Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rebuilding the Port Royal Habitation Part 2

Today’s post is a second installment from the collection of archival images taken by Kenneth D. Harris the architect for the reconstruction of the Port Royal Habitation. Surprisingly, much of the effort behind the reconstruction of the Port Royal Habitation did not come from Nova Scotia. When it came to the construction, the workers were largely local, but it was an American woman named Harriet Taber Richardson who worked to make the construction possible. Richardson was a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Like many visitors, she was transfixed with the romance of the early French settlement at Port Royal. The stories of men like Samuel de Champlain and Sieur de Poutrincourt trying to survive in an unknown environment and hostile climate have been the fodder for many romantic visions. Unlike other visitors, Richardson’s romantic visions had very a concrete form.

Locally, she began to rally support to undertake archaeological work to find the location of the original Habitation. Unable to raise the necessary funds in Nova Scotia during the Great Depression, she began fundraising in Massachusetts and Virginia. With money in hand, C.C. Pinckney, an archaeologist with experience at Williamsburg, Stratford and Mount Vernon, was hired to oversee the archaeological work in Lower Granville (now renamed Port Royal). It is believed today that Pinckney was close to the location of the Habitation but not exactly correct. The location deemed to be the central well at the Habitation was more likely the location of a forgotten 19th century well. Without the benefit of hindsight, Richardson continued to raise funds with a new plan in mind; the reconstruction of the entire site.

As the Depression worsened, funding for the reconstruction proved somewhat more elusive. Fortunately for Richardson, the Canadian government was looking to invest in projects which would get people working. (Would this be poor timing to remind our current federal government that depression era spending on a heritage project is still paying dividends seventy years later?) With assistance from Ottawa, a crew of local workers were hired to begin work on a reconstruction based on Pinckney's archaeological work and detailed research in France. The Habitation opened to the public in 1940.
All for now

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