Description of Historic Place
Fort Petrie is located in New Victoria, on the eastern shore of Sydney Harbour, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It consists of remnants of a World War II era fortifications. Located on a flat piece of cleared land next to the ocean, the observation tower is clearly visible from the road and is a local landmark. Cape Breton Municipality has designated the buildings, underground fortifications, gun emplacements and land as a municipal heritage property.
Fort Petrie is valued for its historical associations with the defense of Sydney Harbour; for its significant role in the Battle of the Atlantic; and for its role in the protection of the North Atlantic shipping routes, during World War II.
The fortifications were constructed in 1939 by E.G.M. Cape and Company, however it was not the first military installation on the site. In the eighteenth century the site was the location of a block house, built to defend the harbour. The current fort was erected in response to the growing threat of German invasion, and to protect merchant ships and convoys. At the time of World War II, the role Sydney Harbour played in the protection of local industry (coal, steel, and cod fish), convoys and naval ships was second only to Halifax. Sydney Harbour was to be the home of the British Navy in the event of a successful German invasion of the British Isles.
During the war, Fort Petrie consisted of a battery observation post, temporary gun placements, a radar and communications tower (C.D.X. tower), an above ground powerhouse, as well as an underground two-storey structure housing a pair of ammunition magazines, an artificer's workshop, three elevators for ammunition, two main stairwells, two escape tunnels (in case of fire), and two rooms for which a purpose has yet to be identified. The site also included two Coastal Artillery Search Lights (CASL) that were powered by independent diesel electric generators housed underground.
The fort was decommissioned in 1956. The communication tower was demolished in 1968, however a 1991 injunction prevented further destruction of the site following public out-cry. Restoration was started and in 1998 Fort Petrie became a museum commemorating veterans and the role fortifications along the coast of Cape Breton. It remains a local landmark and a testament to the vital role Sydney Habour played in the defense of Nova Scotia and Canada.
Source: Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Municipal Heritage files, Fort Petrie
Character-defining elements of Fort Petrie include all elements related to its role as a fortification and communication post and include:
- location on flat, cleared piece of land on shore of Sydney Harbour;
- concrete underground fortifications that include two stairwells and storage rooms;
- gun emplacements;
- all remnants of fortifications;
- searchlight, communications tower and observation post.
Character-defining elements of the battery observation post include:
- location set back from gun emplacements and underground elements;
- close to and facing Sydney Harbour;
- clapboard exterior;
- gable roof;
- adjoining concrete, three-storey, conical roofed, octagonal tower;
- two sets of clerestory windows with awnings on tower facing Sydney Harbour;
- third storey windows extending around tower;