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Cape Breton Museums Network
The Nicolas Denys Museum

Located in St. Peter's on the Fleur-de-lis Trail, Richmond County

Nicolas Denys Museum logo

On the West bank of the St. Peter's Canal (1869).

Opened in 1967 as a project for Canada's Centennial year;
housed in a building which was inspired by a trading post
Nicolas Denys of Tours established here in 1650.

Operated by the St. Peter's Community Club.

Nicolas Denys Museum picture.jpg

Areas of interest:

Cultural history, ethnology, genealogy, history, marine, technology, transportation

Surface area:

About 2,000 sq. ft. (exhibits)

Description, purpose:

To honor Nicolas Denys, Cape Breton Island's first permanent settler, and to collect and preserve the history and artifacts of the St. Peter's area.

Nicolas Denys.jpg

Painting by Lewis Parker
depicting Nicolas Denys in St. Peter's in the 1660s.
Photo: courtesy of Warren Gordon, Sydney.

Highlights of the Museum:

Nicolas Denys was a maker of history in Acadia for over half a century: his remarkable qualities make him one of the builders of this new land, Cape Breton, in its beginnings.

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Above, from the Museum's collection: reproductions of costumes which Nicolas Denys and his wife would have worn in the 17th century.

Nicolas Denys (Tours, France 1598 or 1603 - Paris, 1688) has been associated with St. Peter's history.
This is where, in 1650, he built a trading post and tried to develop the French colony. For years he was engaged in fisheries here, manufactured lumber, and cultivated land.
He constructed a road across the isthmus between the Atlantic and the Bras d'Or Lake, and hauled his boats over that portage. He traded with the Mi'kmaq First Nation.

Nicolas Denys lived in St. Peters's, but he also was active in other areas throughout present Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

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Other interesting facts:

St. Peter's (1650) celebrated its 350th anniversary in 2000.

Ruth Morrison and Alice Curry drew up the plans for the French-styled building housing the Museum (1967).

Special activities or events:

Open House during the 1st week of August (during Nicolas Denys Days in St. Peter's, a yearly event since 2000); along with auctions, flea markets, a parade, ceilidhs, chowder lunches, etc.

Workshops / Educational Programs:

School tours.

Demonstrations by people in costumes: butter churning, wheel spinning, sewing on an old machine, etc.

Contact information:

The Nicolas Denys Museum

P.O. Box 204
46 Denys Street
St. Peters, NS B0E 3B0

(902) 535-2379

June 1 - September 30
Open daily, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Adults, $0.50; children, $0.25.
Bus tours, $10.00. School bus tours: no charge

Parking area, washrooms, picnic area.
Giftshops, restaurants nearby.

The collections:

• Artifacts of everyday life, from the 19th century to the present; photographs, etc.
• History of St. Peter's Canal, opened in 1869 - photographs of the construction.
• History of the Kavanaugh Family.
• Reproduction of a painting by Lewis Parker depicting NIcolas Denys and the original 1650 French trading post (original at the Beaton Institute, Sydney).

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This high-chair can be transformed into a baby carriage.

The Museum contains some exceptional pieces, such as a folding parlour bed.

This is only a part of the exhibit on the several generations of Kavanaughs in the St. Peter's area.

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Staff Members:

Judy Madden, Curator

Volunteers: Margaret Boucher, Donna Cotie,
Gary Gibson, Michele Jonas, Tommy Madden,
Marcia McEwen, Clair Rankin, Charlotte Stone,
Iuy Williamson


For sale at the Museum:

Museum magnets.

Shown at the Museum:
Specimens of pewter ornaments representing some
of St. Peter's historic buildings
(Canal Bridge and Morrison Store;
United Church and Catholic Church).
Handcrafted by Blue Mist Pewter (Springhill, N.S.).
Distributed by the Village-on-the-Canal Association,
St. Peter's, NS (902) 535-4000

Other historical sites in the vicinity:

In the 18th century Saint-Pierre was eventually called Port-Toulouse (1713) and it became a satellite of the Fortress of Louisbourg. The road between the trading post and the Fortress (the 'French Road'), which follows the coastline, is sometimes referred to as "the road not taken".

Map showing communities along the Fleur-de-lis Trail, or Route 104: with L'Ardoise, Pointe Michaud, Fourchu, Framboise
-- towards Gabarus and Louisbourg;
and along the Bras d'Or Scenic Drive
(with Dundee):


Links to other places of interest in the area:


CBMN © February 2002