McKeens Quarry

McKeens Quarry in Pictou County is one of the oldest quarries in Nova Scotia. It began producing sandstone in the mid-1800s under the name Fogo Quarry and was worked continuously until the 1940s. It was later quarried to produce rock fill and armour stone.

McKeens stone was used in many heritage buildings, including the Charlottetown legislature and New Glasgow’s Town Hall which was built 1884-1887…at a cost of $43,285.61! It was commissioned by Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald, one of 78 Post Offices/Custom Houses he built across Canada. It was also briefly the town's courthouse. The Town of New Glasgow bought the building after the old Town Hall was severely damaged by fire in 1957.

McKeens also provided the stone for the building at 28 Willow St. in Pictou which was built in 1890 for $11,000 by Melville McKean, son of Adam MacKean (more on them below). It was originally the Pictou jail but a prisoner set the building on fire in 1969. It was condemned after the fire but was renovated by the Municipality of Pictou County.

In addition to Fogo, the McKeens Quarry was also likely once called the Belleville Quarry.
Figuring out the history of old quarries can sometimes be challenging for several reasons. Their names often changed based on who operated them in a particular period. They often crossed property lines as they developed which makes it harder to pinpoint locations and ownership. Also, there were often several small quarries in an area, which can make it difficult to identify each of them, especially since historical maps were hand-drawn and therefore imprecise.

McKeens Quarry is also an example of how inaccuracies in record-keeping can muddy the historical record. The Belleville Quarry was operated at one point by Adam McKean and Sons, Architects & Builders, whose offices were on Chapman St. in Pictou. It’s likely that Adam McKean (with an A) is the same person for whom the McKeen Quarry (with two Es) is named and that the spelling was altered at some point. The quarry’s name has also been written with an apostrophe to indicate that “McKean” owned it (i.e. McKeen's Quarry) and just as McKeen Quarry (without an S).

New Glasgow Town Hall