by Inspiring Communities staff
What makes up the identity of a community? Is it the history, or the common threads of industry and profession residents share together? Or perhaps it’s the landscape and architecture of the place?
No matter how much all of these differ from each other, a community’s identity is always weaved with a complex combination of all of these identifiers… and then some!
Sydney Mines is no exception to the rule. With a rich history, steeped in military and industrial significance, and a common trade that even became the namesake of the town – not to mention the incredible backdrop of natural beauty surrounding it – Sydney Mines is not lacking in any category. However, due to decades of social and economic decline, “the cultural fabric of the community has unravelled”, says Norm Hubbert a resident of the greater Northside community, “and it’s time to reweave the fabric.”
The cultural fabric of the community has unravelled over the years and it is time to reweave the fabric. The first coal mines and steel plant along with the military structures are key historical elements to be recognized within the community and beyond.Norm Hubbert, Community Member
Nestled on Main Street, Sydney Mines sits a beacon of that cultural fabric – a community housing structure believed to be the oldest row housing unit in Canada. A now designated historical site, the aptly named “Red Brick Row” structure dates back to 1829 when the General Mining Association took over coal mining operations in Sydney Mines. In fact, Sydney Mines is one of the oldest communities in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and attention to historical sites for the area have
started to become a real focal point for various community groups. Unfortunately, the attention many of these significant structures needed only came after they had fallen into waste.
Sydney Mines is one of the oldest communities in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, however many of its historically significant structures have fallen into waste.Cape Breton Post
For many, the Red Brick Row has become a symbol of the community’s broken heritage & now fractured identity. In response, an effort to restore and repurpose the structure has been brought to the table with the hope of surging new life into the town.
The dream is to restore the structure into a thriving community hub, potentially fitted with a cafe, an art gallery, a co-working space, and many other innovative ideas — all with the intent of serving into the community’s needs.
This past summer, an interdisciplinary workshop was facilitated by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada in partnership with Cape Breton University & Tompkins Institute. With representatives and experts from many different civil, academic, and business backgrounds, participants met together for an entire week with the sole objective of developing a viable business plan for the three vacant units of Red Brick Row. Northside Rising supported this workshop through our “Rising Tide Projects,” providing financial backing to what we consider an incredibly valuable effort.
The Interdisciplinary lab brought many brilliant minds and kind hearts together upon one dream that is to see RED ROW Rising! This one-week lab gave us insights into the dream and educated us about the importance of preserving the heritage. I have learned immensely from the experts and got the chance to work with them for the welfare of the community. Many guests enlightened us and gave us a different path to consider in the whole planning.– Gursheen Manak Kaur
As a community, we cannot give up on our heritage because it will always inform who we become. As a movement, Northside Rising believes in the value of a strong community identity. We believe strong identities lead to healthy, happy, and prosperous communities.
We are so excited to see this project bloom into something incredible, reweaving our beautiful cultural fabric one thread at a time.
Want to keep up with this Red Brick Row project? Follow Northside Rising on social media.
Learn more about Northside Rising.