Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada
Fort No. 1, Avant-Garde Technology
Bivouac from the 78th Highlanders Regiment at Point
Lévy, around 1868. These soldiers worked on the building of the fort
© Queen's Own Highlanders Museum Ardesier, Écosse
The construction of Fort No. 1 was a beehive of activity right from
the start. Numerous technological innovations turned it into an ingenious
Under the orders of the royal engineers, nearly 500 soldiers, artisans
and workers laboured away and invented new methods as they went. Construction
took seven years. The fort bears witness to the latest industrial processes
of the time and also shows evidence of some interesting technical innovations
that were adapted to the site.
of the Fort Staddon in the south of England in January 1863.
© Royal Engineers Library, England
Some of the techniques used at various stages in the construction
of the fort turned out to be a first in Canada. For instance, when the region
was surveyed in 1864, Point Lévy was measured using surveyor's chains
with theodolites, a method common in Ireland and England. The technique produced
highly detailed maps that even showed roadside crosses and telegraph lines.
This was truly a first in Canada!
Work started in the summer of 1865. Besides the three forts, they
had to build the encampment for the royal engineers, a dock on the water
and the communications network across the St. Lawrence River.
New Products and Original Experiments
of workers making concrete
© Parks Canada / Jean Jolin / ES-119/COH/PR-6/D-27-4
Fort No. 1 was built by the military and was completed in 1872. The
other two forts were built by private concerns and were finished in 1869.
The ditch had to be dug and cleared out and supported by walls to prevent
the sides from caving in. The military did not have enough specialized manpower
within its ranks to complete the work, so they turned to the private sector.
The inside walls were built of concrete poured into stone frames. Another
first in Canada. Not only were innovative techniques employed but also new
types of building materials and heavy equipment. Steam engines were used
to run machines such as rock crushers and cement mixers to prepare the concrete.
Engineers conducted special experiments to see how the concrete would react
to freezing temperatures - an important issue in Québec winters. They
also did tests to see if black Québec cement could replace Portland
cement and to see how waterproof asphalt could be.
Despite the fact that this was a military site, operations were not
kept secret. It attracted a swarm of tourists, mostly American.