Over the past few weeks I have posted some pictures from a collection of images taken by Kenneth D. Harris, chief architect for the reconstruction of the Port Royal Habitation in 1939. I am still as excited about this collection as I was when they arrived unexpectedly by mail in 2002. While the images are of wonderful quality and help to document the building of a structure, they are also more than this. This collection chronicles a community’s efforts to ensure that its history would not be forgotten. It also marks the beginning of a new way for our community to tell its story to the world. Since 1939, countless people have walked the grounds at the Habitation and learned the stories of early French exploration.
Like the original Habitation, the reconstruction has had a transformative effect on the landscape and the people who live around the Annapolis Basin. The original Habitation of 1605 was the first European construction in this part of Nova Scotia. From this location the French would establish a lasting friendship with the Mi’Kmaq and introduce European drama to a new continent. They would also embark on a 150 year long conflict with the British for control of North America.
The reconstruction of the Habitation is the backbone of the local tourism industry. Cars and busses from around the world arrive at the gates of Port Royal. The visitors in these vehicles come to see the site and speak with the interpreters. They can learn about the hardships of the settlers, see the conditions in which they lived and form a connection with history. Today, where living history sites are fairly common, we have grown to expect this sort of personal connection with the past. This was not the case in 1939. The Habitation is the first major historic reconstruction in Canada. This site pioneered a new way of communicating stories of our heritage to the general public.
The final images in this rebuilding the Port Royal Habitation series show the site as it appeared during its first winter. The four gentlemen in the second image are (from left to right) Lt. Colonel E.K. Eaton, Honourary Superintendant at Fort Anne, Kenneth D. Harris, Albert E. Parker, Caretaker, and C.B. Allen, Foreman of Construction.
All for now,