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Remember This? Pointe aux Pins

From shipbuilding to summer hot spot
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pointeauxpins
Pointe Aux Pins is pictured in this Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archival photo

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

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Remember This: The “Point” where tall pines still stand 

There are numerous “points” of interest to be realized about the area called, Pointe aux Pins.

This area is approximately six miles west of Sault Ste. Marie on the St. Marys River and is forested with large red and white pine trees.

It remains a naturally beautiful area and over the years has become increasingly populated with year-round homes.

Pointe aux Pins carries quite a history and is known as Algoma’s first shipyard. The tall pines that forested the area were ideal for building the large ships. The exact spot where ship building took place is on the east shore of the cove at Pointe aux Pins.  In the opinion of one early military traveller the location was considered a, “most desirable spot” with the advantage of a “fine bason” formed by the Point where vessels lay in deep water within a few yards of the shore. 

The area’s shipbuilding history was first established by Louis Denis Sieur de la Ronde, the first white man to exploit the copper deposits on the shores of Lake Superior from Mamainse to Michipicoten Harbour.  In 1735, he constructed the first vessel to sail Lake Superior for the purpose of exploring and mining. 

Canoes had been the main means of water transportation but La Ronde’s ship was the first “decked” vessel to sail the “great lake”.   This set the stage for the building of other large ships to be used for exploration that were capable of tackling the rough Superior waters.  

Other decked vessels built at the Pointe aux Pins Shipyard included the Athabaska, launched in 1786, the Otter in 1793, and the Invincible, being recorded around 1802 to name a few. 

By 1807 it was noted that the best of the red and white pines along several miles of the sand bank had been cut by Nor’Western shipwrights and so, by 1823 the area was found to be only “thinly clad with pines”

In 1763, Alexander Henry, who was an American traveller and fur trader, also built a barge and a 40-ton sloop at the Pointe.  He set out to mine the copper along the shores of Superior. In 1771 Henry also built the first air furnace at the Pointe.

Pointe aux Pins had become the shipbuilding region of the American Fur, Northwest and Hudson Bay Companies.  

To aid in the shipping activity, a lighthouse was built 1873 to be a guide for ships as they travelled past the Pointe.  With the onset and use of radar, the lighthouse was no longer required and it was demolished in 1970, her bell shipped to Parry Sound, and a new smaller structure was built.  

In years gone by, “Pine Point” was a great place for recreation and summer activities.  Both U.S. and Canadian citizens enjoyed the area. International teas and parties were common.  Campers on both sides made visits back and forth by way of the water.  Community bonfires, roasts, berry picking, hiking and sailboating were all favourite pastimes. 

There was a large elegant hotel for parties and celebrations and for anyone wishing to stay for a visit. 

The hotel is believed to have burned down in the early 1900s.  As far back as 1858, it is recorded that cruise ships stopped and visited at “the Point”.  Vacationers from Buffalo and Detroit came on a regular basis to enjoy the beauty of the area.

Visitors from nearby Sault Ste. Marie came by horse and carriage along a cart road which was a long and tedious journey.  There was a large barn with a mansard style roof, equipped with stables waiting for them to rest.  Around 1900, the barn succumbed to the heavy March snow and collapsed.  Structures of the past can no longer be found, however there is still much life in and around Pointe aux Pins. 

The landscape is still picturesque but is much more populated with beautiful year-round homes instead of summer cottages. One can only imagine the historical hustle and bustle of the ship-building yard that once was. 

Resources used:

  • Our Town: Sault Ste. Marie – Vol 1 & 2
  • River of Destiny - 971.3132BAY
  • Superior: The Haunted Shore – 917.131DRE
  • Anniversary Sault Star Newspaper

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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