Monday, November 18, 2013

Stanfield's Limited in Truro

South Facade, Stanfield's Limited, Truro NS
Haven't heard of Stanfield's before? Unless you happen to live in a tropical climate, I expect someone in your family has a garment from Stanfield's. Those old woollen underwear your dad wore every winter—yup—they probably made them. In fact, they became known as "The Underwear Company" for their tremendous success in Canadian market.

The classic Stanfield's logo
It turns out that Stanfield's Limited actually began as Tryon Woolen Mills in 1856 in PEI and Truro didn't become it's home until 1870. After moving to Nova Scotia the business rebranded as Truro Woolen Mills, and after a number of years and another name change they incorporated as Stanfield's Limited.

The Stanfield's facility was one of the nicest locations we've visited this fall. One of the greatest pleasures on the tour was seeing high quality products being produced locally, with such pride and care. Aspects of the building's 1882 roots were still visible—beautiful brick construction, metal doors, and wood floors—but the old feeling was offset by bright new windows, computer controlled pattern-stamping equipment and laser cuttings tools. However, should you ever get a tour, you can still see many employees working behind their sewing machines and cutting patterns by hand, which one employee explained, "…was the only way there was to do it."

Naturally we had to stop in to the outlet store on our way out. There is certainly something comforting about wearing a merino wool sweater that is hand knit, dyed, cut, stitched and sewn less than 100 km away from home!

Reflection outside Stanfield's Limited Truro, NS

Monday, November 4, 2013

Industrial Cape Breton

Rail Bridge looking East, Iona, Cape Breton
For an area once known as "Industrial Cape Breton," present-day Cape Breton County has done a good job of covering up its history. Indeed, it is hard to find a community that wasn't once home to one or more coal mines during the last 200 years, but little traces are visible today. According to the NS Department of Natural Resources, there were once dozens of coal mines spread across the county. Today, even the 400 acre Sydney Steel plant has been entirely removed, and is now halfway covered by a system of public parks. The only remaining traces of the Sydney behemoth are some metal scraps, a loading crane, and a huge slag heap—unless you want to include the memorial plaque they have erected for visitors to the park.

It's not that the disappearance of these industrial places is a bad thing, as they do come with their fair share of environmental and human safety concerns—think, falling down an abandoned mine shaft, or living next to the tar ponds—but in twenty years will anyone really understand the scale of what went on in Cape Breton? Museums and memorials will play there part in reminding people of what "once was," but I expect much will be lost to the younger generations. In relation to our NS Industrial Project, if Liz and I had photographed even five years earlier, I think we would have seen a much different landscape. Thanks again to Arts Nova Scotia for making this project possible. Here is a selection of what we saw in CB recently:

Remnants of the Sydney Steel plant, Sydney, Cape Breton

Historic Miners Homes, Glace Bay, Cape Breton

Steel chunks from ingots poured years ago found while mining slag, Sydney, Cape Breton

Covering the reclaimed open-pit mine at Point Aconi, Cape Breton

Former Dominion No. 14 Mine, now a recreational park, New Waterford, Cape Breton