Com­mu­nity rec­og­nized Plaque un­veiled to mark his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of Whit­ney Pier

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY DAVID JALA

A new plaque sits in front of the Melt­ing Pot Mon­u­ment in the heart of Whit­ney Pier, but its in­scrip­tion ac­knowl­edges what He­len Car­roll has known since her child­hood.

“The Pier is a great place it was a great place to grow up and it’s a great place to have come back to,” said the 68-year-old Car­roll, who re­turned to the Sydney com­mu­nity where she grew up af­ter many years of liv­ing south of the bor­der in Texas, Ok­la­homa and Ari­zona.

“It felt won­der­ful to come back in 2000 and I still re­mem­ber the feel­ing I got when I drove my car across the over­pass and into the Pier.”

On Thurs­day, the his­tory, growth and devel­op­ment of Whit­ney Pier, once re­garded as the most eth­ni­cally di­verse Cana­dian neigh­bour­hood east of Mon­treal, was of­fi­cially rec­og­nized as an event of Na­tional His­toric Sig­nif­i­cance.

The af­ter­noon cer­e­mony kicked off with a ren­di­tion of the na­tional an­them by mem­bers of the Whit­ney Pier Youth Club.

All to­gether, about 50 chil­dren made their way down the hill from the club’s East Street lo­ca­tion to the Melt­ing Pot Mon­u­ment that sits ad­ja­cent to the old fire hall on Vic­to­ria Road on land pro­vided by the Pier Com­mu­nity Fu­neral Home.

The plaque ac­knowl­edges the thou­sands of im­mi­grants who came to Cape Bre­ton, many who set­tled in Whit­ney Pier, from Europe, the West Indies, the United States and else­where in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies to work at what was then Sydney’s state-of-theart steel plant. It also tells, in both of­fi­cial lan­guages, of the devel­op­ment of the unique cul­ture and sense of iden­tity that char­ac­ter­ized res­i­dents of the work­ing class com­mu­nity.

The com­mem­o­ra­tion comes af­ter the Whit­ney Pier His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety nom­i­nated the com­mu­nity’s growth for na­tional recog­ni­tion, a bid that came to fruition with Thurs­day’s cer­e­mony that brought to­gether rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Parks Canada, the His­toric Sites and Mon­u­ments Board of Canada, and the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety.

Board mem­ber Ni­cole Neatby and Ge­orge Dunn, pres­i­dent of the lo­cal so­ci­ety, un­veiled the plaque fol­low­ing the brief cer­e­mony that in­cluded an en­cap­su­lated his­tory of the area.

Ac­cord­ing to Neatby, the me­mo­rial is a tes­ti­mo­nial to the strength of the com­mu­nity and what it is to be Cana­dian.

Added Dunn: “This plaque rep­re­sents yes­ter­day’s growth and to­mor­row’s hope.”

The steel plant has disappeared

from Sydney’s land­scape and Whit­ney Pier’s com­mer­cial district is a shadow of what it once was, but ac­cord­ing to for­mer MLA and long-time Pier res­i­dent Gordie Gosse, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber and cel­e­brate the

rich his­tory of one of Canada’s most unique neigh­bour­hoods.

Gosse, who was a third gen­er­a­tion steel worker, re­signed from pol­i­tics in April of 2015 af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. The pop­u­lar Gosse, who also served as Speaker of the

Nova Sco­tia House of As­sem­bly for al­most three years, was a wel­come pres­ence at the cer­e­mony and was greeted warmly by long time neigh­bours and friends.

The cel­e­bra­tion was aptly held dur­ing the four-day Whit­ney

Pier Melt­ing Pot Mul­ti­cul­tural Fes­ti­val that wraps up to­day. It was also timed to be one of the many events held to com­mem­o­rate Canada’s 150th an­niver­sary.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

The of­fi­cial un­veil­ing of a spe­cial plaque rec­og­niz­ing the devel­op­ment of Whit­ney Pier as an event of Na­tional His­toric Sig­nif­i­cance be­gan with a ren­di­tion of the Cana­dian na­tional an­them. Above, mem­bers of the Whit­ney Pier Youth Club lead the gath­er­ing in a ren­di­tion of O Canada. From left: Sa­van­nah Perry, Katie MacPher­son, Han­nah (last name not avail­able), Raya Craw­ford (hid­den from view), and Paiton MacDon­ald.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Whit­ney Pier His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety vice-pres­i­dent He­len Car­roll and pres­i­dent Ge­orge Dunn stand proudly be­side the newly un­veiled plaque that ac­knowl­edges the devel­op­ment of the Sydney neigh­bour­hood as an event of Na­tional His­toric Sig­nif­i­cance. The plaque sits in front of the Melt­ing Pot Mon­u­ment ad­ja­cent to the old fire hall on Vic­to­ria Road.

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