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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

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There are two instances of names being given to streets before the end of the 19th century. These include the streets of the eighteenth century Fortress and the streets of the "New Town" on Havenside, planned by F. N. Gisborne.

It is within the walls of the reconstructed Fortress of Louisbourg that we find the oldest town streets in continuous use. The French military engineers in 18th-century Louisbourg designed a town based on a north-south and east-west grid pattern of streets.1 Some of streets were named in honour of French royalty, nobility or officials. Rue St. Louis honoured the patron saint of France. Rue de France, Rue de Canada and Rue de Scatary pointed in the general direction of the place named. When the New Englanders captured the Fortress in 1745 they renamed the streets. Two of these streets were named Warren Street and Pepperrell Street in honour of the sea and land commanders of the victorious forces. In total the French named twenty-one different streets while the English were satisfied with identifying twelve.2

The streets of the "New Town" are shown on a plan drawn by F. N. Gisborne. The town was proposed for the south side of the harbour in association with the narrow-gauge track of the Cape Breton Coal and Railway Company. The streets running roughly north and south were named: Main Street, Cross Street and New Road. Those running roughly east to west were: Lake, Church, Pier, Pine and High Streets.3 While not particularly imaginative names, Gisborne hoped that these streets would form the basis of a new and thriving Louisbourg. There was some work completed developing the streets since they are clearly visible on aerial photographs of Havenside taken in the 1960s.


M. G. Henniger, a Civil Engineer from Sydney, surveyed modern Louisbourg at the turn of the century. The Henniger plans are of interest because they represent the first deliberate attempt at planning in the town. Since the opening of the Dominion Coal Company pier in 1895, Louisbourg was growing quickly and expected to develop even more. As a result, it was important that the municipal infrastructure be in place both to attract and cope with the new population. Until this point Louisbourg hadn't changed greatly since the A. F. Church survey. The streets, not much more than lanes, were few and narrow. An article in the Sydney Record on October 7, 1904 suggests how small the town was before the turn of the century.

"Twelve years ago there were no more than 30 buildings on both sides of Main Street from where the station house now stands to Jerret's bridge, a distance of one mile. Look at the same place today. On Warren street, at that time there was one dwelling; today there are a number of the best residential buildings in the town. Pepperell, Kent and Lorway streets were then unknown where now stand a number of comfortable houses owned principally by the working men and Riverdale where today are several fine dwellings was then forest."

Henniger's first survey in 1901 established the location for a new street that he unofficially called Whitney Street. This proposed development ran west to east from Gerratt Brook passing north of the Sydney and Louisburg Railway station.4 He also surveyed Main Street, McAlpine Street, Sydney Road and Harbor Street.5 He later sent the Council a bill for $245.00.6

Henniger's plan shows the Whitney Street right of way to be 66 feet wide, Main Street 60 feet wide and side streets either 40 or 50 feet wide. Originally, Main Street was established at 66 feet wide. However, this would have proved an imposition to the many residents with buildings constructed along the street. The result was that Henniger reduced the right of way to 60 feet. This reduction was adopted by Council which also seems to have fixed the side street right-of-way at 50 feet.7

Work began almost immediately on the streets. It is noted in the Sydney Record of 21 August 1902 that McAlpine Street was considerably extended and the portion running north from Main was being widened to 40 feet. Similar work had taken place at Blueberry Hill ( Riverdale St. ) where the road was widened from 14 feet to 40 feet. This is consistent with Henniger's survey plans, though it is at odds with the Council decision for 50 foot wide secondary streets.

In addition to working for the newly formed municipality, Henniger surveyed land for private individuals. He produced plans for subdividing the properties of both C. H. McAlpine and E. S. McAlpine.8 Henniger was also on the Board of Directors of the Louisburg Electric, Water, and Power Company.9 This company originally brought the water main into Louisbourg to service the Dominion Coal Company but quickly became the source of water for much of the town until the 1950's.10

Henniger's plans are interesting historical records of the early development of Louisbourg and useful in indicating the location of some residences, fence lines and wharfs. They are also artefacts of a very optimistic time in the life of the town.

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