Along with other national parks and historical sites, Fortress Louisburg (Port Royal), Canada’s largest 18th century French town, is marking its 100th anniversary of Parks Canada this summer.
The original fortress was planned by a French architect in 1720, and expanded 20 years later. It was the most extensive and expensive European construction project of the time in North America, and was designed as a key port that relied on sea products, fishing, and maritime traffic.
For a long time Louisburg was North America’s third busiest port after Boston, and Philadelphia.
In 1719 Louisburg had a population of 823, which grew to 4176 in 1752. It was large and populous enough to contain several districts, i.e commercial, residential, markets, inns, taverns and impressive administrative buildings including courts and penitentiaries.
The economy of Louisbourg depended on port activates, exports of furs and pelts, fishery, particularly cod and scallops.
The English attacked Louisbourg several times and ultimately burned it to the ground in 1758 forcing the population to flee to Louisiana. The descendents are called Cajun in that state and are known for their joie de vivre, and a French dialect long forgotten.
At the time, Port Royal as the French called it, like most other towns and villages had no running water and sanitary installations. Residents simply emptied their night pots on the streets. There is no document in existence recording diseases related to such unhygienic behaviour.
The region surrounding Sydney, Nova Scotia, the city nearest to Louisbourg today, has traditionally high unemployment. History buffs convinced both the provincial and federal governments of the time to recreate Port Royal based on archival plans as true to the original as possible, to create a tourist site, and generate welcome tourism activities including related employment in 1960
The reconstruction represents approximately 25 per cent of the original and took several years to build at great expense, and as true to the original as possible.
Today, Port Royal is a national historic site.
Once you park your car in the designated area (at a distance), a shuttle bus will transport you to the entrance.
Here you can choose between a guided or unguided tour. If you are lucky to have a well-informed, talented and enthusiastic guide, you will relive the life of the residents for the duration of your visit.
The tour takes 2 – 2 1/2/ hours. By the end of the tour you will have a good idea how settlers in the 18th century lived in a “planned” city.
The management also offers period menus in large “restaurants” featuring authentic recipes served in pewter bowls.
A visit to Louisbourg or Port Royal is an experience one will never forget.