A quarry in Cumberland County helped build some beautiful Nova Scotia buildings…that no longer exist!

The Oakley Myers Quarry in Northport was on the shore of the Northumberland Strait. Sandstone was quarried from cliffs seven metres high and shipped to Pugwash by scows (flat-bottomed boats) where Mr. Myers had a stone yard.

In 1903 the quarry, also known as the Coldspring Head quarry, had a working face about 35 feet deep and 100 feet long. The exposure of red-brown sandstone extended 200 metres along the shore.

The average price per ton at Pugwash was about $4.50.

In 1900, the Springhill post office was built with stone from the Myers quarry and bricks supplied by James Miller and Co. of Shubenacadie. The building was eighty feet tall and cost $20,000 to build, paid for by the federal government.

When a new post office was built in 1962, the old post office was renovated and became the town hall.

The old post office burned down in Springhill’s Main Street fire of 1975. An electrical problem at a restaurant caused the fire to break out. Several buildings were destroyed as the fire moved along Main St. and high winds carried embers to the roof of the post office/town hall. Within minutes, the building was engulfed in flames. To prevent the fire from going further along Church Street, a home was dynamited to contain the flames.

Stone from the Myers quarry was also used in parts of the Royal Bank of Canada building in Sydney which was demolished in 1977.

The Royal Bank was at the intersection of Charlotte and Dorchester Streets, which used to be called “Bank Corner” because there was a bank on each corner of the intersection. The Bank of Montreal building, made of sandstone from Wallace, still stands and is a museum of the Old Sydney Society. There was also a Bank of Commerce, which still stands, and a Post Office that included the Post Office Savings Bank, which catered mostly to poorer people.

The Royal Bank was built in 1901 when the Sydney steel plant, the major event in the industrialization of the area, was being built.

When the Royal Bank was demolished, the Old Sydney Society arranged for the lion statue on top of the building, the bank’s symbol, to be relocated to the corner of Esplanade and York Street, near the cruise ship terminal, where it can still be seen today.

Historically, the position of the lion on Royal Bank buildings varied according to whether the country was at war when the building was being built - standing lions for wartime, reclining lions for peacetime. The lion in Sydney was in a standing position because Britain was at war with the Boers in South Africa when the building was constructed.

The Myers quarry also provided stone for the customs house in Halifax. It was built in 1902 at the corner of Water and George streets and demolished in the late 1950s. Two large sandstone lions that stood at the base of the building’s clock tower were saved from the demolition by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Today they stand at the intersection of the Granville Mall and Duke Street in Halifax.

Thanks to the Springhill Heritage Group and the Old Sydney Society for their assistance with research. Nova Scotia has many excellent local museums and historical societies that help keep our stories alive. Many of them are focussed on the province’s geology and mining history and are great sources of information.