Prior to the Canal the geography of the area from lakes Micmac and Banook to the Harbor was quite different. First, Lakes Banook and Micmac were at least six feet lower and Sullivan's Pond did not exist. However, there was a stream flowing from Lake Banook to the Harbour known as Saw Mill Stream (River).
Sullivan's Pond did not exist before the Canal and as the name suggests it was excavated between 1826 and 1831 by a crew of Irish Navvies under the direction of the foreman, Mr. Sullivan. The Pond was required as a source of water for the five locks which were planned during the first construction phase 1825-1831 for the area between the Pond and the Harbour. To maintain the required water level in the pond a dam was constructed at the south end.
The Irish and Scottish workmen and their families lived just to the south of the pond in an area known then as Irishtown. On the weekends it was common for people from Halifax to journey across the Harbour to view the Locks and to visit Irishtown as music and dancing were common. The five large stone locks were obviously very impressive and in one newspaper editorial they were referred to as "Wonders of the World".
During the second construction phase of the Canal (1854-1861) the Chief Engineer, Charles William Fairbanks, decided not to use the Locks but rather to borrow an approach being employed on the Morris Canal in New Jersey which involved the use of a Marine Railway. The plan was to construct a wooden cradle which would run on rails between the Harbour and the Pond. The cradle would be pulled up or lowered down the steel tracks by a metal cable which was pulled by a winding wheel powered by a water turbine. Again Sullivan's Pond was critical for this plan as it would be the source of the water power to drive the Turbine.
Key elements of the Marine Railway are currently under construction and when the site is once again open to the public visitors will be able to view the various components of the Marine Rail system and the role played by Sullivan's Pond will become much more obvious.