Description of Historic Place
Thinkers’ Lodge National Historic Site of Canada is located on a spacious property jutting out into Northumberland Strait in the small village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Thinkers’ Lodge is the birthplace of the Pugwash movement, a transnational organization for nuclear disarmament and world peace. In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs took place here, at the summer home of a wealthy businessman, Cyrus Eaton. Official recognition refers to the main building on its property, as well as the staff house and dining hall.
Thinkers’ Lodge was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2008 because:
- in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, it was the site of the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, bringing together top-level scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain to discuss the threat of nuclear weapons and establishing the influential Pugwash movement for nuclear disarmament;
- it is a lasting symbol and inspiration to the Pugwash movement and more broadly, the movement for nuclear disarmament and world peace; and,
- it has acted as a place of retreat that has encouraged reflection, discussion and exchange of ideas on a range of social issues.
The place of Thinkers’ Lodge on the world stage came out of the intersection of a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, Cyrus Eaton, and some of the most pressing issues of the era. Eaton purchased Thinkers’ Lodge and refurbished it as a summer inn, with the goal of revitalizing the economy of the village of Pugwash, which had fallen on hard times in the 1920s. A visionary philanthropist, Eaton saw the isolated village of Pugwash as an ideal location for retreats for people from many walks of life to escape the pressures of their everyday work life, to relax and refocus. In the 1950s, he began organizing and financing such gatherings with wide-ranging discussions, from the Suez situation to nuclear disarmament.
The Pugwash Conference was held at Thinkers’ Lodge in July 1957, a meeting of scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain that encouraged dialogue and understanding between East and West on the uses of nuclear power for peace and not for war. A small, but extremely eminent group of twenty-two individuals from ten countries attended, including three Nobel laureates, the vice-president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, a former director-general of the World Health Organization and the editor of the influential Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences. Informal aspects of the meeting, such as meals in the dining hall and games of croquet on the grounds were just as important to the success of the conference as the plenary sessions. The rustic and peaceful setting of Pugwash provided an atmosphere conducive to fruitful discussions and exchanges, marking a new willingness on the art of scientists to engage with world affairs and social responsibility.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2007.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its setting in landscaped parkland, on a spacious property jutting out into the Northumberland Strait;
- its location at the end of a point, somewhat removed from the rest of the village, and its quiet, peaceful setting, providing opportunities for walking, conversation and contemplation;
- the spirit and design of the harmonized landscape which may include the lawn, trees, shrubbery and flower throughout the property;
- the two-storey, fourteen-room main house, with its layered history of successive additions, including those by Cyrus Eaton, its function as a retreat, its Cape Cod style and coherence as a whole;
- the dining hall, a converted lobster factory, located near the water at the south end of the property, evidence of the use of the property as an informal retreat;
- the two-storey staff house, located at the edge of the property, constructed in a style similar to the main house, contributing to the retreat character of the property;
- its interior layout and furnishings, including its informal Great Room and furnished guest rooms, which attest to its role as a retreat;
- artefacts and objects directly related to the Pugwash Conference and the Movement including a collection of university chairs and gifts from participants over the years;
- viewpoints from the house to the Northumberland Strait and the surrounding landscape;
- its continued function as a retreat, with a continuing focus on Eaton’s interest in peace, education and economic development.