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Grassy Island Fort National Historic Site of Canada

Canso, Nova Scotia, B0H, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1962/11/26

View of Grassy Island Fort, showing the siting of the fort on the highest point of land on Grassy Island, 1989.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1989.
View of the fort
View of Grassy Island Fort, showing the remains of a building, 2001.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, P. Kell, 2001.
View of remains
View of Grassy Island Fort, showing the remains at the fort, 1989.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1989.
View of the fort

Other Name(s)

Grassy Island Fort National Historic Site of Canada
Grassy Island Fort
Fort de l'Île Grassy

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1720/01/01 to 1735/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/03/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Grassy Island Fort National Historic Site of Canada is the remnant of 18th-century British fortifications situated on Grassy Island, one of a group of islands off the eastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia known together as the Canso Islands National Historic Site of Canada. The designation consists of the area within the footprint of the fort as outlined by the ramparts.

Heritage Value

Grassy Island Fort was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1962 because:
- it was an important fishing base that was developed first in the 16th century by the French and subsequently, during the first half of the 18th century, by the British when it became the economic mainstay of Nova Scotia and a key centre for the English cod fishery;
- it was a point of contention and the scene of several combats between the British, and the allied French and Mi’kmaq in the first half of the 18th century; and
- it was the staging point for the British and New England expedition led by Sir William Pepperrell and Sir Peter Warren against the French stronghold of Louisbourg in 1745.

The heritage value of Grassy Island Fort lies in its historical associations with the fishing industry since the pre-contact era and with the French-English struggle for control of Canada, as illustrated by the site and its archaeological remains. Since the Canso Islands were the centre of rich fishing grounds, fortifications were constructed twice on Grassy Island Fort to protect them. Neither survived for long. A small redoubt (1720) and fort (1723-24) were built by the order of New England Governor Richard Philipps but fell into ruins in the 1730s. Edward Howe constructed a blockhouse in 1735 that was burnt during a French attack in May 1744.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 2001; Commemorative Integrity Statement, February 2003.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- the siting of the fort on the highest point of land on Grassy Island;
- the remains of the 1720 redoubt, 1723-24 fort, and the 1745 blockhouse in their location, extent and materials, both above and below ground;
- the evidence of 18th-century military life found at the site and stored off-site by Parks Canada;
- the orientation and inter-relationship of defensive features to one another and to the sea;
- the setting of the fort within an area of cleared land within a low scrub landscape;
- the cobble beach of Grassy Island;
- the viewscapes from the fort to the Canso Island anchorage, to the main 16th- to 18th-century approaches to fishing banks, to the main seaward entrance to Canso Harbour, and to the surrounding islands.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1962/11/26

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1600/01/01 to 1800/01/01
1745/01/01 to 1745/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Hunting and Gathering
Developing Economies
Extraction and Production

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum

Historic

Defence
Military Defence Installation

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

Edward Howe

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

261

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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