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< Reply # 170 on 2/22/2009 6:30 PM >
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From yesterday's Chronicle Herald
McNabs fort to get facelift
DND to restore first floor of former officers’ barracks
By CHRIS LAMBIE Staff Reporter
The military plans to preserve a portion of historic fortifications at McNabs Island that came under the gun last year.
Several politicians and a former soldier who once served at the site complained last February after The Chronicle Herald revealed Defence Construction Canada’s plan to demolish part of Fort Hugonin, on the northwest edge of the island in the mouth of Halifax Harbour.
A recent tender shows the federal government still intends to remove hazardous materials, including asbestos, lead or PCBs contaminating the property, but it also wants to preserve parts of the officers’ barracks, a building that dates back to 1899.
"Our understanding is that they are going to remove the dilapidated second storey of the building, which has been leaking since the early 1990s, so it’s in quite bad shape," said Cathy McCarthy, president of the Friends of McNabs Island Society.
"Then they’re going to restore the main floor."
The building’s second storey was added in the 1950s to house a navy listening post that monitored ship traffic. While losing that relatively new section doesn’t bother society members, they weren’t happy with last year’s plans to tear down the whole building.
"We heard through The Herald that the site was going to be completely demolished, and we were a little upset about that and we contacted the Department of National Defence," Ms. McCarthy said Friday.
The work is expected to cost about $230,000. CFB Halifax spokesman Mike Bonin confirmed Friday that historic portions of the barracks will be preserved.
"After the Friends of McNabs Island raised their concerns we did go back and have a second look at the project, and this is now a result of the historical study," Mr. Bonin said.
After conducting the historical review of the property and an engineering study that showed the ground floor is still sound, the military decided to save the bottom section of the building, Ms. McCarthy said.
"We’d like to see it eventually interpreted as a piece of Canada’s military history," she said. "We would hope to see interpretation panels put up with information about the building, as well as the other military sites on the island, once it gets developed as a provincial park."
As well as serving as the officers’ barracks, it was also the site of a school for young island dwellers between the two world wars, Ms. McCarthy said.
"Some of our members actually went to the school there, so it’s got quite a varied history," she said.
McNabs Island was named a provincial park in 2002, but some pockets remain in private hands and Ottawa owns others.
Fort Hugonin consists of four quick-firing gun emplacements, subterranean magazines, crew shelters and several associated buildings.
The military used one of the buildings until 1992 as a listening post to monitor ship traffic in the harbour.
It has since declared Hugonin surplus and there has been talk of handing the property over to the province.
Bruce Oland, a former soldier who was stationed at Fort Hugonin during the Second World War, was appalled last year when the federal government wanted to tear it down.
He was pleased to learn Fri-day those plans have changed.
"I think it’s great; they should preserve everything that they can because it might not mean so much today, but it will in time," said Mr. Oland, who was stationed at Fort Hugonin and Fort McNab in 1939 and 1940 as part of the 1st Halifax Coast Brigade of the Canadian army.
"I think it means a lot to Halifax."
DND will restore part of the officers’ barracks at Fort Hugonin on McNabs Island. The fort dates back to 1899 and the property was used as a navy listening post until 1992. The Friends of McNabs Island would like to see information panels set up at the fort. The photo at left (above) is undated and shows the building in use. At right (below) is a recent photo of the abandoned building.(Contributed)
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