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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


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(August 4, 2007)

The following is an extract from an article
written by Ken Donovan entitled,
Imposing Discipline Upon Nature: Gardens, Agriculture
and Animal Husbandry in Cape Breton, 1713-1758,
November 2006.

Engineers and the Harmony of Design in French Gardens

            At least two other scientists, Etienne Verrier and Francois De Poilly were among a total of 14 engineers who served at Louisbourg and filed descriptions of Ile Royale’s gardens and agriculture in their reports and especially in their maps and plans. Engineers had played a vital role in the design of gardens in seventeenth and eighteenth century France. French gardens, noted for their sense of proportion, were much like bastioned fortresses because they applied much of the same principle –all parts must harmonize. The gardeners were conscious of geometrically-controlled space, the range of the eye along view planes and the retention of vistas by making the length proportionate to the surrounding mass (Vérin 1991, 135-46). Etienne Verrier, the chief engineer at Louisbourg from 1724 to 1745, was responsible for the design of the fortifications and the principal public buildings as well as the lighthouse and the harbour front of the town.

            At 31 years old, Verrier arrived in Louisbourg with a fine reputation as an engineer and an appreciation for aesthetic design. Responsible for over 100 Louisbourg plans, his colourful  drawings include the Dauphin Gate, the hospital, the lighthouse, the royal and island batteries and the engineer’s residence, to name only a few. All of these plans survive in the Archives Nationales, the BibliothPque Nationale, the Comité technique du Génie and other repositories in Paris and many of them record, in precise detail, the gardens of Louisbourg. Among the plans are those of his beautiful residence with well-designed garden, menagerie and garden pool. Built at a cost of 28,000 livres, the engineer’s residence was one of the finest buildings in the town. When the excavations of block one were completed in the 1960's, everything throughout the entire block, including the king’s storehouse, the old storehouse, the artillery shed, the bakery, the garden pool and the garden were found exactly as Verrier had drawn them. The garden, as shown in 1735, measured 10 toise by eight toise with six beds, four of which were planted with completely different and intricate designs. The garden was presumably planted with vegetables, grains, herbs and flowers. The 1735 plan, “an usually detailed record of the yards and buildings” in block one, was most accurate. “Many of the seemingly incidental features, such as the well in the Rue Toulouse, the terrace wall in the Engineer’s garden, and fence lines in block 1, have been verified archaeologically” (Fortier 1972, no. 17).

            Like Etienne Verrier, François de Poilly was a military engineer who served in Louisbourg under Louis Franquet from 1755 to 1758. Poilly assisted in the planning for the repair and reconstruction of the defences and public buildings of Louisbourg. Following in his own footsteps, Franquet commissioned Poilly to go on an excursion around Ile Royale in February and March 1757 in order to correct the maps of the island, to propose road improvements and to suggest repairs to public building and fortifications at St. Anns and St. Peters. Travelling on snowshoes, Poilly and his party toured much of Cape Breton. He kept a twelve-page diary describing the island’s resources including the French and Mi’kmaq inhabitants and the condition of the roads and buildings (DCB 3, 267-8). Poilly had specific suggestions for the improvement of the island’s agricultural, game and forest resources. On the Mira River he recommended increased manpower in order to develop the good soil along the alluvial plain of the river. For the settlements along the Bras d’or Lake from Boularderie Island in the north to East Bay in the south, Poilly called for more oxen to pull ploughs and to provide fertilizer in order to produce certain types of grain. New farms at St. Anns also required new ploughs and cattle (Génie, 2 May 1757, man. 210 f).