Description of Historic Place
Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada is located at the former Acadian village of Grand-Pré, beside the upper Bay of Fundy, north of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The site consists of a memorial park created to commemorate the deportation of the Acadians, who settled in the area between 1682 and 1755. The designation includes commemorative buildings, archaeological remains, landscape features and a collection of objects which reflect the presence of Acadians at the site. Official recognition refers to the property administered by Parks Canada.
Grand-Pré was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1955 for the following reasons:
- the Deportation of the Acadians;
- it was a centre of Acadian activity from 1682-1755;
- a strong attachment remains to this day among Acadians throughout the world to this area, the heart of their ancestral homeland and symbol of the ties which unite them.
The heritage value of Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada lies in its historical associations with the Acadian people and the central role it continues to play within the Acadian diaspora. This value is illustrated by the landscaping, the architecture and art that characterises the commemorative monuments, and by the physical evidence of early Acadian occupancy.
From 1682 until 1775, the village of Grand-Pré was the centre of Acadian settlement in the area of Les Mines, on the Mines Basin. In 1755, the site served as the headquarters for the deportation of over six thousand Acadians from their lands in Nova Scotia, by the British government. John Frederic Herbin purchased the site in 1907 to create a memorial park for the Acadians. In 1917, he sold the land to the Dominion Atlantic Railway, with the exception of a parcel of land intended for a memorial chapel. In 1922 the railway hired architect Percy Nobbs to design a memorial park and the Acadian Société Nationale l’Assomption hired architect René-Arthur Fréchet to construct a chapel to commemorate the original Église Saint-Charles. In addition, sculptor Philippe Hébert created a statue of Évangeline, the heroine of Acadian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Although the Deportation took place in several areas of Nova Scotia, a strong attachment to the area remains among Acadians throughout the world. In fact, for decades Acadians have come to the site either individually or in organized groups from as far away as Louisiana to connect with their history and their ancestral homeland.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1955, May 1958, June 1982; Commemorative Integrity Statement, May 1997.
As an associative landscape with both archaeological and memorial elements, key characteristics include:
- its location at the historic village Grand-Pré, north of Wolfville in Nova Scotia;
- its setting on a slightly raised plot of land;
- the Acadian Cemetery, from the period of Acadian settlement to 1755, by its exact location and limits;
- the memorial chapel in its Québec revival style typified by its small scale, rectangular massing, stepped-down side porch and rear “sacristy”, steeply pitched roof with spire set forward on the roof-ridge, the slightly bell-cast roof, the oversized entry door with round-headed lunette under front gable, fieldstone exterior walls, open vaulted interior with Renaissance-revival style decoration and statue of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, and the regular even placement of round-headed windows on the side elevations;
- the archaeological evidence of Acadian life embedded in the triangular-shaped property located at the western end of the site outside the ornamental gardens, such as the foundations of the former Acadian church, homes, and landscapes, and evidence of early Acadian life and agricultural practices;
- the archaeological collection located offsite at the Grand-Pré Interpretation Centre;
- the presence of old French willows from the beginning of Acadian presence, that are growing on the northern boundary of the site near the church;
- the viewscapes from the 4 kilometre ridge that once made up the village of Grand-Pré to the Bay of Fundy and the surrounding agricultural land.