2. Commemorative Integrity of the Site

2.5 Other Heritage Resources

Engineering Works

The cultural resources of the Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site of Canada demonstrate the techniques of navigation and canal engineering used on both the first and second canal systems.

Stone walls at the upper entrance of the first lock are the only visible traces of the first canal system built at Saint-Ours.
Remains of the first lock at Saint-Ours
© Parks Canada / Chantal Prud'homme / 1996

Resources relating to the first canal system (1844-1849) consist of a few features of the lower entrance of the first lock.11 Those relating to the second system consist of a lock, a canal and related structures (walls, lead caissons, dam).12

The Saint-Ours canal is delimited by concrete walls that form the upper and lower entrances of the present-day lock. These walls built after 1967, possibly in 1969, when the dam was built. The floating dock that abuts the jetty dates from the same era. The lead caisssons, similar to those on the east side of the old lock, date from 1912-14.

Administrative, operations and residential buildings

This residence was built on Darvard Island in 1854. A highly decorative ornamental garden that enhanced the front garden of the house disappeared with the construction of the second lock. The annex on the left side was built ten years earlier as a temporary residence for the superintendent.
The superintendent's house in 1903
© Parks Canada / neg. 161/00/ic-5 / 1903

With the exception of the superintendent's house and a small stone shed,13 there are no administrative buildings of particular historic interest at the Saint-Ours lock. Both the superintendent's house and the stone shed have been evaluated by the Heritage Buildings Review Office. Neither has been "classified" or "recognized."

11 The remains of the first lock are barely visible because, in 1933, it was partly filled in when the present-day lock was built. At that time, however, the lower section of the lock was kept and used as a basin. In the 1970s the rest of the lock was filled in and landscaped; henceforth the upper perimeter of the lock chamber area was used as a parking lot, and an underground storage area was built a few feet away from the lower entrance. Since its inauguration in 1849, the first Saint-Ours lock underwent major changes. From the late 1850s, the gates and various mechanisms used to operate them were replaced several times. In addition, the upper and lower lock sills and the apron (the floor of the lock behind the lower lock sill) were completely upgraded between 1888 and 1891. Only the walls that form the lower entrance of the first Saint-Ours lock are visible today. The lock chamber, built of cut stone, is thus one of the most significant archaeological remains.

12 The present-day lock, inaugurated in 1933, represents the principal cultural resource related to the second canal system. Built parallel and to the west of the first lock, the second lock was built entirely of concrete. The intent of its navigational scale, at 103 metres long, 14 metres wide, and 3.7 metres deep at the sills, was to reap the commercial advantages that American canals serving as an extension of the Richelieu—especially the Erie and Champlain Canals—had to offer. Few changes have been made to the present-day lock since 1933. That year, the manually operated gate system was replaced by an electric system and, in 1968-69, the sluice mechanisms were replaced with a hydraulic system. Meanwhile the retaining walls of the upper entrance of the lock were completely rebuilt, eliminating the need for guard gates in this area. Later, railings were installed around the side of the lock. The lead caissons on the east side of the old lock, in line with the upper and lower entrances, were built of concrete between 1912 and 1914. They replaced the five wooden cribs filled with stones that were installed on each side of the lock from 1882 to 1883; each of these two rows of cribs was linked by a pier that formed a continuous 152-metre long walkway. An anchor point at the south east end of the first lock probably indicates the location of one of the old filled cribs, as it is in line with the other cribs. These structures are useful for mooring boats and prevent them from being pushed by the wind into the lower water zone on the east side of the waterway. The present-day dam, inaugurated in 1969, is on a bigger scale than the one it replaced, and concrete was used instead of crib work. This dam links the west bank of the Richelieu River with Darvard Island and is 20 metres upstream from the old dam, leaving its relationship with the historic landscape substantially unchanged. The sluices are operated using an unusual form of technology that harnesses water pressure. In 2000-01, a fish ladder was built on the western shore of the Richelieu River in the vicinity of the first dam so that certain endangered species of fish, notably the copper redhorse, could swim upstream to spawn.

13 The superintendent’s house is a brick building on a stone foundation that was built in 1854-55 by Sorel businessman William Craig according to plans drawn up by Public Works architect John J. Sippell. Built on Darvard Island, this two-storey house with a gable roof originally measured 10.3 by 8.5 metres (34 by 28 feet). When it was renovated in 1900-01, a covered porch was added (rebuilt in 1976), along with two dormer windows. The front of the house now has evenly spaced windows in their respective alcoves. The exception is that on the ground floor, the southern gable wall has no window, because formerly an annex extended southwards from this wall. In the late 1960s, the ground floor divisions and windows were altered. The exterior walls, formerly of natural stone and later clad in painted wood, are now of white stucco. The building has been temporarily roofed with asphalt tiles. The ventilation of the attic space is presently inadequate and corrective work has yet to be undertaken on it. In addition, the construction of the second lock amputated an elaborate ornamental garden in front of the house. The small stone shed was used for storing paint and oil. It has often been called the powder magazine or the ice-house because of its architectural similarity to such buildings. Very few changes have ever been made to this structure of 4.8 by 3.6 metres. Its hipped roof, formerly tin-sheeted, was re-roofed with cedar shakes in 1969. The ventilation chimney on the ridge of the roof, formerly cylindrical, is now square. The earth floor was covered with sand some years ago. The openings in the walls, built with massive natural stones, are untouched. The interior walls have been cemented and a ceiling of painted wood prevents access to the attic. The building has no plumbing or lighting.

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