The Québec North Shore (Côte-Nord) is a grandiose and wild territory, a mixture of spruce and salt air, fishing villages and Innu communities. The North Shore is also a region rich in natural resources and the companies that came to exploit them gave birth to towns and villages, which now dot the entire territory.
Clarke City, west of Sept-Îles, is the oldest example in Québec province. Founded in the early 20th century by the Clarke brothers, the first publishers of the Britannica Encyclopedia, Clarke City is considered to be the first “closed” town in Quebec. The Clarke brothers, who wanted to exploit the surrounding forest, built a pulp and paper mill and then built the houses to house the workers. The Clarke brothers also build a hydroelectric dam on the Sainte-Marguerite River to supply their village with electricity.
Clarke City was called a “closed” town because absolutely everything in the village belonged to the company: the employees’ houses, the hospital, the school, the church. The economic and social life evolved entirely around the company.
Clarke City quickly became one of the most important town of the North Shore. The Clarke brothers built the first railway in the region and managed the sea service. Other company towns took inspiration from Clarke City’s experience to develop, such as Shelter Bay (now Port-Cartier) and even Baie-Comeau.
Forestry activities ceased in Clarke City in the 1960s. Today, the village is actually an area of the city of Sept-Îles. An interpretive center near one of the old locomotives in Clarke City is open during the summer. But you do not have to wait for summer to visit Clarke City. There are explanatory signs all over the village, to learn about the history of the area.
Clarke City is one of the first places I explored when I first arrived on the North Shore. For me, a girl from an Ontario agricultural region, Clarke City had a little something confusing and fascinating. The fascination is still there, almost eight years later. To go to Clarke City is to remember part of the history of the North Shore and the people who worked hard to build this region.