Description of Historic Place
Springhill Coal Mining National Historic Site of Canada is a former coal mine located in an industrial park in Springhill, Nova Scotia. The site consists of in situ surface and underground mining features that are unique to Nova Scotia, including the entrances to the infamous Nos. 2 and 4 mines, a series of brick buildings, and a pond and spillway system used for steam hoisting engines. The focal point of the site is the one-storey redbrick building known as the lamp cabin, dating from the early 1900s. Official recognition refers to the various natural and man-made lines to that form an irregular site enclosing a concentration of resources related to the mining operations at Nos. 2 and 4 mines.
Springhill Coal Mining was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1997 because:
- it was one of Canada’s most commercially important coalfields and, together with fields in Cape Breton and Pictou, Springhill played a central role in serving markets in the Maritimes and Quebec, and in fuelling the railway and manufactories that stimulated Nova Scotia’s industrialization between the late-19th century and the 1940s;
- the surviving in situ surface and underground mining features, which are collectively more complete than any other in the province, illustrate important coal-mining themes such as the roles of entrepreneurship, labour, mining communities, and technology;
- Springhill’s coal mines were subject to bumps and explosions, taking a terrible toll in lives.
The heritage value of Springhill Coal Mining lies in its historical associations with coal mining in Nova Scotia from the late-19th century until the 1940s. Coal extraction began in Springhill in 1873, marking the beginning of intensive coal mining in Canada. Between 1867 and 1914, Nova Scotia was the leading producer of coal, based on the markets for domestic and industrial fuel and post-confederation tariff protection that encouraged the expansion of industrial activity in Nova Scotia. The Springhill coalfields played an important role in supplying the Maritimes, Quebec, the railways and the manufactories in the early-20th century. The in situ mining resources located at the site represent various coal-mining themes, including the roles of entrepreneurship, labour and technology, and the importance of mining communities.
Safety was an issue of vital concern for the miners. A host of factors including soft rock, the prevalence of gas, difficulty of ventilation, restricted working spaces and the use of explosives, all contributed to making coal mining one of Canada’s most dangerous occupations. As the workforce increased in size, large disasters began to occur in the mines, such as the 1891 Springhill disaster in which 125 people were killed. The sites of Nos. 2 and 4 mines would eventually become infamous as the locations of the two great Springhill mining disasters of 1956 and 1958.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2002.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its location in Springhill, Nova Scotia;
- its siting in an industrial park, reflecting many of the characteristics of a typical surface plant;
- the integrity of the site’s original configuration from the period of coal-mining operation, reflected in the layout of the brick buildings, the pond and spillway, the sealed pitheads of Nos. 2 and 4 mines, and the Syndicate Mine;
- the industrial remains relating to Nos. 2 and 4 mines, including, any above-ground evidence of mining surface plants, the sealed pitheads of the mines, the empty field where the entrances to the mines stood, the pond and the spillway;
- the largely brick construction of the operational buildings reflecting the nature of their function in the context of heavy industry, including:
- the one-storey redbrick building known as the lamp cabin, which includes the original lamp cabin built in 1900-1901, a free-standing structure used as an electrical building, dating from the early 1900s, and a third brick section added in 1945;
- the small brick structure formerly used as an on-site manager’s office;
- the concrete pad where a wash house with a pay office addition once stood;
- the masonry structure near the lamp cabin that was used as a fan house and auxiliary hoist;
- the small wood-frame building originally built as a nursing hospital;
- the brick building erected in 1951 to house the main electric hoist for mine Nos. 2 and 4, the adjacent concrete floor associated with the previous steam hoist, and the ‘new’ machine shop;
- the underground slopes at the Syndicate Mine (now Springhill Miner’s Museum), with its underground slopes, crosscuts, levels, timbering and stoppings to control ventilation;
- original mechanisms and structures at the Syndicate Mine required for the mine’s haulage, ventilation and pumping systems, and original hoist machinery;
- viewscapes throughout the complex as a whole.