Following the formation of the Dominion Coal Company in 1893, a
number of mines were opened in what was destined to become Glace Bay.
Small communities grew up around the pitheads and by 1901 they came
together to form the Town of Glace Bay. At the time of incorporation,
the poulation was 6,945. By the 1940s, the figure exceeded 28,000 and
Glace Bay became Canada's largest town.
For most of the 20th century, Glace Bay was Nova Scotia's major coal
mining centre with as many as seven collieries operating at one time.
The Caledonia pit was in production for 96 years from 1865 to 1961.
The last mine to operate, Number 26, was closed after 84 years of
service following a fire in 1984.
The coal mines created a boomtown in Glace Bay and saw the community
grow in size and population.
In its heyday, the town had 12 collieries. Today it has none. The
population has decreased to just over 19,000 but Glace Bay remains
Nova Scotia's fourth largest urban area and the largest town in
THE MINERS' MUSEUM
The Museum, located on the brink of the Atlantic Ocean, is a
visitor's portal into the colourful history of coal mining. Many
exhibits focus on the geological development of Cape Breton's coal
field and the various techniques that have been used to mine these
A visit would be incomplete without touring the Ocean Deeps Colliery,
an underground coal mine located at the museum. A retired miner will
act as your guide during a 20 minute excursion into a "room and
pillar" mine of 1930's vintage. He will undoubtedly tell the tales of
his own mining experiences, making the trip all the more enjoyable.
On return to the surface, take part in a simulated trip into a modern
coal mine. Seated in the man rake you will experience an audio/visual
journey underground into a world seldom viewed by those outside the
The Museum is home to the "Men of the Deeps," Cape Breton's coal
miner chorus, which performs there during the suummer months.
THE GLACE BAY HERITAGE MUSEUM
This museum is situated on McKeen Street. Built in 1902, it served as
Glace Bay's Town Hall for 85 years. The Glace Bay Historical Society
acquired it in 1989 and has undertaken its restoration.
The building's architectural integrity will be preserved as well as
its historic value as the Town's first municipal government offices.
The old Court Room has been restored and the Council Chamber has been
decorated as it was in 1967. An interesting Sports Museum is on the
The town's memorial to its deceased coal miners is located on the
The Colliery Route and the provincially designated Marconi Trail,
which runs from Glace Bay to Louisbourg include:
-remnants of North America's first coal mine, circa 1720 (Port
-the Cape Breton Miners' Museum (Glace Bay)
-the sight of Marconi's first trans-Atlantic radio message (Glace Bay)
-and one of the island's last two working pit mines (Phalen, near New
Besides coal mining, Glace Bay played a major part in the development
of telecommunications when Guglielmo Marconi established a wireless
station at Table Head in 1902 and sent the first trans-Atlantic
wireless message to Poldu, England in December of that year.
The Marconi National Historic Site, located where the 250-foothigh
signal towers once stood, pays tribute to the event and to the
20-year association the Italian inventor had with Cape Breton Island.
The museum features exhibits of the first wireless station,
photographs of the towers and the house where Marconi and his family
lived. The site is open daily from early June to mid-September.
Admission is free.
The Glace bay Heritage Museum, located in the former town hall, has
displays and artifacts on Glace Bay's history focusing on the fire
department, war-time Glace Bay, community sports and the mining
Glace Bay natives have proven themselves in a variety of endeavors
beyond the borders of Cape Breton Island.
Daniel Petrie, born in Glace Bay, has directed countless television
shows and Hollywood movies including, "A Soldier's Story," "Fort
Apache, The Bronx," with Paul Newman, "Resurrection" with Ellen
Burstyn, and "A Raisin in the Sun" with Sidney Portier.
Hugh MacLennan, best selling Canadian author, was born in Glace Bay.
"The Men of the Deeps," North America's only coal miners choir, was
formed in Glace Bay in 1966 and performs concerts at both the Miners'
Museum and the Savoy Theatre. The Savoy itself is a 1927 former movie
house refurbished as a stylish performance centre. The Savoy presents
a summer program of music and theatre called "Festival on the Bay."
Glace Bay also has an active fishing fleet and the picturesque harbour
extends all the way to the bridge on Commercial Street, the main
downtown shopping district. The harbor is fed by Renwick Brook where
a park with picnic tables, benches and walking trails has been
Not far away is Cameron Bowl, a baseball diamond and home to the
Glace Bay Colonels. The Colonels have played for the Canadian Little
League Championship three times, winning the title in 1987 and 1988.
On the outskirts of town is Big Glace Bay Lake, a wildlife sanctuary
that protects migrating waterfowl.
THE SAVOY THEATRE
The community's younger adults remember the Savoy Theatre on Union
Street as a movie house but older residents remember far more. They
remember it as a full-fledged music hall, a vaudville theatre and
later, a silent movie theatre. Today the Savoy has reverted to its
original role and has become Cape Breton's premiere site for live
Built in 1927, the Savoy Theatre is renowned as Cape Breton's
regional cultural centre. The restored interier with its excellent
acoustics recall the splendor of the 1920's. The decor is a "must see"
while in Glace Bay, as are the varieties of entertainment staged
there throughout the year. Many of the island's most renowned
performers, including Rita MacNeil, the Rankin Family, the Barra
MacNeils, Winnie Chafe and the Men of the Deeps have entertained
GLACE BAY HARBOR
The harbor was once the site of a very active commercial fishing
operation. In the early 1950's, Glace Bay was the sword fishing
capital of Canada. However, the recent closure of much of the fishing
grounds resulted in a diminished role for the port. Two processing
plants continue to operate and a seasonal lobster fishery is carried
on in late spring and early summer.
The area is a popular destination for photographers, artists or those
who simply seek a place to relax.
On either side of the inlet, park areas afford scenic views of the
ocean and the many activities of the inner harbour. Ample parking is
close by. A visitor will find leisure walkways and picnic tables
One of the largest municiple park complexes on the island is in the
area of Renwick Brook. Convenient access to beautiful walking trails
on either side of the brook can be made at the Commercial Street
bridge in the heart of downtown Glace Bay.
The trails follow the brook between Brookside and Catherine Streets
and lead to Queen Elizabeth Park. These tree-lined trails provide
calm, quiet venues for leisurly walks or vigorous jogs. Queen
Elizabeth Park contains a band shell, children's play areas, lighted
tennis courts and one of the finest Little League Baseball parks in
The trail continues on towards Dominion Street, ending on a piece of
land where the home and birthplace of world renowned Canadian author
Hugh MacLennan once stood. Newsome United Church now occupies the
site. A monument was erected by the church to honor the town's famous
A monument to coal miner and union leader James B. MacLachlan stands
at the entrance to Renwick Brook on Brookside Street. Mr. MacLachlan
was jailed for his union activities and was fired and barred from
further employment by the coal company during the turbulent 1900's.
JOHN BERNARD CROAK MEMORIAL PARK
This is a colorful and charming park with a lighted fountain, park
benches and off-street parking. It honors Glace Bay native John
Bernard Croak, Cape Breton's only winner of Canada's highest military
honor- the Victoria Cross.