Description of Historic Place
The Louisbourg Navy League Building is located on the harbour side of Main Street in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. This two-and-a-half storey wood frame building was built in 1941. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Louisbourg Navy League Building is valued because it is among the very few surviving examples in the nation of a building erected during the Second World War by the Navy League of Canada to serve as a hostel for merchant seaman and members of the Armed Forces.
Louisbourg Harbour has been a destination of seafarers since the sixteenth century. In 1842, its significance was marked by the erection of a lighthouse. At the end of the eighteenth century, the harbour became the focus of industrial activity as the terminus of the Sydney & Louisbourg Railway. During both World Wars, the harbour played an important role as a safe haven, a staging area for small convoys and a fuelling stop for ships.
The increased wartime activity in and around the harbour was anticipated by a women's group in Louisbourg, the Louisbourg Community Club. In September 1941, they called a meeting to discuss a way to provide entertainment for the increasing number of men who would be visiting Louisbourg. The Community Club invited the Sydney branch of the Navy League of Canada to send a delegation to Louisbourg.
The Navy League had its beginning in the United Kingdom in 1895 as a society whose primary aim was to ensure adequate naval defence. The first Canadian branch was formed that same year and was soon active in making submissions to the Dominion Government on the need for maritime defence and a naval reserve training program. During the First World War, the League involved itself in recruiting naval and merchant navy personnel, the operation of hostels for seafaring men, the provision of services to the dependents of seamen and, in the final stages of the war, the rehabilitation of naval veterans. Between the wars, the League continued to support a Canadian merchant marine and maintained hostels. During the Second World War, the league operated twenty-four hostels in various ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The 1941 meeting with the Navy League was successful. The Louisbourg Navy League was officially organized in October 1941. The Navy League of Canada provided the costs for a building and furnishings. The contract was awarded to J.W. Stephens of Sydney. When the building was completed, it contained a kitchen, dry canteen, two showers, three toilets, a reading and writing room and a main room for dancing and entertainment.
The Louisbourg Navy League Building became the focal point during the war for Louisbourg and many local civilians participated in the operation of the facility. After the war, the Navy League Building continued to be used by merchant seaman. In 1955 the building became the base for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps in Louisbourg. The building was also used for many community activities including Brownies and eighteenth-century military drumming instruction for the Fortress of Louisbourg Volunteers. In 1986 the Navy League sold the building to the Louisbourg Lions Club. The building has since been sold and is now owned privately.
The Navy League Building is a two-and-a-half storey wood frame structure, with a one-and-a-half storey rear addition, both with gable roofs. There is a small entrance porch with a pedimented gable as well. Sitting on the harbour side of Main Street, this building is an excellent example of a Second World War era Navy League hostel.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 188, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of the Louisbourg Navy League Building include:
- two-and-a-half storey wood frame construction;
- one-and-a-half storey wood frame rear addition;
- entrance porch with pedimented gable;
- wood cladding;
- prominent location on the harbour side of Main Street.