallel layers, so that these courses are quite apparent when one looks for them;
- because the joints were the most susceptible part of a wall to the effects of wind, rain, snow and salt from the sea, the French covered them with a mortar finish such as crepi;
- but even this protective crepi did not last long., perhaps one to three years, when it again would have to be replaced;
- thus in some places (note the Quay wall), the French completely revetted the stonework with boards.

- much more expensive and would have had to be imported from places on the Island (none suitable near Louisbourg) or from France where it was quarried;
- this stone was cut to shape with a chisel and mallet and roughened on its face with care to avoid chips;
- entire walls were never built with this material, but you will see cut stone around doors, windows, fireplaces and at the corners of buildings.



- pine (softwood) - common
- fir (softwood) - inferior to pine and more susceptible to rot
- oak (hardwood)                                          }  used only in special places because of high cost
- type of birch called merisier (hardwood) } used only in special places because of high cost

- this is wood which carried load (i.e. weight bears upon it) in addition to its own weight or it transfers weight and stress to other places;
- different sizes up to perhaps a chunk of square wood, one pied x one pied, might be necessary in order to handle the stress of weight placed upon it without snapping or bending;

- some examples where you would see these structural members: 
1) joists - they support the floor 
2) rafters and trusses - they support the roof and transfer stress to the outside walls 
3) the frame of a charpente building - in such a building all the timbers mortised and pegged together form a rigid unit with all the walls in effect tied together transferring weight and stress to the foundation.

- from trees that have been felled with an axe and then squared off to the desired size 6 x 7 pouce x 9 pouce 12 x 12 pouce for example) with a broad axe and adze and cut to the desired length.



- keep in mind that there were only two major types of walls in Louisbourg - masonry and wooded;
- masonry types might be rubblestone or brick; 
- wooden types might be piquet or charpente
- hence, a building like the de Ganne house, which on the surface has a wooded appearance that resembles neither a piquet wall (for example, the wood-yard building in Block 17) nor a charpente wall (for example, the Rodrigue house in Block 17) is, nevertheless, not another type of wall construction; 
- Instead the wooden finish which you see on the de Ganne house is merely a wooden revetment protecting the wall material behind, in this case, piquets.



1) Glued paper and metal points

- the points served to hold the panes in place;
- the glued paper served to seal the panes so that weather would not penetrate the house or rot the wood;
- because this paper would have had a relatively short life span each year there would have been a re-glueing with new paper (at least in king's buildings where regulations called for it - in private houses the owner might have been more lax);
- at the same time panes could be removed and cleaned.

2) Mastic or putty

- the advantages would have been a much longer life span before repairs would be necessary;
- as you will notice,, most of our windows show putty, which probably is an exaggeration of its use in 1745 (some of our newer buildings presently under reconstruction will have glued paper. or at least our interpretation of what it would have looked like).



Eric Krause, 
Staff Historian, 
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Park



APRIL 10, 1975


As this will be an exhaustive and exhausting survey of the private buildings within the reconstruction zone please dress warmly. Don't forget pens so you can note any questions or details which you might want to remember. The route and some of the details which we will discuss are as follows:

The Tour 

i) The three major wall types (i.e. building types)

a) piquet (woodyard house)
- piquets set into the ground
- ribbons and wall plates
- the use of struts

b) charpente (Lartigue 1)
- foundation
- the frame and joinery
- the different fills

c) masonry (Block 1)
- rubblestone and brick
- mortar

ii) Roof appearance
- gabled ends and hipped ends

iii) Roofing materials
- sheathing: laths or boards
- shingles, slate, boards

iv) Chimney and chimney stacks
- material
- capping
- finishes

v) Dormers
- shutters
- glass window panes
- gabled and hipped roofs

vi) Exterior finishes
- mortar
- wooden
- crepi over mortar joints
- caulking of piquets
- paint (Duhaget question) and whitewash

i) Exterior and interior shutters

ii) The reason for a chimney in the de La Perelle storehouse

i) fence types

ii) outbuilding

i) window types

i) reconstruction in progress

i) Comparison of the Grandchamp house and Inn with the wood-yard piquet house

ii) The story of the passageway of the Bigot house and toothing stones (if anyone still has not heard of it)

i) storm porch
ii) assorted doors
iii) flooring
iv) wall finish
v) windows
vi) fireplace
vii) partition wall
viii) ceiling
ix) stairs
x) the attic
xi) remainder of ground floor rooms and discussion of room layout

i) fencing

ii) gate

i) exterior steps
ii) door
iii) storm porch-entrance-way
iv) wall finish 
v) fireplace
vi) windows
vii) building's evolution
viii) wall finish - a comparison
ix) open the door to the storehouse - brave ones jump down?
x) fireplace - stove
xi) ladder - through trap door into the floor above for the same ones who jumped into the Rodrigue storehouse (the others can leave)

a) truss system
b) dormer
c) knee wall
d) ridge beam
e) angled chimney stack