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Report 1902: A Quick Scamper Round Nova Scotia

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 8 of 16: Building Styles in the Fortress of Louisbourg

photo by Michael

Chevalier House and warehouse

The town was designed and built on a strict grid pattern with blocks. If existing houses lay across the grids, owners were encouraged to pull them down. There were strict rules governing the development of vacant lots, the construction of buildings (broken bottoms of glass bottles to be used in the foundations to deter rodents), penning of animals in back yards and clearing ice away from houses.

A range of different building styles and techniques can be seen around the Fortress.

Early houses were made of ‘Piquet’ (vertical log construction) as buildings could be erected quickly. Trees were stripped of their branches and set in a trench in the ground. They were clinked with mortar to keep out cold winds and snow. Some were covered with wooden boards to increase insulation. Rough hewn boards were used for roofs with sod to provide insulation.

'Charpente' (half timber frame) was more expensive and used for larger houses of high ranking officers. The frame was built from thick square timbers fitted together using mortise and tenon joints held by a wooden pin. Infil depended on financial status. Piquet was the cheapest with wooden poles placed between the timbers and held in place by mortar. Masonry and decorative brick infil was more expensive. These could be cold so some houses were covered inside and outside with boards for extra warmth. The exterior covering also helped protect the mortar from the corrosive effects of fog and salt air.

A lime kiln was built behind the Lartigue House. Lime was shipped from quarries in Port Dauphin (Englishtown) and Bais des Espagnols (Sydney). Virtually all the town structures were held together by mortar made from mixing sand and slaked quick lime.

Local limestone contained traces of sandstone which weakened the mortar. It also suffered from freeze thaw action in winter, so masonry structures began to crumble after a few years.

Boston Boards (made from specially imported hardwood) were used to cover masonry and to line the quays to protect them.

Window glass was imported and cut into small panes and fitted into a latticed wooden frame using glued paper. Wooden shutters were used at night and also as protection against blowing snow.

Steeply pitched roofs stopped snow from settling and flared eaves directed it into the street. Hand shaped shingles were firmly nailed onto closely beveled roof boards to try and stop fine blowing snow getting in.

Most houses had a garden and yard attached, which were used to grow vegetables and keep animals. Many people kept geese, hens, turkeys, pigs, goats and sheep. Cabbages, beans, turnips, carrots, herbs (parsley, chives, basil and thyme) and medicinal plants were grown. Potatoes were regarded with distrust and people preferred to fill up on bread. Chickens were only killed for the pot when they stopped laying. Meat was not eaten on Friday or Saturdays.

The Governor had a dove cote and kept 21 cows in his garden.

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