Description of Historic Place
The Lamp Cabin Building is located on Industrial Park Drive in Springhill, Nova Scotia. Sitting at the entrance to what is now the Springhill Industrial Park and formerly the main mine site, the Lamp Cabin Building is visible from much of the commercial section of the town. The building and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Lamp Cabin Building is valued for its close association with the history of coal mining in Springhill and as one of a few remaining mining related structures in Nova Scotia.
The Spring Hill Mining Company was incorporated in 1879. Two years later, the Springhill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company was incorporated. These two acts paralleled the rapid transformation of the small farming community into a major industrial town. The population swelled to fill the jobs at the mines and by the 1890s thousands were employed in the mines.
The history of mining in Springhill has been plagued with disasters. The first, in 1891, consisted of a fire which swept through two collieries, killing one-hundred-and-twenty-five miners and injured many more. The scale of the disaster was unprecedented in Nova Scotia and relief supplies came from across Canada and the British Empire. Such explosions, often caused when the light of the miners’ lamps came into contact with gases in the pits, did much to define the history of coal mining and led to continually improving lamp technology.
The Lamp Cabin Building was part of the larger Springhill mines complex. The current building was erected in three phases. The original portion constitutes the western end of the existing structure. Built between 1901-1902, the building served as a place for miners to store their lamps, and also to do any maintenance to them. Upon entering the site, miners walked through the building, picked up their lamps and walked out the end door, which lead directly to the pit head and then underground.
The east end of the building was originally the Switch House (or Power House) was constructed at the same time as the Lamp Cabin section, with a yard between the two structures. It housed the heavy electrical equipment to power the mine. In 1945 the yard was in-filled, resulting in one long structure.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the Springhill mines continued to develop, and were especially spurred on by the demands of World War II. In 1942, the “Springhill Record” described the Springhill mines as the deepest in Canada (over 3050 metres) employing over 1,600 men. The harshness of life in the mines was a constant for the residents of Springhill. Earthquakes, known as “bumps” were not uncommon. In 1956, then worst of these “bumps,” caused by an explosion, killed thirty-nine miners. Two years later, another "bump" killed seventy-five men, and trapped nineteen other miners underground. Twelve men were rescued after six days; the other seven miners spent a total of eight-and-a-half days trapped underground. News of the disaster was broadcast internationally. The citizens of the town of Springhill were collectively awarded the Carnegie Medal for Bravery. Although limited slope mining continued in Springhill until 1970, the 1958 disaster signalled the beginning of the end of coal as the defining element of the community.
The Lamp Cabin building sits at the foot of Main Street, at the entrance to what is now an industrial park and formerly the main mine site. It is a red brick masonry structure, rectangular in plan, with a slightly pitched hipped roof. Incorporated into the four building elevations are: several large window openings with segmental arches and radiating voussoirs of a buff coloured brick, and both red sandstone and concrete sills; doorways of a similar design; various bricked up openings, including both window and doorways; and two later doorways with concrete lintels and sills. A brick cornice with simple corbel-like profile is also evident. Visible from much of the commercial section of the town, the Lamp Cabin Building is the only major architectural artifact remaining from the early days of coal mining, and a well known landmark.
Source: Province Heritage Property files, no. 226.
Character-defining elements relating to the Lamp Cabin Building include:
- brick masonry construction;
- rectangular in plan;
- slightly pitched hip roof;
- several large window openings with segmental arches and radiating voussoirs, and both sandstone and concrete sills;
- doorways of a similar design to the windows;
- prominent location at the entrance to the industrial park/former mine site;
- all original and historic interior elements related to its use as a lamp storage and maintenance building.