1.2 The Historical Context
When the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock was constructed, it represented an alternative to the Vaudreuil lock, which had been built in 1815-1816. Although the Vaudreuil and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue locks belonged to the same canal system as the other locks on the Ottawa River, they differed from the others in that their construction was motivated by commercial interests. The Vaudreuil lock was a privately run facility, unlike the canals at Carillon, Chute-à-Blondeau and Grenville, which were built for military purposes. With the construction of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock, this part of the river was truly integrated with the inland waterway between Montréal and Kingston via the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal.
Like the other canals along the Ottawa River, the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal was used by vessels transporting timber and various types of merchandise, such as agricultural produce and manufactured goods. From 1849 to 1919, the freight transported through the canal was for the most part lumber from the Ottawa Valley. However, as the railroads developed, the amount of lumber transported by water gradually dropped. From 1920 to 1963, shipments of sand, gravel and petroleum products supplanted forest products as the principal freight transported. Today, the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal welcomes pleasure boating, which has a considerable impact on the economy and tourism in the surrounding area.
Although the first plans for the canal were drawn up in 1831, construction of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock was delayed until 1840 -1843. Because it was built strictly for economic reasons, the new lock was significantly larger than those on the Rideau Canal or on other canals constructed along the Ottawa River. The work at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue was carried out at the foot of the rapids, on the east side of the channel and included the construction of a lock with an average draught of 2.1 m, measuring about 60 m in length by 13.4 m in width.
© Parks Canada / neg. 160/00IC-10 - 1904
On the recommendation of the Canals Commission, large-scale work was undertaken on the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal from 1873 to 1883 with a view to improving transportation conditions on the Canadian canal system by standardizing the locks between Ottawa and Lachine. In this respect, constant complaints had been made about the shallow draught of the channel leading to the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock since 1846.
The canal work carried out in this period included building a dam, a canal and a new lock, parallel to the 1843 lock, which continued to be used for several years. Between 1873 and 1877, the Becker Dam was constructed about 150 m downstream from the lock to enable vessels to bypass a shoal. The dam created a channel 3.2 m deep, 36.5 m wide and 365 m long, lined on either side by continuous wooden caissons and parallel earth levees. The approach channel was about the same length as the dam; it was lined with entrance caissons upstream and was marked off by a pier downstream. The new lock, built between 1880 and 1882, had a draught of 2.7 m and measured 61 m long by 13.7 m wide.
As of 1909, there began a period of modernization during which the 1843 lock was abandoned. The 1882 lock was provided with a lighting system in 1914, and the gate mechanisms were electrified in 1923. In the 1920s and 1930s, new materials were began to be used, introducing changes in the landscape. The entrance caissons, for example, were covered with concrete. Various buildings, which have since disappeared, were erected to meet the needs of operating and maintaining the canal. These buildings included two Victorian-style lockmasters’ houses, the superintendent’s house, the toll collector’s residence and office, a woodshed, a smithy, a carpentry shop, a storehouse and a tool shed.
In the 1960s, a second period of modernization resulted in the disappearance of the old buildings and the replacement of the lockmasters’ houses and superintendent’s residence by the brick buildings that are still standing. The lock’s old wooden gates were changed for steel ones, and the streetlamps were replaced. As well, the banks of the lock and the canal were planted with an abundance of trees and shrubs, while the old lock was filled in.