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Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site

The End of a Reign, and the Modern-Day Renaissance of the Site

The development of the Beauharnois canal in the mid-19th century gradually led to the abandonment of the Coteau-du-Lac infrastructures. Activities on the site significantly declined, and many buildings soon fell into a state of serious neglect.

New uses

Between 1865 and 1890, Georges Beaudet, a resident of Coteau-du-Lac and the tenant of the site, established a sawmill upon the canal ruins. From 1893 to 1899, the provincial Department of Railways and Canals operated a stone quarry along the Delisle River. In 1923, the historic interest of the site was officially recognized.

The renaissance of Coteau-du-Lac
Picture of archaeologists working to unearth military remnants. Archaeological excavations
Parks Canada

In 1965, Parks Canada undertook a major campaign of archaeological excavations on the site. During the next three years, archaeologists unearthed the remains of the main buildings and collected an impressive quantity of artifacts that testified to various phases of occupation of this area.

The aboriginal presence
Group of Amerindians travelling on the St. Lawrence River in a bark canoe The Aboriginal presence
© Parks Canada

Moreover, the discovery of artifacts dating to a period extending from 6 000 to 4 000 years ago recalls the presence of Aboriginal peoples on this site. Analysis of these artifacts has suggested that nomad groups from the Archaic period, who most likely lived from fishing, hunting and gathering, used the Coteau-du-Lac site as a stopping ground during the spawning season.

Heritage development
Archeological excavations, Coteau-du-Lac site, summer 1966
Archeological excavations, Coteau-du-Lac site, summer 1966
Parks Canada, Portfolio 34, 9G65R2T644

In 1972, following the archaeological work, the Coteau-du-Lac area was officially recognized as a
National Historic Site. In 1982, restoration work was begun to develop the heritage values associated with the military, commercial, home-building and industrial activities which took place at Coteau-du-Lac and to commemorate the major role played by the site in the development of transport and communications in Canada.

As the forerunner of today's St. Lawrence Seaway, the Coteau-du-Lac canal recalls the birth of river transport technology in the country, and highlights the strategic and economic importance of the St. Lawrence River, the main route for penetrating into the heart of the North American continent.