3.0 Statement of Commemorative Intent
Commemorative intent identifies the reason(s) why the site was commemorated as being of national historic significance. While the authority to designate a national historic site rests with the Minister, it is on the advice of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada [HSMBC or the “Board” that this authority is exercised. Commemorative intent, therefore, is based on the Ministerially-approved recommendations of the Board’s deliberations.
During its deliberations in June 1924, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board first noted the national importance of the Rideau Canal The following year, the Board adopted the resolution “that the construction of the Rideau Canal be declared an event of national importance.”
In 1926, the Canal was commemorated through a Board-approved plaque. It stated:
This tablet commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the Rideau Canal in September, 1826, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel John By: R.E., connecting the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario for ship navigation, thereby, laying the foundation of the City of Ottawa and advancing the development of Eastern Ontario.
In May 1939, the Board recognized the national significance of the Merrickville Blockhouse by recommending “That a secondary tablet bearing the following inscription be placed on this structure: - MERRICKVILLE BLOCKHOUSE A fine example of the best type of blockhouses erected for the defense of the Rideau Canal about 1832.”
Plaque text reads as follows:
When construction of the Rideau Canal began, Merrickville was already an established village and was considered to be a logical target for an invader. Consequently Colonel John By urged strong measures for the protection of the lockstation. The result was this Blockhouse, built in 1832-33, the largest on the Rideau Canal and the second largest surviving in Canada. It still resembles its early description as “a good blockhouse, the basement and ground floor being of stone, and the upper storey of wood covered with tin, the whole surrounded by a ditch”.
The next Board recommendation came in 1967, when it reconfirmed that “the Rideau Canal is of national historical importance, and further resolves as follows:
the entire lock system of the Rideau Canal including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’ houses be declared of national historical significance.... the Minister should assume such responsibilities for the policies of Canal maintenance and operation as may be necessary to maintain the existing structures and preserve the unique historical environment of the Canal System.”
During deliberations on the Trent-Severn Waterway in November 1987, the Board commented in a comparative note that the Rideau Canal “is unique among Canadian Canals in that so many of its original structures have survived as built and most of its lockstations retain their integrity....”
The Rideau Canal was designated a national historic site in 1924. The reasons for national significance, based on the 1924, 1967 and 1987 Minutes of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada are:
- the construction of the canal system;
- the survival of a high number of original canal structures including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’ houses plus the integrity of most lockstations, and;
- the unique historical environment of the canal system.
The Merrickville Blockhouse was designated a national historic site in 1939 because:
- it is a fine example of the best type of blockhouses erected for the defense of the Rideau Canal.