Sackville Town Council voted unanimously last week to contribute up to $7,000 worth of labour and materials as well as up to $15,000 in cash to support plans for a massive steel monument to commemorate the Fawcett and Enterprise Foundries and the thousands of workers who toiled in them manufacturing such products as stoves and heaters, furnaces and fireplace grates as well as enamelled sinks, toilets and tubs.
Councillors were responding to a request from local historian Susan Amos who has just completed a book in honour of the 170th anniversary of Fawcett’s, Sackville’s first foundry, and the 150th anniversary of the Enterprise Foundry.
In her presentation to council earlier this month on behalf of Tantramar Heritage Trust, Amos listed various events being held this year to commemorate the foundries including her book launch on September 17th, two dinners and a play about some of the people whose lives were connected to the foundries.
“But what happens when this year comes to an end?” she asked.
“How will we commemorate our foundries, which contributed so much to our community for so many years?
“Well, what about a monument?”
Amos pointed out that the sculpture of George Stanley, seated on a park bench outside the Post Office, honours the designer of Canada’s flag while the Chignecto Balance installation beside the Lorne Street flood control pond reminds people about the effects of climate change.
“Why not a sculpture to commemorate the foundries?” she asked.
“The good news is, we already have one,” she added, pointing to a slide showing the massive steel press that sat in the shop at Enterprise for many years punching out parts for the foundry’s products.
“It’s big!” she said. “Fourteen feet high, eight feet wide and six feet deep.”
Amos said Mt. A. has already agreed in principle that the steel press could be installed on the former site of the Fawcett Foundry where the university now has its King Street parking lot.
She said Danny Bowser of Bowsers’ Construction and his family have agreed to donate the huge steel press while Tantramar Heritage Trust plans to apply for a federal legacy grant to help finance the monument.
“The catch here is that the dollar value of the grant must be matched by the community, either in dollars or in-kind contributions,” Amos said before asking the town to help in site design and preparation that would include pouring a concrete pedestal.
She said that if Tantramar Heritage Trust is successful in getting the federal grant, installation would begin next spring.
Jon Eppell, Sackville’s new town engineer said he had a few concerns about the project that would have to be dealt with by others, not by the town.
He said, for example, that there could be contaminated soil on the site, the steel press itself may be covered with lead-based paints and there could be petroleum fluids inside it.
“We suggest that it should be cleaned up properly before being moved, make sure that it’s emptied of fluids, make sure there’s no lead paint,” Eppell said.
He added that perhaps the surface could be blasted and repainted or a clear coat applied to preserve it.
He also expressed concerns about safety.
“It’s 14 feet high, there’s lots of handholds, there’s lots of bolts and nuts that protrude from it so that if a child did choose to climb it, there is the potential that their clothing could catch on it, so we’d be interested to know what the measures are that would be proposed to discourage climbing or eliminate those catch points.”
Eppell emphasized that the town would neither own nor maintain the monument and that depending on its exact location, lighting may need to be installed.
Treasurer Michael Beal also pointed out that since the monument would be on university property, the town would have no legal liability for it.
Councillor Bill Evans thanked town staff for expressing concerns, but voiced his own strong support.
“Let’s find a way to say yes that is both prudent [and] supports a worthwhile initiative, but is careful in limiting our liability, our exposure, our costs, so I like the fact we’re being careful,” he said.
“I like this project,” Councillor Bruce Phinney declared.
“It’s got 150 and 170 years history behind it and it certainly will be supported by the people of the town.”