Boularderie Island

There were several sandstone quarries on Cape Breton’s Boularderie Island in the 1800s that helped build key infrastructure, including St. Peter’s Canal and the Intercolonial Railway.

John McDermott’s quarry in Boularderie West provided stone for the Intercolonial Railway in the early 1890s. Its payroll in that period was about $1,300 per month. Solid blocks of stone, as long as 16 feet, were produced from an excavation 75-feet length.

Duncan Grant also had a quarry in Boularderie West, not far from the McDermott quarry, on the opposite side of St. Andrews Channel from Barrachois. It was on a small brook where water had exposed the stone. It was 200 metres south of Kempt Head Road and 200 metres west of the Victoria County-Cape Breton County line.

Stone was also extracted about four miles northeast of the Grant and McDermott quarries, at various points along the shore and in the ravine of Black Brook.

At least 10,000 tons of Boularderie Island sandstone were reportedly used in the enlargement of the St. Peters Canal in the mid to late 1870s. Construction of the canal started in 1854 when a passage about 800 metres long was cut through the narrowest point of land to provide access to the Bras d’Or Lake from the Atlantic Ocean. After fifteen years of digging, blasting, and drilling, an opening averaging 30 metres wide had been cut through a solid granite hill 20 metres high. The canal opened in 1869 but a major rebuilding program began in 1876 to deepen and enlarge it. A new, larger lock was also built just west of the original lock. The canal reopened in October 1880.

The canal was at times an important shipping route for the mining industry. The Marble Mountain quarry used it and during both world wars, coal was shipped through the canal to keep it inland, protected from enemy submarine attacks in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sandstone from Bouladerie Island was also used in building Sydney’s second courthouse, which was built in 1868 on DesBarres Street, and in Baddeck’s Gilbert H. Grosvenor Hall.

Bouladerie Island used to be called Isle de Verderonne but it was renamed after Sieur Louis Simon de St. Aubin, Chevalier de la Boularderie, a French officer who had been stationed at Port Royal and later at Louisbourg. In 1719, he was granted Bouladerie Island and adjacent territory as a reward for his service.

St. Peter’s Canal