Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
General view of Sault Ste. Marie Canal showing the functional inter-relationship and orientation of facilities in the canal corridor. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view of Sault Ste. Marie Canal showing the functional inter-relationship and orientation of facilities in the canal corridor. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.Aerial view of Sault Ste. Marie Canal showing the engineering works, buildings and designed landscape features. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.General view of Sault Ste. Marie Canal showing the integrity of the canal path, © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
Address : 4 Whitefish Island / 1 Canal Drive, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1987-11-20
Dates:
  • 1894 to 1895 (Construction)
  • 1895 to 1979 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Dominion Bridge Co.  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Sault Ste. Marie Canal  (Designation Name)
  • Emergency Swing Bridge Dam, Powerhouse  (Other Name)
  • Sault Ste. Marie Ship Canal  (Plaque name)
Research Report Number: 1987-A03-4
DFRP Number: 11878 00

Plaque(s)


Completed in 1895, this canal formed the last link in an all-Canadian navigation system stretching from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Superior. Designed and built by Canadians, the canal incorporated several engineering innovations. It was the world's longest lock and the first to operate with electrical power. It was also novel in using an emergency swing bridge dam to protect the lock in case of accident. Electricity was generated on site in the powerhouse. Closed in 1987 owing to a lock wall failure, the canal was equipped with a modern lock and opened for recreational use in 1998.

Description of Historic Place

Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada is a man-made waterway that passes between the city of Sault Ste. Marie and Whitefish Island on the shipping channel joining Lake Huron and Lake Superior at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Of particular note are the canal’s Powerhouse built into the slope of the hill at the downstream end of the lock, and the Emergency Swing Dam located west of the original lock near the Superintendent’s Residence. The canal is now operated as a recreational facility.

Heritage Value

Sault Ste. Marie Canal was designated a national historic site of Canada, in 1987, because: it is part of Canada’s national canal system, the Powerhouse, the Powerhouse machinery and the Emergency Swing Dam are resources of national historic and architectural significance.

The heritage value of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal lies in the legibility and completeness of the man-made waterway including its engineering works, associated buildings and designed landscape features. The Sault Ste. Marie Canal was completed in 1895 as part of Canada’s national canal system. The Powerhouse for the canal was built in 1894 during the initial phase of construction, and the canal’s Emergency Swing Dam was built by Dominion Bridge Co. in 1895. Administration of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal was transferred to the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority (1959-1979), then to Parks Canada to continue canal operation as a recreational facility.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, 1987 Minutes; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 22 June 1999.

Character-Defining Elements

Aspects of this site which contribute to its heritage values include: the legibility of the canal corridor; the integrity of the canal path; the functional inter-relationship and orientation of facilities in the canal corridor; the engineering works, buildings and designed landscape features, particularly their massing, form, technologies and construction materials, and spatial relationships to one another; the rectangular massing of the Powerhouse under a hipped roof, its classical definition and form, the integrity of its red sandstone material and limestone details, the functional spaces of the interior of the building, the surviving equipment and engineering works associated with hydro-electric generation, canal operations and maintenance, its location at the north-east corner of the lock, its siting built into a slope at the end of the lock; the Emergency Swing Dam in its location, original form, fabric and functional design; viewplanes from the canal bed to Lake Superior, from the main shipping channel to Lake Huron, and the industrial facilities along the canal banks.