Imagine the sight of a row of burning pianos on the streets…”

If you’re driving through Windsor, Nova Scotia on the main highway, you cannot help but notice the impressive abandoned mill building off to your side. As we had some time on our hands, on our pass by yesterday I pull off the highway to take a closer look.

The building, formerly home to Nova Scotia Textiles, has a fascinating history; its end came as the result of the Iraq war:

Oddly enough the final nail in the coffin came about as a result of the Iraq war. The mill had a contract with a company called Morning Pride, based in Dayton, Ohio, that specialized in making protective wear for firefighters. The mill had a contract to manufacture Morning Pride jackets, but a shortage of fireproof material called Nomex meant the mill’s only profitable contract was now impossible to complete.

Normex is made by DuPont, an American chemical manufacturer. Nomex, a fire-resistant, petroleum-based fibre, is a variant of Kevlar, a component of bulletproof vests. DuPont has a contract with the US Military and must fulfill these orders before it can deal with commercial orders.

In August, 2006, DuPont sent a letter advising its customers of a shortage of Nomex because of ‘continued and unexpected demand for Nomex … by the U.S. Military.”

After closing, the mill was on the cusp of redevelopment into condominiums and retail space, but the 2008 recession ground that process to a halt.

Musician Terra Spencer has a lovely song about the mill; in the song I learned that in 1897 the town of Windsor burned to the ground:

Residents were forced from their homes, but made brave efforts to save some of their belongings and homes. At the time grand pianos were one of the most valuable pieces in a home and many people pulled their pianos into the street but had to abandon them when the fire got too strong. Imagine the sight of a row of burning pianos on the streets.

Every church in Windsor was lost except the Anglican Church. Tradition tells that the students of Kings College saved the building by pouring water on the roof. Damage was estimated at two million dollars but only six hundred thousand dollars was insured. The miracle of the fire is that no lives were lost.

Regular readers may recall that my ancestors have some familiarity with towns burning to the ground.