It’s been a long time since a former lumber mill closed in Meteghan, but it’s only just now that a large transformation of the site is taking place.
Demolition is underway of five old and derelict buildings on the site of the property, which was known as Comeau Lumber Ltd. before it closed, and for a long time before that was E.M. Comeau and Sons.
For more than 100 years, the mill was a major employer of the Clare area and a contributor to its economy.
After Comeau Lumber Ltd. closed in 2009, the Municipality of Clare purchased the former lumber mill in 2011 in an effort to preserve the economic development potential of the site, says Pam Doucet, the director of Economic Development for the municipality.
“In order to prepare the site for future investment, five aging and precarious buildings are being torn down,” Doucet says.
“In addition to security reasons, a refurbished property will add value to the land and to the surrounding vicinity and will help attract new business activity to the site,” she says.
The demolition is expected to last for a few weeks.
The public is cautioned to remain at a safe distance from the site during the demolition process.
A LONG HISTORY
Comeau Lumber Ltd. closed in January 2009 but the mill had been part of the community’s fabric for a long time before that.
Back in the day, starting in the earlier 1900s, the business was started by Edmond M. Comeau. At the time, the fishing industry was thriving and his company contributed to the economy.
According to biographical information posted online with the Centre Acadian, Université Sainte-Anne/Council of Nova Scotia Archives, Comeau had become a businessman at a young age, after taking a stab at several other trades, which included carpentry, selling farm machinery, making coffins and selling horses.
In 1942, Comeau incorporated the company with his sons Désiré, Denis, Alphonse, Adolphe and Léo, under the name E. M. Comeau & Sons. The bio information says he gradually stepped aside to leave the management of the company to his sons, who each took turns running it. As the owner of several woodlots, the company hired employees to cut the wood, run the mill, make boxes, transport goods and sell outside the region, including internationally.
Edmond Comeau died in 1959, at the age of 83.
Wooden potato crates, apple bins and salt fish boxes and other wooden packing boxes had been mainstays for the milling business in the early 1900s. In the 1970s the business had evolved to become a major supplier of construction lumber.
E.M. Comeau and Sons Ltd. was sold in the mid-1990s.
Known as Comeau Lumber when it closed in 2009, a downturn in the lumber market had been too deep and too extreme for the business to carry on. An economic meltdown and the plummeting demand for lumber was too difficult to overcome. The depreciating Canadian dollar was another blow.
At the time of its closure the mill still employed 50 to 60 people, some of whom had worked there for decades. The effects of the closure were even more far reaching since all of the timber supplied to Comeau Lumber came from southwest Nova Scotia, with 85 per cent of that coming from small landowners.
But the location still holds much value. The Municipality of Clare is hopeful that with some of the dilapidated buildings demolished and removed from the site, it will be an attractive location for new business(es) to set up in the future.