Nova Scotia

Cape Breton's Fortress of Louisbourg brought to life in Lego

Quebec team has been working for more than two years to recreate the National Historic Site in Cape Breton.

Quebec-based team toils for more than 2 years to create scale model of historic site

A plastic soldier stands watch over the Fortress of Louisbourg in a Lego masterpiece created over thousands of hours by Jean Bédard of Quebec City and his team. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

The Fortress of Louisbourg has been celebrated in songs, books and paintings  — and now recreated in all its glory as a Lego masterpiece.

Although not yet complete, the 7.3-metre-long model will contain an estimated 200,000 plastic bricks once it's finished.

Bédard says that in the summer of 2024 his group plans to bring the replica to the Fortress of Louisbourg for public viewing. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

The idea for the miniature came from the project's lead Jean Bédard who visited the Cape Breton National Historic Site  in 2008. 

"Me and my brother went to the fortress for the 250 anniversary of the second siege of the fortress," said Bédard. "It was just magical with all of the British and French soldiers and the fortress itself and the fog."

The present-day Fortress of Louisbourg is the recreation of an 18th century French fishing port and military base established during a time of warfare between France and Britain for colonial mastery in the new world. The fall of Louisbourg in 1758 marked the beginning of the end for France's colonies in North America.

The federal government started rebuilding the historic site in the 1960s and it's now a major tourist attraction in Cape Breton.

Bédard said he began the replica project in January 2020, and soon after a team was assembled. 

The five people behind the project have all chipped in to cover its cost, estimated at around $20,000.

One of the last sections to be finished before the replica heads to a Lego convention in Chicago in 2023 is the King's Bastion, a former keystone of French military power in what is now Canada. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

In addition to Bédard and his brother Louis, the team is also made up of Francis St-Germain, Francis Bibeau and Étienne Beaudoin.

"We're trying to make it as identical to the actual buildings as possible, but in another way we have to keep the size of it reasonable," said Bédard,

"We open a new block on the project and we assign it to a member. So the member is responsible [for] building or rebuilding … so it's really easy to do split work and collaborate that way. 

Bédard said the replica matches up with the scale of Lego's mini-figures which are spread throughout the scene.

Bédard say that one of the more difficult parts of the Louisbourg Lego model project is putting together the delicate rooftops on the fortress buildings. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

So far, a great portion of the project has been completed from its large gateways and walkways to its bustling courtyards and shipping ports. What's left to build, however, is what Bédard calls the masterpiece of the fortress — the King's Bastion — a keystone of French military power.

A.J.B. Johnston, a historian who worked at the Fortress of Louisbourg for 23 years, said he's impressed by the Lego creation's accuracy and detail. 

Johnston wrote the book Louisbourg: Past, Present, and Future and believes the Lego replica could create more interest in the history of Louisbourg and its battles between the French and British. 

"It's an endless pit, or an endless treasure trove," he said. "Louisbourg can fascinate you in countless ways."

When completed the Louisbrick project is estimated to cost roughly $20,000. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

Once completed, the 'Louisbrick' project will be brought to the 2023 Lego convention known as Brickworld Chicago.

After its North American showcase, Bédard said the replica will be brought to the fortress for a display in 2024.

And following that, the plastic pieces of the structure will be pulled apart in order for the team to begin creating something new.

The five-member team behind the Louisbrick project are shown left to right, Francis St-Germain, Jean Bédard, Francis Bibeau, Louis Bédard and Étienne Beaudoin. (Submitted by Jean Bédard)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

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