New Brunswick

Martello Tower restoration 'an immense jigsaw puzzle,' says builder

Atwill-Morin, a restoration company based in Montreal, was recently awarded a federal contract to upgrade the historic Carleton Martello Tower in west Saint John.

National historic site in Saint John expected to reopen before the end of 2020

According to Parks Canada, $13 million was committed to rehabilitate the Carleton Martello Tower National Historic Site (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

Work to restore one of the oldest forts in New Brunswick has begun.

Atwill-Morin, a restoration company based in Montreal, was recently awarded a federal contract to upgrade the aging Carleton Martello Tower in west Saint John. 

The tower, a national historic site, was first constructed in 1813 for the War of 1812 and is one of just nine towers of its kind in Canada. But the tower was closed in 2016 after it was deemed major renovations were needed.

The federal government has committed $13 million to the project, which is now underway and expected to be complete by the end of 2020.

Matthew Atwill-Morin, the company's president and chief executive officer, told Information Morning Saint John time has taken its toll.

"The joints are getting older. The mortar in the joints, some of the stones, have been on the building … for over 100 years, close to 200 years, I believe," Atwill-Morin said. 

"With the water filtration or the rain, the snow and the cold, mortar joints need to be maintained. And we need to change some of the stones in order to bring it up to what it should be."

The erratic Maritime weather and consistent freeze-thaw cycles are hard on a tower like this, he said.

Carleton Martello Tower is a national historic site built in the early 1800s. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Atwill-Morin said it's "meticulous work" that requires taking each stone down and restoring its precise location.

"It's like an immense jigsaw puzzle that we're taking down, and restoring means falling at the same exact place," he said. 

"So it's a fairly complex job, but, thankfully, we have a huge expertise in that area."

Most of the material will be locally sourced, he said, including sand for the mortar and stone.

Last year, Parks Canada said the walls and vaults will be repaired and a concrete fire command post will be replaced.

The command post, added in the early 1900s, was used to watch for German U-boats in the Bay of Fundy.

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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