Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 5
   May 2012
 
   The Reconstruction of a National Historic Site
 

Port-Royal National Historic Site
Port-Royal National Historic Site, located in Nova Scotia, Canada

In 1605, a group of French colonists built the Habitation at Port-Royal on the shore of the Annapolis River in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. Led by voyager and merchant Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, the group also included renowned explorer and mapmaker Samuel de Champlain, whose diaries provide vivid descriptions of life at Port-Royal. As a result of the power struggle between French and English forces, the wooden Habitation was burned to the ground in 1613 by a Virginian raiding party on orders from England. More than 300 years later, a group of persuasive American and Canadian preservationists successfully lobbied the Canadian government to rebuild this important historic site.

In the summer of 1939, architectural student Ronald Morse Peck from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, was hired to assist the Dominion of Canada's project architect K.D. Harris during the construction of the replica. The student's comprehensive notes provided the research for this article. Although he details many fascinating accounts of the construction process, including the manufacturing of handmade bricks that were formed and kiln fired on site, this article focuses on some of the techniques used to create the wood frame and the wooden roof shingles.

As the reconstruction occurred during the Great Depression, there was no shortage of available laborers, many of whom were highly skilled wooden boat builders. They came from all parts of Nova Scotia, eager to work. It was considered essential that construction methods remain faithful to those the French colonists would have used in the early 1600s, so the builders used broad axes and adzes to work the logs and mortise-and-tenon joints secured with oak pegs to frame up the walls and roof trusses. No 20th century machinery was on site.
 
 
             
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