Community recognized Plaque unveiled to mark historical significance of Whitney Pier
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.
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.
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.