North Sydney Poor House

I haven’t been writing on here much lately as I have been so busy working at my summer job. In between, I have been speaking about my book A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia at various locations.  I thought it was time, however, to step off the mainland of Nova Scotia and write about one of the poor houses in Cape Breton.


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The North Sydney Poor House has been the most difficult one on which to find information. There is simply very little written about it. I have requested information from local history groups and they do not seem to be able to locate much either, much to our mutual disappointment.

Dr. Page, who was the Inspector of Charities at the time, wrote in 1898 that the North Sydney Poor House had had only two inmates for several years.

The poor house was a small cottage located in the town of North Sydney and generally took care of impoverished elderly people of the area.

In 1899 the new Inspector of Charities, Dr. Sinclair wrote “It is an ordinary dwelling…and is comfortable and apparently satisfactory to its’ occupants….I hear no complaints.”  Who would complain when the alternative was homelessness?

In an academic paper written by Suzanne Morton in Atlantis, Volume 20, No. 1, entitled “Old Women and Their Place in Nova Scotia 1881-1931” she writes:

“…by 1907…North Sydney’s Poor House was a simple cottage that in the same year housed a single old woman.”

By 1914, Dr. Hattie was the provincial Inspector of Humane Institutions and wrote that there were two inmates in this poor house and wrote of the ‘general neglect’ this house was suffering. This was the last report written on this poor house. It is surmised that the North Sydney Poor House was closed some time prior to the beginning of the First World War.

I do not have a photo of this poor house. Do you? Do you know of someone who has a photo of the poor house? Would you like to expand upon our history of poor houses in Nova Scotia by sharing it? Please contact me at

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