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Remember This? A bachelor retreat of the 'proper architectural style'

From the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archive: ************************* The North West Company post, which had been destroyed during the War of 1812, was rebuilt around 1819.
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From the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archive:

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The North West Company post, which had been destroyed during the War of 1812, was rebuilt around 1819. 

Fur traders would stop to restock their supplies before heading further north.  

The post continued to be occupied until 1867 when the last factor, Wemyss Mackenzie Simpson resigned to become the first Member of Parliament for the District of Algoma following Confederation. 

A caretaker maintained the post but within a matter of years the buildings either fell down or were torn down until all that remained was the stone powder magazine or the Blockhouse.

The construction of the Blockhouse in 1819 makes it the second oldest building in the area after the Ermatinger Old Stone House. 

The original purpose of the Blockhouse was to store powder ammunition and weapons.  

The original North West Company Powder magazine located on the lower level of the Blockhouse was comprised of only one room and was lit by small six inch square loop holes.  

These holes were shoulder height and were ideal for gun barrels in case of an attack.  

Upon his arrival in Sault Ste. Marie, Francis H. Clergue purchased the Blockhouse in 1894 and added a second floor, converting the building into his home and office. 

In 1922, the Sault Ste. Marie Historical Society contacted Clergue to ask about the changes that he had made to the Blockhouse.

According to a letter from Clergue, which was printed in its entirety in the Sault Daily Star on July 7, 1922, only the lower stone storey then existed.

The property was surrounded by a heap of large boulders.

Here and there, stumps of the original post stockade that had surrounded the post stuck up out of the ground.

Since the stumps couldn’t be driven into the ground, Clergue used the boulders and the stumps to build a stone fence or wall around the property.

He divided the room in two with a brick wall creating a small reception room in the front and a kitchen in the back.

He then replaced the original small iron door with a larger oak door and cut windows in the stone walls.

The small gun barrel holes were not filled in but rather were covered with permanent shutters.

The next step was the construction of the second floor.

Clergue had cedar trees of an appropriate length cut so as to not only cover the stone portion of the building but also to overhang the building, creating additional living space.

According to Clergue, he intended to create a building that was of the "proper architectural style of a block house of the period of the Indian Wars…"

Located on the grounds of Clergue’s new industrial headquarters (Consolidated Lake Superior Company), its close proximity to his business made it a perfect administrative centre for him. 

In 1895, a Michigan newspaper referred to the Block House as a bachelor retreat since it was also home to Clergue’s brother Bertrand. 

Clergue and his brother lived in the Blockhouse until about 1902 although Clergue continued to use it as an office. 

In the following years it was used as a residence by night watchmen at the paper mill until the building was damaged by a fire in 1974.   

Today, the Blockhouse stands approximately 30 feet high and is made of wood and local red sandstone. 

The building consists of a first and second floor with an attic containing additional rooms accessed by a pull-down ladder. 

It was designated as a historical site in 1979 but a lack of funding delayed any further restoration of the building for many years. 

Due to development being planned at the paper mill in 1995, the Blockhouse was threatened with demolition. 

In order to save the Blockhouse the decision was made to move it from the former St. Marys Paper site to the grounds of the Ermatinger Old Stone House in November of 1996. 

Their historical connection through the fur trade in the early 1800s made this a natural partnership bringing together two of the oldest buildings in the city.  

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Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here.