1. The Lachine Canal and Its Industrial Corridor: The Present Context
1.1 A National Historic Site
Extending over 14 km, the Lachine Canal traverses the southwest area of the Island of Montréal. It is a manmade waterway, originally designed to skirt the obstacle represented by the Lachine Rapids and thus facilitate navigation on the St. Lawrence River. While two projects were undertaken during the French Regime, the first Lachine Canal was dug between 1821 and 1825. Although generally continuing to follow its original layout, the canal was improved and considerably enlarged between 1843 and 1846, as well as between 1873 and 1884. Its depth went from 1.4 m to 4.27 m, while its width, initially measuring 14.5 m, eventually ranged between less than 30 m to more than 80 m. Its five sets of twin locks enabled vessels to negotiate a change in level of about 14 m.
As the ancestor of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Lachine Canal constituted an important link in the Canadian waterway system. The canal's national historic significance was rec-ognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1929. In 1987, the Board reiterated the national historic significance of the canal as a waterway belonging to Canada's national canal system.
Both the actual canal and the engineering works related to it represent tangible evidence of the development of navigation on the St. Lawrence and shipping in Canada. They also constitute a reminder of the role played by the Lachine Canal at the entrance to the canal system that linked the Atlantic Ocean with the heart of the continent through the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.
The canal had a great influence on the indus-trial and urban development of the greater Montréal area. The waterway is situated in the very heart of what became the first centre of industrial manufacturing in Canada. Indus-tries were attracted to the canal from the mid-19th century because of its proximity to the port of Montréal, the amount of shipping it handled and the hydraulic power resulting from the drop in ground level occurring over the entire set of locks. As the first industrial corridor in the nation, the Lachine Canal pos-sessed an energy potential that placed it in the ranks of the largest industrial centres in North America.
In June 1996, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized the Montréal sector of the Lachine Canal industrial corridor as an important testimonial to the Canadian manufacturing industry. From the time of this recognition, Lachine Canal National Historic Site of Canada has included not only the waterway and the reserved areas for which Parks Canada is responsible, but also the reaches, locks and reserved areas managed by the Old Port of Montréal or by the private sector. The place of commemoration 1 also includes the complexes in the industrial corridor on either side of the waterway and its reserved lots, this corridor being delimited by the first streets parallel to the canal along its length from the Old Port of Montréal to the limits of the Borough of Saint-Paul on the north shore and to the limits of the Borough of LaSalle on the south shore.
The industrial buildings that have survived to the present in the corridor and the elements of transportation works and infrastructure along and across the waterway together form a meaningful landscape that testifies to the industrial development of Montréal from the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, as well as to the role played in this develop-ment by the Lachine Canal.
Representing a major benchmark in Canada's industrial development and transportation history, the Lachine Canal and its industrial corridor constitute a very significant place of memory for all Canadians.
The expression “place of commemoration” is applied to a site recognized by the Minister of the Environment
on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The term may refer to a location, a building
or a place of national interest or significance, including buildings or works that are of national interest because of
their age or architecture. The place of commemoration is an entity that is geographically delimited and definable.
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