At one time, Sydney Mines was called "Lazytown." A map of 1863
actually showed the area as "Lazytown".
This less than flattering name came from local farmers who would
arrive in town in the morning to find a few people up and about. This
was due to the shift work employed by the local mines. The coal
miners and their wives would wake at dawn and get ready for the day
shift. After the men went off to the pits, the wives would return to
bed for some extra sleep. No one was awake to greet the farmers
coming to sell their milk, eggs and produce.
Sydney Mines grew up around the rich coal fields of
Sydney Harbor and one pit - Princess Colliery - operated continuously
for 100 years, from 1875 to 1975. In that time, Princess produced 30
million tonnes of coal.
The first mining took place in 1766 along the exposed seams of the
harbour cliffs. When the General Mining Association took over Cape
Breton coal mining in 1827, the area was simply known as "The Mines."
Sydney Mines' first house, owned by R. Brown, dates from this era
(1829) and still stands at 32 Brown St.
By the turn of the century, Sydney Mines was one of the top coal
producing communities in North America. Workers came from Italy,
Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Austria, England, Scotland and Wales to
work in the mines.
A steel plant opened in 1902 and much of the town's infrastructure -
sewer, water, electricity, paved streets - was established at that
In 1932, Sydney Mines' population peaked at 10,000.
There are no coal mines operating in the town today, but many of the
workers at nearby Prince Mine at Point Aconi live in Sydney Mines.
The town has downtown shopping area with grocery stores, pharmacy,
bakery, banks, restaurants, service stations, town police and library.
A sport's complex on Brown St. has ballfields and tennis courts.
There is an undeveloped beach at the end of MacLean St. fronting
A miners' monument located on Main St., pays tribute to the men who
perished at the local collieries, including 22 miners who were killed
by a runaway man-rake (train) in 1938.
The town's most visible artifact is a red, sandstone town hall, built
on a downtown corner in 1904 as a federal post office. The building
was renovated in 1989 and registered as a provincial heritage
Another Sydney Mines landmark is Gowrie House, a two-storey, wooden
mansion on Shore Rd., overlooking the harbor, built in 1834 by Samuel
Archibald whose family and descendants maintained residence for a
century and a half. Marble fireplaces, extensive grounds and
outbuildings reflected the prosperity of the family. Gowrie House is
now a four-star country inn, offering accommodations and gourmet meals
year-round. In 1990, international recording artist and performer Rita
MacNeil filmed a television special at Gowrie House.
Some other popular sites in Sydney Mines include:
This charming estate was built in the early 1880s by Lewis Johnston,
who modeled it on a similair house his family owned in Wolfville. The
Wolfville property no longer exists, but this lovely house bears its
name. It remained in the hands of Johnston descendants until 1936. It
is still a private home.
This magestic structure overlooking the harbor was built in 1853. It
served as the office building of the General Mining Association until
1900, when a new office was built on Pitt Street. For a while the old
office served as a meeting place for the Rotary Club of Sydney Mines.
It is now a private dwelling.
The town hall, located on Fraser Avenue, was built in 1904. It served
as a post office and was later restored to preserve its unique
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church:
Many of the workmen imported by the General Mining Association were
Presbyterian Scots. By 1785, Presbyterian ministers were making
regular visits to town. In 1884, the first church was built and the
first permanent pastor appointed. The new church was built in 1904.
In World Wars I and II, the enlistment rate in Sydney mines was so
high (approximately seventy-two percent) that military authorities
finally had to refuse to accept men who were employed in the
collieries. The cenotaph honours residents who died in the world wars
and the Korean conflict.
Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church:
The first church in Sydney Mines was a Roman Catholic log chapel,
built in 1823. In 1838, a new church was built on Beech Street, but
the congregation quickly outgrew it and it was torn down. This
church, Immaculate Conception, was built in 1884 and still serves a
Built in 1830 for D.G. Rigby, this property is to this day known as
Rigby House. It served as the town's first post office, and in the
mid-1800's functioned as a school house. The house is now a private
Because of the rapid industrialization of the town, Sydney Mines had
the first commercial telephone system in North America. The line
connected the coal company office, colliery, colliery store,
executive house, post office and telegraph house. It operated from
1880 to 1885.
Sydney Mines' best known athlete is Johnny Miles - a grocery store
clerk - who won the Boston Marathon in 1926 and 1929, and who won a
bronze metal in the marathon for Canada at the Commonwealth Games of
1930. Sydney Mines celebrates Colliery Days every summer in August,
when local athletes continue the road-racing tradition.
JOHNNY MILES ROAD RACE
The spirit of Nova Scotia's best-known long-distance runner will be
present when Sydney Mines hosts The Johnny Miles Road Race as part of
its "Last Call for Summer" celebrations in the fall.
Johnny Miles was a skinny, 22-year-old store clerk fron Sydney Mines
when he won the fabled Boston Marathon in 1926. He shaved four
minutes off the course record, then returned in 1929 to win the race
Ever since, road-racing has been a popular sport in Sydney Mines.
The Johnny Miles Race attracts the best runners from the local area.
The "Last Call for Summer" festival also features a little league
tournament, children's track and field events, community corn boil,
horseshoe tournament, outdoor bingo, craft fair, dance and free
Most of the activities take place at the Miners' Memorial Park on