Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

Buildings stand as testament to shipbuilding industry

Wallace Shipyard - 1867 New Brunswick

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following excerpt is taken from an article written in 1937 by Frank K. Stuart.

    The good old Shipbuilding Days!"
   How often have we heard these words ringing in our ears and have been filled with pride and wonder as tales of the great wooden ships and the men who built them are unfolded! We can scarcely believe that from Saint John, St. Martins and all those places up and down the Bay of Fundy coast, great winged ships went forth to all corners of the globe to earn fame for themselves and their builders.
   Those old shipbuilders were men of superior stamp indeed. They raised Saint John to the rank of third largest shipbuilding centre, in point of tonnage, in the world. They. were even higher ranked in regard to the quality of their work, for they produced some of the best wooden ships of marine history.
   Most of these ships and their builders are gone now, but there still remains a few traces of this great industry. By these, I do not mean the numerous models, paint-ings and curios that lie in the New Brunswick Museum or can be found in many homes throughout the province, but rather, those buildings and pieces of heavy equipment actually used in the production of vessels and which are today standing on the original site.

At Gardner's Creek

   At Gardner's Creek, on the Bay coast midway between Saint John and St. Martins, there is a building which fills this qualification. The two-storey structure is located about an hour's drive from the city. It is right alongside the shore road to St. Built in 1867, the molding loft at Wallace Shipyard was used in the building of 33 vessels. Martins, about two miles this side of Gardner's Creek Bridge. Occupying the upper storey is the molding loft which served the Wallace Shipyard for a period of about 40 years. Built about 1867, the loft was used in the building of 33 vessels of all types, the last of which was launched just after the turn of the century.
   It will be necessary to explain the role of a molding loft in the making of a vessel.
   In the first place, there were no plans on paper, but a half-model of the hull was made. This model was altered many times and when the draughtsmen were satisfied with it they proceeded to make, in the molding loft, molds corresponding in shape to the shape of the ribs of the vessel.
   These were simply thin wooden molds for half the hull, in full scale the measurements being taken off the model by means of a draughtsman's rule. (This wooden rule is about two feet long and three inches wide, and on its face and back are several scales by means of which the draughtsman was able to calculate his molds in exact scale to the mod-, el.)

Taken to Shipyard

   After completion, the molds were taken to the shipyard, where they were used as patterns from which to make the vessel. Under the draughtsman's direction each piece of the hull was made the exact shape, and size as its corresponding piece of the molds and when the process was complete for both sides, another ship was ready for launching. It is no exaggeration then to say that the molding loft was perhaps the most important unit of the industry.
    The molds made at the Wallace yard were frequently sold to the yards in Black River and St. Martins, to be used in the making of vessels at those places. The ships were not rigged in Gardner's Creek. They were brought to Saint John for this work and they were also registered here. This was likewise true, I believe, of those built in Black River and St. Martins. So a great many ships registered here were, in reality, products of outside yards. Therefore when speaking of the "ships of Saint John" we should make clear that we mean "the ships of Saint John County."

Still in Existence

    The 70-year-old loft is now the property of John R. Wallace, son of the late William Wallace, shipbuilder, and although it no longer sends forth ship molds, it still plays a prominent part in the life of these shore communities. From late spring through to the end of summerS, it serves as a sort of unofficial community hall and as such it is perhaps the only place remaining where one can enjoy the luxury of a square-dance under a roof supported with knees hewn by men who knew how to make a stout ship.