Audi of tour of Lobster Factory recorded by Cathy Eaton
Welcome to the Lobster Factory.
If you listen carefully, you might hear the far distant chatter of lobster meat packers or the most recent lecture on climate change or perhaps the vows of a bride and groom. Or you might hear the distinctive squawk of a soaring gull, the wind rattling the masts of a tall ship, or Einstein reminding you to remember your humanity.
Look outside and cast your eyes out the strait as far as you can see. Perhaps you can see Prince Edward Island in the distance. Imagine the sky is dark, the sea is rough, the chill wind is blasting through your oilskin slicker, and you are soaked from relentless stinging rain. Your arms ache and your body is weary because you have hauled in hundreds of sixty pound traps. You have a family to feed. Perhaps your sons or brothers or neighbors are in other small crafts that you catch a glimpse of as you take a brief break to eat breakfast that your wife fixed hours earlier. Another day, the sea might be calm, and the puffy clouds might float across a vivid blue sky. Perhaps, you are chatting to your shipmate or pointing out a sailing vessel fully rigged. Hours later, exhausted, you have returned to port to begin the arduous process of unloading your catch.
This building was built in 1921 as a Lobster Canning Factory, then transformed into the Pagweak Tea Room adjacent to the Pineo Lodge in 1930 and a Dining Hall in 1955. It is now called the Lobster Factory.
Originally, the point of land it resides on would have jutted out more into the Northumberland Strait.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s thousands of lobstermen often in hazardous weather ventured out to sea in small boats from the villages of Wallace, Port Howe, Malagash, Northport, and of course, Pugwash. The catch was unloaded o n docks and carried inside the canning factories that dotted the shorelines. Then the young women, many Acadians from New Brunswick, picked the meat from the shells, washed it, and packed it into cans. Next, the cans were heated in boiling water; a tiny hole in each can, later plugged, released the steam. By the early 30s, most of the small canning factories closed, and the “lobster processing industry was consolidated in Pictou.”
The entire lobster industry changed, when a demand for live lobsters controlled the market. Did you know that at one time lobster was considered poor men’s fare?
This land probably belonged to the Pineo Family who purchased land here in 1816. The family built the adjacent house now known as Thinkers Lodge around 1830.
Frank Allan was the second youngest of sixteen children all born in the twenty years between 1865 and 1885. Frank Allan built this Lobster Factory on Water Street around 1921 as well as several others along Crescent Beach and on the Northumberland Shore. He hired additional lobstermen who owned their own boats to bring in their catch. Two of his sons worked with him. In the early years, men rowed dories out to the traps. Later, lobstermen used sailboats and then lobster boats similar to what you see motoring out the channel towards Prince Edward Island early in the morning.
Cyrus Eaton bought the Lobster Factory from Frank Allan in 1928.
Notice the black tables and chairs in the dining hall. It is believed that they are the only existing complete set made by the Sibley family from Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. Some distinctive characteristics are the tapered feet, bent back posts which taper above the seat, arched slats, and mushroom-shaped finials. The Sibley family began designing and crafting chairs in 1820.
In 1955, Cyrus Eaton, closed down the lodge as a B & B and opened it as a retreat for educators, scientists, and other “thinkers.” Chefs were hired to cook local cuisine featuring lobster, fresh fish, and beef as well as mouth-watering pastries and desserts. Conference attendees walked to “The Lobster Factory” dining hall for three meals a day. These seat-down meals helped cultivate the attitude of taking time to eat nourishing meals while relaxing and sharing conversations. These conversations were seeds for innovative problem-solving and proposals that changed the direction of a world headed for nuclear conflict.
In the mid seventies, the Lobster Factory hosted coffee houses featuring local and regional talent.
In 2004, a devastating ice storm did massive damage to the Dining Hall. Ironically, this occurred on what would have been Cyrus’s 121st birthday on December 28. The doors onto the wharf were battered open, and snow coated the interior of the Lobster Factory. Fierce winds tumbled the furniture toward the fireplace and many chairs and tables suffered serious injury.
The Lobster Factory was completely renovated and given a new lease on life in 2013. It is now an integral part of this national historic site. It was important to maintain structural/historical integrity by keeping the original floor plan and flooring. Construction workers surely appreciated the harsh conditions that lobster fishermen often faced decades earlier. During a terribly cold winter season, steel beams were placed under the building, and then each jack was jacked up at the same time. Raising the Lobster Factory took careful coordination. Despite the care taken, a crack formed down the roof and the side that faces Thinkers Lodge since the building was so long. A concrete footing was poured underneath the building, which was moved several feet. A workman wielding a jackhammer took out the middle chimney. Dismantling it and replacing it was very time-consuming. The bank was reinforced with special material to prevent erosion.
The kitchen was completely renovated. The old-fashioned oak icebox with metal hinges was replaced by modern appliances. The large central worktable was removed so counter space could be installed. Code approved sinks and dishwasher were installed as well as two modern stoves.
The deck was enlarged and rebuilt. Students from the local high school built the four cedar benches on the deck as well as the handicap ramp. If you walk out the deck toward Eaton park, you can enjoy the Peace Garden the students made with the assistance of the Community in Bloom women. After researching the Cold War, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and the push towards nuclear disarmament, they designed and painted four benches: one honors Joseph Rotblat who received the Nobel Peace Prize, one honors Bertrand Russell, one of the original signers of the Russell-Einstein Manifest, one honors Cyrus Eaton, who was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and the Canadian Peace Award, while the final bench honors the original 22 scientists from the 1957 conference.
In 2017, a former chef, Kathy Dean, recounted working in the kitchen under her father, Chef Selby Clark, who cooked during many conferences. Kathy recalled how in the kitchen, Selby demanded perfection of himself and his staff. He was a stickler for presentation, color, and taste. He insisted that each serving look alike. Kathy remembers sneaking an extra Brussels sprout on a plate. As soon as he noticed, without missing a beat, he threw the offending Brussels sprout to the side. He demanded that the kitchen be spotless. He wanted the food served hot and taken immediately to the guests. This may account for having a large wait staff.
Today, the Lobster Factory, in addition to providing meals for conference attendees, has many functions. Weddings and receptions are hosted here in this lovely setting. The students hold their prom here in the spring. 50s dances, soirees, open mics as well as anniversary celebrations and lectures all welcome the local community and visitors.