1956-1957 – Initial Construction
A six million dollar US Contract Number DA-30-347-ENG-116 dated 6 June 1955 was signed between Morton Solomon as Colonel for the Corp of Engineers US Army, and Richard J. Johnson as President of Defence Construction Ltd. (1951) (DCL). It called for the construction of three M-Sites (Barrington, Lowther, Kamloops) making up a Radar Augmentation Program.
The Toronto, Ontario firm of Marani and Morris were Architect-Engineers and awarded the 1.5 million dollar contract for the Baccaro Point, Nova Scotia, Radar Augmentation Station to the Bridgewater, Nova Scotia firm of Acadia Construction. An additional $65,000 went to the Nova Scotia Power Corporation and an unknown amount to Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Co. Ltd.
Things began to happen down at the point. A public land surveyor, GM Hilchie, was reported to be doing an instrumental survey. This became the basis for the Notice of Expropriation, Plan No. 70217 dated 29 December 1955 that was registered at Barrington under Instrument No. 161 on 13 January 1956. It didn’t take long for the news of the announcement to spread as shown by the major headline of the 2 February 1956 edition of the local Shelburne newspaper.
At that time, the land at Baccaro Point was classified as Proprietors’ Land as distinct from Crown Land. This was land left for the use of settlers (for purposes such as cutting wood, pasture, etc.) after the very first Proprietors had died. It became incumbent upon the four families dwelling there to establish their claims to title by adverse possession in order to receive monetary consideration as a result of the expropriation. In other words, in the absence of recorded deeds, they had to demonstrate actual continuous, exclusive, open and undisturbed occupation of said lands. The claim had to be substantiated by physical boundaries (i.e. a fence) being present. The senior resident, Mr. D Tracey (this spelling is according to the deed, his signature reads Tracy) Cunningham, a man 69 years old at the time, whose wife had died after being told of the expropriation, made two statutory declarations 10 April 1956 regarding his own title and that of his neighbor, Mr. Wilfred J Chetwynd. He declared that his own property had been conveyed to him in 1919 from his father-in-law George Blades and that Herbert Ross had conveyed title to Wilfred Chetwynd in 1934. There was no need for a statutory declaration with respect to the property of Wilfred’s son Anthony since this conveyance had been recorded in the Registry by a Deed dated 25 September 1953. The fourth resident on the point was Mr. Ellsworth E Nickerson. He and his wife Dora (who had a playhouse in that location when she was a little girl) had settled there in 1944 after Tracey had invited Ellsworth to join him fishing off Baccaro. He never received title, but the Queen provided $1,150 for his house, shed and well. Tracey, Wilfred and Anthony, who had fenced-in their lots long ago, received $4,500, $5,500 and $3,950 each for 3.23, 5.32 and 0.5 acres of land (including all buildings etc.) respectively. There were now over 37 acres free and clear on which to erect the site.
The Department of Highways had started paving the road from Hwy 3 at Clyde River to Port La Tour in 1955. This was one of the first to use the new "cold-asphalt" process. Thus all the construction trucks had paved road to Baccaro except for the last two miles to the point. This last stretch was completed a year or two later.
Maritime Tel and Tel had bought out the Port La Tour Telephone Company in 1956 after 60 years of operation. The Port La Tour shareholders decided that the communications required by the station would have necessitated too large a commitment from them. International Water Supply was paid $435 for investigatory work on finding a suitable water supply. In May 1956 OV Kennedy & Sons Ltd. Dug two wells for $8/ft. Well No. 1 was 352 ft deep while Well No. 2 was 500 ft. Unfortunately, neither of them were on the 37 acres that had already been expropriated! (This was probably to avoid the problem of salt in the water. Trueman Nickerson, the lighthouse keeper, had had this trouble with his well at the point.) This led to another Notice of Expropriation Plan M-1348 dated 18 March 1957 under Instrument No. 170.
It was also in the spring of 1956 that DCL set up their site office in Anthony Chetwynd’s old house (it had been built by Stanley MacPhee, and is now Raymond O’Connell’s house in Baccaro) and Acadia Construction built their own site office (now used for a house by Avery Thomas of Port La Tour). Ellsworth Nickerson’s old house was purchased by Clements Garron of East Baccaro, who, after considerable effort, was able to remove enough of the traces of its decade as Baccaro’s castle of countless cats to use it as a garage. The remaining structures were bulldozed under.
The word spread that this was going to be a big project and in-as-much as the fishing was very poor that year, a delegation of fishermen approached the boss at Acadia Construction who hired them on as laborers 7 May 1956. Others followed, from as far away as Quinan. Plumbers, electricians and Acadian carpenters from the Pubnicos. A local girl named Ruth Crowell was hired on as a bookkeeper.
The most challenging aspect that would face them would be the foundations. The west side of the point was rocks with bog while the east side was bog with rocks. Workers were told to dig with pick and shovel through the bog down to the hard pan. Wooden forms were then put up and a concrete made from measured amounts of rock, crushed stone, lime, and mud formed the footings for most buildings. In order to work on the bog, boards had to be dragged to one’s work spot and used to stand on until such time as they sank from sight. Then new boards had to be fetched and the process repeated. The footings’ average depth was about four feet, but varied considerably. Local residents who worked down inside these footings on hot summer days remember the stench of quaggy bog gasses filling their nostrils.
Considerable fill was required during grading, and to make concrete. Sand was hand-shoveled on-to single-axle trucks and driven in from The Ponds of Powell’s Beach (off the Villagedale Road Barrens). A steam-shovel loaded trucks with gravel from Wick’s (Charles Christie’s) Hill on the west side of Baccaro. Acadian Construction had its own crusher for sizing it located on the construction site. Rocks were collected from the beach at Nickerson’s Landing on the East Side of the point at low tide. Trucks drove out empty under their own steam, but after being filled had to be pushed back over the wet slippery rocks by the loader.
Work continued during the winter months with only a minor set-back caused by hurricane winds in December, that blew over a half-finished wall and some roofing. The major loss was the blueprints which had been blown away.
The operational buildings were constructed from cinder block with steel-reinforced roofs. The domestic buildings used mill-cut lumber (where a 2-by-4 meant a full 2" x 4") and seaweed or eel grass for insulation.
The electrical wiring followed the NS electrical code (using white wires for ground). This would lead to some confusion later when the US code was followed for the radar wiring (using black for ground), and when Ottawa directed that the CADIN/SAGE Project five years later would follow the Canadian code (using green for ground)!
Although not completed until the end of 1957, the station was well on its way towards that goal when the first USAF personnel began arriving.