Description of Historic Place
The Commercial Cable Building is an imposing brick and granite structure overlooking Hazel Hill Lake in Hazel Hill, NS. Both the two-and-a-half storey building and the land are included in the municipal designation.
The Commercial Cable Building is valued for its age; its role in the development of the community; its enduring importance in maintaining the heritage character of Hazel Hill; for its role in the development of global communications technology; and as one of the few surviving trans-Atlantic cable stations in North America.
The Commercial Cable Company established operations outside Canso in the early 1880s. The area was favoured by the Company as the closest point of land to run their cable from Europe to mainland North America. Built at the beginning of the hey-day of cable communications, the station carried messages (daily average of three thousand) from all over the world, including important breaking news such as the sinking of the “Titanic,” and the end of World War I, making the station a vital link in communication for North American newspapers. The station was also a key part of communication between the London and New York stock exchanges.
To operate the station, engineers, skilled workers and their families were brought from England. To support this influx a small, formally planned community surrounding the station was established. Hazel Hill was one of the few planned ‘white collar’ communities in North America. To support its highly educated workforce, the Commercial Cable Company not only built its employees new and stylish homes, but amenities such as a tennis court, cricket field, curling rink, and a manager’s home complete with a ballroom. The community differed greatly from the nearby fishing community of Canso, which often lead to conflicts between the two communities.
The Commercial Cable Building is one of the few surviving trans-Atlantic cable stations. Built in 1888, it is Neo-classical in style and is a sharp departure from the mainly vernacular surrounding architecture of the Canso area. In 1899 an addition was added that kept within the form and massing of the original building, however the addition does not follow the arched window openings of the original portion of the building. Instead they consist of granite caps and sills. The size, attention to detail, and cutting edge elements such as a suspended concrete floor, illustrates the vital role of the industry at the time and the success of the Company in the global marketplace.
The Company ceased operations in 1962 and the building slowly fell into disrepair; however many original elements remain, including the trans-Atlantic cables, arched windows, masonry work, and arched entrance. The building remains a landmark in the area and together with the remaining company houses provides a tangible link to a period in the area’s history when it was at the centre of global communications.
Source: Municipality of the District of Guysborough Heritage Property files, Commercial Cable Building.
Character-defining elements of the Commercial Cable Building include:
- form and massing;
- location over-looking Hazel Hill Lake;
- granite foundation;
- brick building materials;
- metal seamed roof;
- granite sills and caps in 1899 section;
- cast iron gutters;
- hipped roof.
Character-defining elements of the Commercial Cable Building relate to its Neo-classical style and include:
- arched main entrance;
- arched windows (1888 section);
- corbelled brick and gutter;
- arched windows in gabled second storey forming enclosed main entrance;
- arched transom above main door.
Interior character-defining elements of the Commercial Cable Building relate to its original use as a trans-Atlantic cable station and include:
- remnants of trans-Atlantic cable;
- remains of mosaic tile floor;
- pressed metal ceiling;
- remnants of original trim;
- arched interior walls and doorways;
- remnants of suspended concrete floor in addition.