At the time, I didn’t know what to make of the piles of stone and structural timbers lying on the shore at the edge of town in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. It has taken me a while to realise that they could probably be historical remains, industrial archaeology if you wish, a window on the past commercial activities and prosperity of Annapolis Royal.
Apparently, in the mid-19th century, apples grown in the Annapolis Valley were the main crop of the region, and there was a big demand for them in Great Britain. There was no problem transporting them to Annapolis Royal from the farms in the Valley because the western terminus of the railroad ended near the Annapolis Royal waterfront. The problem lay in getting the apples stored safely over winter and then shipping them to Britain, and dealing with the twice daily tides that made it difficult to load ships.
The solution arrived in 1881with a ship builder called Laurence Delap and a banker, Thomas Spurr Whitman, who set up the Acadia Steamship Company, and built a 300 foot pier extending out into the channel so that ships could be loaded at any stage of the tide. They also constructed a large apple storage warehouse, insulated with sawdust, on the pier itself.
The pier structure, as well as the wharves were built box-like from whole tree timbers in-filled with boulders for stability and strength. Similar modern structures can be seen nearer town, supporting residential property, as well as a more recent revetment (possibly a restoration or reconstruction) further upstream near the beach strewn with the historical remains – see photograph 12). The piles of boulders representing the long pier belonging to the Acadia Steamship Company, can still be seen extending out into the channel – see images 2, 3, and 10.
At a later date, Whitman extended his business interests to the export of lumber and salt fish. The fish were destined for markets in the West Indies and South America, and were dried using a patented process that Whitman himself invented, using artificial heat.
The wooden buildings, wharves and piers needed for all the commercial activity, including, ship building, no doubt stretched all along the shoreline on the edge of town. The businesses continued into the twentieth century before faltering. The wooden waterfront structures eventually became abandoned and derelict; and today only the timber pilings survive in disarray – like the bones of by-gone days scattered amongst the boulders on the muddy beach.
COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2013
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