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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


Preliminary Report: Built-In and Installed Furnishings

by Victor J. H. Suthren

In Historians,
Preliminary Architectural Studies,
Volume 03, Unpublished Report HG 02
(Fortress of Louisbourg, 1972,
Report Number H G 02 03 08)


This report, as other Preliminary Reports, suffers from the incomplete state of the Domestic Architecture File; a further difficulty, was a workable definition for Built-In Furnishings". There would appear to be an obvious distinction between an item transportable by the owner/tenant, and an item attached directly to, or incorporated within, the structure of a building. This is, however, complicated by instances of temporary "installation"; for example, we read of an armoire, normally a moveable item, having been attached for stability to a partition or wall with several nails or hooks. A firm and permanent attachment places the armoire conceivably within the classification of a built-in piece, but in any lesser degree of permanence, the armoire could be considered a transportable furnishing.

For the purposes of this report, "Built-In" furnishings have been considered as those which form part of, or have been securely incorporated within, the basic structure of a house, room, or building, including interior partitioning, flooring, ceiling, wall surfacing and trim; or, are so central to the design of a room, house, or building that the latter loses its desired function in the absence of the furnishing in question. "Installed" furnishings are those which, although constructed or made as an independent unit, have either been attached for or semi-permanent equipping of the room or [PAGE 3:] building, or are considered in the transactions involving them to be permanent or semi-permanent in nature.

Organization of the material available under headings such as "Private Buildings" is done where enough data was present to warrant the separate classification.




An example of a borderline item, in which the degree of attachment is unclear, is found in the following source:

Item dans le Cabinet du deffunct avons fait opposer lesd. Scelles sur un petit pupitre bois d'hebeine fermant a clef et ensuitte sur la serrure d'une armoire attaché, a la cloison dud Cabinet

[Item. In the cabinet of the deceased [we] had the said seals affixed on a small ebony desk which locks by a key, and then on the lock of an armoire attached to the partition of the said cabinet] [NOTE 1].

Not so ambiguous is a reference to a form of home safety deposit box for valuables which was incorporated into the woodwork beside the [PAGE 4] owner's bed:

...Le tout etant sus une planche a costé de son lit dans la cabanne lad planche etant retenue par un taquet et une corde

...the whole being on a board beside his bed in the cabanne, the said board being held by a [turn-peg?] and a line [NOTE 2].

In this case, there seems little question that the little storage space was "built in"; what is not specified is whether it was built into the planking of a partition, a wall, or the flooring beside the bed. The cabanne in question was located on the "Rue du Port, pres de l'etang" [Rue du Fort, near the pond].

Somewhat more common in use, were lockers or "bins" of one sort or another which generally were used for food storage. The lack of detailed description of an example soute renders somewhat uncertain the translation of the term. It is suggested that "bin" comes closest to the meaning. There are two references to examples in separate cabannes, as follows:

... trois cabanne dont deux servé pour les pescheur et les chaufaudiers et une pour le maistre il y a un cabinet dedans, et une depense faites de planches...

[PAGE 5:]

... three cabannes of which two served for the fishermen and the [fish handlers] and one for the master, within which there is a cabinet and a pantry made of planks... [NOTE 3]

and, as well:

... et dans une cabanne Scitué dans la cour est une soute qui est plus du quart plaine de pain ...

... and in a cabanne situated in the courtyard is a bin which was more than a quarter full of bread ... [NOTE 4].

There is also mention of a bin in a cabanne which was possibly employed as a storage lean-to adjacent to a house:

... Ensuite sommes entrés dans la cabanne separé de lad. salle d'une cloison de planches ou estants entrés nous y avons trouvé une soute...

...Following [that, we] entered the cabanne separated from the said room by a board partition, where [having] entered, we found there a bin...] [NOTE 5].

[PAGE 6:]

A final entry indicates the presence of a bin but gives neither detail not location beyond that of the homeowner. [NOTE 6]. One reference drawn from a rental agreement identifies several items which may or may not qualify as built-in furnishings:

... promaitent remettre la ditte maison avec ses apartements, sans degradation, mesme ne tirer aucuns bords ny Cloux, mises pour suspendre des marchandises dautant que le dit le gras les luy laissera de la mesme fasson ainsy que les bords de boutique deux armoires vitrée deux tables de boutiques et tableau...

...promising to return the said house with its apartments, without defacement, as well as not to pull any trim or nails [placed] for suspending merchandise, so that the said Legras will have them left to him [in their original state] as well as the trim of the boutique, two glassed armoires, two shop tables and a board [NOTE 7]

Several questions are raised bv this entry: is the "bords ny cloux" a reference to planking strips with nails used as hooks which [PAGE 7:] were then affixed to a wall, partitions, or joists? There is no further description of the glassed armoires: were they permanently installed? Were the shop's tables and the board permanent installations as might appear logical? The context of the reference does not allow speculation further than to suggest that the shop furniture might well have been affixed in place.

There is little ambivalence in the following reference to firmly attached ironwork, with the possible exception of the mirror hooks, which are considered semi-permanent, on the assumption that a mirror might be easily moved about or removed entirely while something more integrally functional as meathooks might not:

Aoust 17 pour la Serrure d'une garde mengé pour suspendre la viande letout pour 6-00-0

... 22 pour deux crochets et deux avis pour un miroir, lavoir mise en place 1-16-0" ...

August 17 For the ironwork of a pantry for suspending meat, the whole for 6-00-0 ...

[PAGE 8:]

22 For two hooks and two screws for a mirror, to have it put in place 1-16-0 [NOTE 8]


One reference exists for bakery furnishings which can be categorized as "built- in". This indicates:

...Une Boulangerie de 77 pieds de longuer et 21 de largeur avec un grand four de briques deux soutes de gros et bons madriers de sapin pouvant contenir 300 quintaux de biscuit avec deux mets et une table de bois de chesne."

... a bakery of 77 pieds in length and 21 in width with a large oven of brick, two bread bins of big, good [quality] fir beams able to contain 300 quintals of biscuit with two kneading troughs, and an oak table. [NOTE 9]


Information presently filed with specific reference to the barracks or other buildings of military use is scanty. One toisé mentions a [PAGE 9] work allotment for the construction of an arms-rack in a guardroom of the cazernes [NOTE 10]; this is followed by another toisé which lists a "guardroom bed" ["lit de camp"] as one of several possible uses for "planks of pine, two pouces thick, of the price of 19" the square toise [madriers de pin de deux pouces d'epaisseur de pris de 19" la toise quarrée"] NOTE 11]. Barrack-room information refers in one case to "twenty-one rooms of soldiers, large and small presumably the rooms] which can contain three hundred men, in two beds one above another" ["21 chambres de soldats petittes et grandes qui peuvent contenir trois cens hommes a deux lits l'une sur l'autre] [NOTE 12].

Greater descriptive detail is available for these bunks:

Les cabannes ou couchettes pour deux soldats qui seront stables. les piliers seront de bois de sapin de cinq pouces de grosseur sur la hauteur de l'etage, bien ecaris et bien assemblez suivant les dessins qui en seront donnez, les fonds seront faits avec planches d'un pouce, et le chevet, a puy et pied, de planches de deux pouces, blanchiers d'un costé seulement et seront payées chacune a la piece

The cabannes or bunks for two soldiers are to be stable; the posts are to be of [Page 10:] fir wood, five pouces in thickness by the height of the ceiling well squared and well assembled following the plans which will be given for them. The slats are to be made with one pouce planks, and the head, slides and foot, of two pouce planks, planed on one side only; [they] are to be paid by the piece] [NOTE 13].

A further item mentions:

Les cabannes ou couchettes pour deux soldats qui seront faites provisionellement avec planches de Baston sans assemblages seront payeés chacun en bloc

cabannes or bunks for two soldiers which are to be made provisionally with Boston boards without assembly, to be paid for each unit [NOTE 14].

For the chapel of St. Louis, which may be considered as an adjunct to the cazernes, there are mentioned:

La chaire de la chapelle de figure exagone avec son cul de lampe, et son dias, faite [PAGE 11:] avec bois de merisier ... [et]...La balustrade de la chapelle faite avec bois de merisier...

the pulpit of the chapel, of hexagonal shape, with its lamp base and its canopy, made of birch, estimated at the sum of three hundred livres" and "the balustrade ... of birch, estimated at the sum of two hundred livres" [NOTE 15].

A final cazernes reference alludes to a ["tablette et vesellier dans la cuisine"] [shelf and dish cupboard in the kitchen] which amy qualify as built-in furnishings [NOTE 16]. The entire question of whether the soldiers' bunks themselves should be considered "built-in" is not clear, although a case could be made for the negative.


A rental agreement dated to 1743 makes passing reference to ["une armoire avec sa serrure dans l'escaliers"] [an armoire with its lock in the stairs] [NOTE 17].

There is as well a reference to shelving:

... la toise quarré de planches du pays d'un pouces depaisseur blanchis et enbouveté pour Cloisons Lembris Simple et tablettes a 12...[livres]".

... the square toise of boards from the country, of one pouce thickness, planed and [tongue and grooved] for partitions, Simple panelling and shelving, at 12...[livres] [NOTE 18].



As stated earlier, "installed" furnishings are those which [PAGE 12] although constructed or made as an independent unit, have either been attracted for stability or semi-permanent equipping of the room or building, or are considered in the transactions involving them to be permanent or semipermanent in nature.

A reference exists for armoires "installed" in rooms, regrettable with no details as to the installation; this in turn does not rule out the possibility of the armoires being permanently built in to the partitions or walls. The major reference is for the government building [Gouvernement], dated December 31, 1718:


Ouvrage de Menusierie

[124] pour une Armoire arretée dans led cabinet de 7 pds de haut sur 3 de large a deux portes assemblées a [bouvement] Les panneaux a plattebande, Une Corniche en haut et une molure en bas, la somme de 18... [livres],

[124(v)] pour deux grandes armoires arretées, l'Une dans la chambre et lautre dans le Cabinet de 8 pieds de haut, 5 de large et 2 de profondeur, a quatre portes avec cinq tablettes dedans, [PAGE 13:] le tout dassemblage, les panneaux a plattebande, une corniche en haut et une moulure en bas, a vingt quatre livres chaque... [126] Vingt huit fiches polies pour les armoires qui sont dans les chanbres et Cabinets a 10s piece [ 14 doors in all [added in text]]

huit Serrures pour Idem a 3" chaque ...

six crochets et leur pitons pour Idem a 12s pce...

[Government [House] ]

Interior Woodwork

for an Armoire fastened in the said room, 7 pieds high by 3 wide, with two doors joined by tongue-and-groove, flat-moulded panels, a cornice agove and a moulding at the bottom the sum of 18... [livres]

for two large armoires fastened, [PAGE 14:] one in the room and the other in the cabinet, 8 pieds high, 5 wide and 2 deep, with four doors and 5 shelves inside, the whole assembled, flat-moulded panels, a cornice above and an [ornamental] moulding at the bottom, at 24 livres each...

Twentv eight polished hinges for the armoires which are in the rooms and cabinets at 10S each

Eight locks for ditto at 3" each

Six hooks and their eyebolts for ditto at 12s ea.] [NOTE 19].

The problem of the status of soldiers' bunks is again brought into focus by a reference to the necessity of "having the beds made of boards or planks for the soldiers to sleep on" ["...faire faire des lits de planches, ou madriers pour couchés les soldats"] [NOTE 20]. It is suggested that these bunks fit the "installed" category inasmuch as, although not fastened to walls, ceilings, partitions, and so on, they remained [PAGE 15:] a permanent feature of the barrack room through occupations by transient soldiery.


Future consideration of what constitutes "Built-In" furnishings should be based on a prior decision that the criteria for judgment is to be structural, or is to be in terms of custom, usage, and purpose, [PAGE 16]


[NOTE 1:] Apposition de Scelles chez feu Jean Chevalier. Louisbourg, 25 octobre 1720. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2057, no. 31. [NOTE 2:] Vol chez Sieur Jean Marguerie qui demeure Rue de Port pres de l'etang, Louisbourg, 26 mais 1751. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 201, No. 233, fol. lv, 25 p. 7. [NOTE 3:] Inventaire des effets et habitation du Sieur Dessaudrais Robert, N.P., 21 juin 1720, A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2057, no. 8. [NOTE 4:] Inventaire et vente d'effets mobilier de la veuve Peré Fauxbourg de la Porte Dauphine, 9 juin 1735. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 194, No. 80, pieces 306-7. [NOTE 5:] Succession de François Blondel habitant de petil Laurent le Bec. Lorembec, 12 aôut 1732. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 181, Fol 447. The quote regrettably stops there and gives no further description. [NOTE 6:] Scellé chez le Sr. Elie Tesson la Fleury, côte du nord ou Scatary, 22 mais 1741, A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 197, Fol. 143, p. 2. [NOTE 7:] Bail a loyer d'une maison. Allain le gras à Charles Viollette, n.p. 14 janvier 1755, A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2044, no. 6. [NOTE 8:] Madame Desmarrest doit a Montpellier du 8 e gbre 1736 Scavoir", [PAGE 17:] Louisbourg, 8 novembre 1736. A.N.., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 208, dossier 475, f. 48. [NOTE 9:] Denombrement des biens immobiles que le Sr. de Costebelle Gouverneur de l'isle Royale a esté constraint d'abandonner de l'evacuation de plaisance dans l'Isle de Terreveuve ... 1717. N.P., A.C., E 93, fol. 26-26v. [NOTE 10:] Toisé des ouvrages qui ont été faits aux cazernes, Bastion du Roy, vieux hopital et vieux government. n.p., 1 septembre 1731, A.C. C11B, vol. 12, fol. 10 146- 46(v). [NOTE 11:] Toisé des ouvrages ... que le Sr. Sanet a fait au corps des cazernes du Bastion du Roy et Pavillion... [Louisbourg] 4 mai 1727. A.C., C11B, vol. 9, fol. 167-69(v). [NOTE 12:] St. Ovide à de Mezy (n.p.), 26 novembre 1726. A.C. C11B, vol. 8, fol. 13v. [NOTE 13:] Devis d'un suplement de Marché accordé au Sr. ganet Entrepreueur des fortifications de Louisbourg concernant differens ouvrages qui ont ete obmis dans son marché du 24 e fevrier 1725, 7 octobre, 1727. A.C. C11B, vol. 9, ff. 127-132. [NOTE 14:] Ibid. [NOTE 15:] Toisé des ouvrages qui ont été faits aux Cazernes, Bastion du Roy, vieux hopital et vieux governement [non compris dans le marché de 1719]. 1 septembre 1731, A.C., vol. 12, Fol. 146-46(v). [PAGE 18:] [NOTE 16:] Toise des ouvrages ... que le Sr. Ganet a fait au corps des cazernes du Bastion du Roy et Pavillion des cazernes. 4 mai 1727. A.C., C11B, vol. 9, Fol. 169(v) 71. [NOTE 17:] Bail à loyer, Pierre Boisseau à Guillaume Lecraig, n.p., 3 septembre 1743, A.N., Section Outre-Mer, carton 2047, pt. I, no. 57. [NOTE 18:] Devis et conditions a observer ceux qui Entreprendront les ouvrages ordonnée par le Roy aux Fortifications de cette place et aux batintent appartenant à sa majesté. Quebec, 25 septembre 1753, Surlaville Papers, Archives du Seminaire de Québec, Art. 24 e. [NOTE 19:] Etat des fonds ordonnés pour les fortifications de l'Isle Royale., n.p., 31 decembre, 1718. A.C., C11B, Volume 3, ff. 119- 30(v). [NOTE 20:] St. Ovide à [ ], n.p., n.d. A.C., C11B Vol. 27, Fol. 315.