Commercial Cable Heritage Building

Commercial Cable Heritage Building 
Commercial Cable CompanyThis Heritage building was one of the largest cable relay stations in the world. It housed some of the most technologically advanced equipment for its time. Nine thousand miles of cable ran in and out of this building facilitating much of the news of world events and communications between Europe and North America. It was first constructed of wood in 1884 and replaced by the brick building in 1888.
Located in Hazel Hill, just outside of Canso, this town has elegant company houses which are vestiges of a bygone era.
Next to the building is a park which has one of the Stations of The Trans Atlantic Cable Communications Heritage Trail.

The Americans first conceived the idea of linking the hemispheres and it was their money which primarily financed the companies involved. The German-designed cable was constructed at Sir Alexander Siemans’ factory at Woolrich, England. The English not only did the actual work of laying the cable but also provided the ships necessary for this important task. Almost all cable operators were rigidly trained in England. The Creed Automatic Printing Device, an instrument used in virtually every cable office in the world, was invented by a native Nova Scotian who for many years lived in Canso. His name was Frederick Creed.

Although an American Company, Commercial Cable relied almost exclusively on the English for operation and management personnel. The Hazel Hill ‘Canso Station’ was promoted by the company as being the most technologically advanced Cable Station of its’ time. To attract and retain their workforce, Commercial Cable is reported to have provided “generous salaries and luxurious working living conditions to their British telegraphers” …and families. Commercial Cable employees lived in rent free homes. They were also provided with a multitude of recreation and leisure activities, one month of vacation each year, and a fifty dollar bonus every three years. “Such amenities in the nineteenth century were virtually unheard of.” Company homes had electric lights, running water and indoor plumbing, well in advance of most homes of that area.

Commercial Cable was sold to International Telegraph and Telephone (ITT) in 1927 which in turn was acquired by Western Union in 1988.

Commercial Cable Heritage Site
Commercial Cable Heritage ParkThe Canso Station ceased operation in 1962. The words of the last Superintendent of Commercial Cable, Mr. Charles Holness, seem to best sum up the feelings of the times:

“I was there all by myself. This enormous cable station, and it was just about to die…I sent this message to the executive vice president in New York: “It is with feelings of sadness that we watch the lights of the Canso Cable Station go out, and realize that a mere effort that blossomed for the greater part of the century is come to an end. Those members of the Canso staff will be leaving our service today, some of whom have completed fifty years of service, are grateful to you for your kindness and bid farewell, and have asked me to express their earnest hope that the new era now beginning will bring prosperity to the country and happiness to all its employees. My sincere personal regards.”……then I pulled the plug and the station darkened.” 

The shuttered large brick building still stands in faded glory. There is a project under way to restore it as a tourist site. Until that time you can visit the park adjacent and read the interpretive panels there to get a better picture of the heritage attributed to the Canso Cable Company.

Tans-Atlantic Cable Communications Heritage Trail
Cable Interpretive PanelsIn 1874 the first direct connection between Europe and mainland North America was made at Tor Bay Nova Scotia. This was the beginning of an almost 100 year history of Trans-Atlantic cable communications for number of Guysborough County communities. The submarine cables and relay stations linked the old and new worlds through the daily relay of world commerce and events. Interpretive Stations, open year round, are located in Tor Bay, Fox Island, Little Dover and Hazel Hill. Digital Video kiosks are also located in the Whitman House Museum in Canso and in Sherbrooke Village.