This Week in History
Construction of the Lachine Canal
This story was initially published in 2000
On July 17, 1821, the first sod was turned to begin construction of the Lachine Canal. It marked the beginning of a major program of canal building in Canada, and an effort by Montréal merchants to capture the trade of the Great Lakes interior for the port of Montréal.
Encouraged by the Montréal merchants, the Province of Lower Canada (Quebec) responded in July 1821 by commencing work on a canal from Montréal to Lachine. Completed in August 1824, the Lachine Canal began an era of canal building in the Canadas. It also established Montréal as the commercial centre for Canada in exporting grain, flour, potash, and timber, importing manufactured goods, and providing banking, forwarding, and commercial services. The canal also ensured that Montréal would remain the port of entry for immigrants settling in the Canadian interior.
In the 1840s, the Lachine Canal was enlarged to accommodate larger vessels and provide water power for industrial purposes. Water-powered iron foundries, boiler and steam engine works, textile factories, metal working plants, and flour milling complexes were established along the canal, as well as wood processing shops and nail and spike factories. Montréal was transformed into Canada's leading industrial centre, while maintaining its commercial importance.
The Lachine Canal was enlarged again between 1873 and 1884. It continued to play a critical role in the national canals transportation system, and in the development of Montréal, until the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Replaced by the Seaway, the canal was closed in 1971.
Today, the Lachine Canal National Historic Site of Canada continues to preserve and actively interpret the industrial heritage of the Lachine Canal corridor.
For further information, please visit the Lachine Canal National Historic Site of Canada.
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