Shelburne Island Park Quarry

Some of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful parks and protected areas contain former mines and quarries!

The Shelburne Island Park quarry was in what we now call the Islands Provincial Park, across the harbour from Shelburne.

The granite quarry started operating in 1890. According to a 1914 report, the Shelburne Granite Company was the operator at that time. R. O. Cheney of Manchester, New York, was president of the company and T. Howland White of Shelburne was the quarry manager.

The quarry’s opening was about 100 feet long and was worked back into the hillside about 20 feet. The working face was 25 feet high at one end and 12 feet at the other.

Blocks of grey granite two-feet square and six feet long could be extracted, and the stone was good quality for building. It had unusual spots about a half-inch in diameter in it, which, when viewed from certain directions, had a glistening appearance.

In 1914, the quarry had a good mill with two steam hoists in it, two derricks, an engine and boiler in good condition, an air compressor and a wharf.

Remains of the quarry site, including a 30-foot rock face, can still be seen behind the park office building.

The quarry was operated until the early 1960s. Its last operator was the Dauphinee family of Shelburne.

Its 370-million-year-old "Scotia Grey" granite helped build many Nova Scotia buildings including the old Shelburne post office (built in 1908) and the St. Bernard Church in Digby County.

Construction on St. Bernard Church began in 1910 and took 32 years to complete because the parish was determined not to go into debt. It was built with over 8000 blocks of the granite shipped by rail from Shelburne to Little Brook Station, and then taken by ox cart over a gravel road to the construction site. Due to weather, this was only done seven months per year.

Granite from the Shelburne quarry was also used to pave Halifax’s Water Street in the 1890s. Halifax had struggled for decades to keep Water Street in decent shape despite its heavy traffic as the closest street along the busy waterfront.

In 1861-62, Water Street was covered with 18,500 bushels of stone broken by hand by prisoners and labourers. This was the main method of roadbuilding in Halifax for the next 30 years. However, the street required a great deal of repair work. It was watered each day to keep dust down and clean off mud, and thousands of loads of hand-broken stone had to be put down every year.

In 1889, the city engineer advised the mayor and council that it would be cheaper and better to take the gravel straight from the wharf to the dump instead of putting it on Water Street given the “intolerable nuisance” the gravel caused “on the first wet day.”

In 1895 the road base was topped with granite setts from the Shelburne quarry. Setts are blocks similar to cobblestones but are rectangular, not round. This surface fared much better and remained well into the 1900s until a modern road surface was laid, mainly over the blocks of Shelburne granite.