Rideau Reflections
            Newsletter of the Friends of the RideauSummer 2012              

Defending the Rideau

Defensible lockmasters house
Loophole Windows
The main purpose of some of the windows in the defensible lockmaster’s houses are clearly evident - in this case some of the loophole (gun slit) windows of Sweeney House at Jones Falls
There are many interesting architectural features of the Rideau Canal. Most evident, outside of the locks and dams, are the stone buildings at many of the lockstations. These are legacies of the Rideau Canal’s military role, the blockhouses a response to the War of 1812 and the defensible lockmaster’s houses a response to the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837/38.

In the last newsletter, we touched briefly on these buildings (see “Heritage Preserved” in the Spring 2012 issue). There are two features to these buildings – their location on the landscape of the lockstation and their design – that both serve to create a defensive building.

The blockhouses are very evidently of defensive design. All have thick masonry first floor walls (3 to 4 feet thick). The second floors overhang the first floors with gun slit openings in the outer floor (machicolations) that would have allowed soldiers to fire straight down on any invaders. All except for Merrickville had no doorway in the first floor. At Merrickville the door was high up over a dry moat and the floor of the second storey was originally done in masonry (replaced with wood in 1909 after it partially collapsed).

The wooden walls of the second storeys and the roofs of these buildings were covered with tin shingles to prevent them from catching fire. Their location dominated the local landscape, making it difficult for an invader to sneak up on these buildings.

The defensible lockmaster’s houses were actually proposed by the Kempt Commission in 1828, but the idea for these was rejected by Colonel By in favour of larger blockhouses. The cost for these blockhouses led to only four being constructed.

In 1838, after the Upper Canada Rebellion and the renewed threat of American invasion, plans for the smaller defensible houses were dusted off and by the mid-1840s, most of the lockstations without a blockhouse had a defensible lockmaster’s house.

Over the years, both the blockhouses and defensible lockmaster’s houses were adapted to meet their main use, as housing for the lockmaster and his family. By the late 1800s, these buildings were getting long in the tooth with many valid complaints that they were cold, damp and drafty, and in the case of some, such as the Merrickville Blockhouse, literally falling apart.

While funding for repairs was hard to come by, lockmasters did work hard at making these buildings more liveable, adding a second storey to many and extending the main floor space. In some cases, such as the Newboro Blockhouse, these alterations completely obscured the appearance of the original building.

By the late 1960s, work was underway to restore many of these buildings to their original appearance. Today, several of the buildings, such as the defensible lockmaster’s houses at Davis and Jones Falls, have been restored to what they would have looked like in the 1840s.

Even with the altered buildings, some insight into the features of their original construction can be obtained from an 1845 set of standards set out by the Royal Engineers for defensive buildings.

  1. That the approach be under fire from it.
  2. That every part of it be flanked.
  3. That the gates, doors and all windows within a moderate height from the ground be strong enough not to be forced open without very powerful means.
  4. That there be no openings by which the defenders will be exposed to shot, except the small loop-holes constructed for their own fire
  5. That these loop-holes be not less than 7 feet from the external ground.

This listing of standards is from Barbara A. Humphreys' 1972 Parks Canada report “The Architectural Heritage of the Rideau Corridor” which, not coincidently, is likely to be Friends of the Rideau’s next Book on CD. Barbara, a Friend of the Rideau, volunteered to prepare her report for digitizing. This is in the works at the moment, and we expect to have the Book on CD completed sometime this summer.

Her report, which includes many photos, takes a look not only at the details of the defensible buildings on the Rideau, but also all other parts of its rich architectural heritage including houses, churches, schools and commercial buildings. It will be well worth a read when available – keep an eye on our website, we’ll post information about this report as soon as the Book on CD is available.

- Ken Watson

New Rideau Paddling Guide

Your editor has been burning the midnight oil, working to complete a new paddling guide for the Rideau Canal. This involves consolidating the 18 guides created last year for the day/weekend paddler, into a single guide suited for the transit paddler. The guide not only contains maps and paddling information, but also serves up a generous helping of Rideau heritage information. While intended for paddlers, it will be useful to anyone who wishes to boat the Rideau Canal.

The guide should be ready by early May. It will be distributed electronically (PDF) as “donationware” – that is, freely available from the Internet but with a request that if someone finds it useful, they should consider making a donation to Friends of the Rideau. We are also looking into ways of making it physically available at shows and at The Depot.

War 1812/14 at Chaffey’s Lockmaster’s House Museum

by Neil Patterson

The War of 1812/14 was the reason the British Government constructed the Rideau Canal, but it was also the reason for the defining characteristics along the Rideau Corridor. This summer the Lockmaster’s House Museum at Chaffey’s Lock is creating an exhibition featuring the Historical Development of this defining characteristic.

Immediately following the close of hostilities, The Duke of Wellington, Commander in Chief of the British Defense, saw the need for an Upper Canada (Ontario) militia loyal to the British Crown. His first step was to give any soldier brought over to serve during the war free land. The Perth Military District was created, and land was surveyed from Perth to Richmond to accommodate these soldiers. Surveys of 100 acre lots in the townships north of this settlement to Bytown and townships south to Kingston were completed. These lots were to be given to English, Irish or Scottish immigrants vetted through a British loyalty program. Between 1815 and 1817, 28 families were given land in South Elmsley and another 30 settled in Bastard and South Crosby. The same thing was happening in the other townships north of Brockville to Merrickville and was creating milling centres. The scheme of providing free passage from Britain and free land in Upper Canada ended in 1823; but by that time, several hundred families had developed their new homes in what would become Rideau Lakes Township. The milling centres like Smith Falls, Westport, Merrickville, etc. began to draw merchants and churches. Roads had to be constructed connecting these centres, these roads eventually were to become the highways of the area. The building of the Rideau Canal brought more settlers.

The Lockmaster’s House Museum at Chaffey’s Lock has selected several of these settlers and examined their loyalty and their settlements. The British Government, through a committee of the House of Commons, vetted the loyalty of selected families. This was reported in the British Sessional Papers (reports to the house by various committees) as well as the legislation and actions of the House.

Copies of these reports will make up part of the display. The land that was given to the settlers was given through a Crown Deed. Copies of several of these deeds will be on display as well as an original printed on lamb skin and signed by King George. This original was given to Francis Steadman for land on Clear Lake. How the development of the area took place following this settlement will be illustrated and is similar to the entire corridor from Kingston to Ottawa.


As you know, with the exception of summer students at The Depot in Merrickville, Friends of the Rideau is entirely run by volunteers. In years past we have been fortunate in obtaining support from the Canada Summer Jobs program of the federal government, and from our partners at Parks Canada to help operate The Depot and keep it open for the season. This year the support we have enjoyed from these and other partners has been considerably reduced and in some cases eliminated altogether.

For this reason we are inviting our members to help us operate The Depot and help us in providing assistance to visitors to the Rideau Canal. We’ve never done a proper headcount as to how many visitors we see at The Depot in a year, but on good days in July and August several hundred people stop by (admittedly the lure of our washrooms has something to do with it).

A good proportion of visitors have questions about the Rideau Canal – the usual who, what, why and when – and The Depot staff have the opportunity to enlighten and to educate, as well as guide the visitors to an appreciation of the entire Waterway.

If you can spare a day or two to help out, it would be appreciated. To make arrangements as to times to volunteer, please contact Hunter McGill (huntermcgill@sympatico.ca) or Cheryl Gulseth (cygul@live.ca).

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends,
As we emerge from an unusual winter, with oscillating temperatures and not much snow – or rain for that matter – it’s helpful to contemplate the Rideau on the brink of its 180th season of operations. There is little else in eastern Ontario that has been around as long. Let’s continue to work for its preservation and protection.

At the end of February, Ed Bebee and I attended the Ottawa Boat and Sportsmen’s Show and staffed a booth on behalf of Friends. By our simple calculations we met and talked with about 750 visitors, told them about the Rideau Waterway, sold a few books, gave away masses of Rideau Canal brochures and on behalf of Parks Canada let many people know of the lock pass early bird special deal. We get a lot of pleasure from talking about the Rideau and the Boat Show enables us to get the word out to many people we might not otherwise meet.

Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find a report on the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy public meetings. Several of the Friends of the Rideau board members participated in all three sessions and remain engaged with the process. On behalf of Friends and several other Waterway interest groups, Manuel Stevens and Wendy Stewart and I attended a follow-up meeting with Parks Canada staff at the end of March to discuss next steps and how to fill some gaps resulting from the limited budget for the consultant work now underway. As this is likely a once-and-only opportunity to develop a landscape strategy for the Rideau Corridor, there is considerable interest in achieving the best result possible.

Friends of the Rideau members will be interested to learn of the creation of Friends of the Merrickville Turbine, a group hoping to save the turbine remaining from the earliest electrical generation facility in the village. This Friends group plans to take ownership of the turbine and move it to a suitable location where it can become the centrepiece of a display illustrating an important part of village history. For more information the contact is David Hammonds in Merrickville at david.hammonds@sympatico.ca.

Finally, directors of the Friends of the Rideau look forward to seeing you this summer as we get out and about to the Westport Heritage Festival on June 16, the Rideau Canal Festival in Ottawa on August 3-6, and the Manotick Classic Boat Show, August 11 at Long Island Locks. If you are in or near Merrickville do drop in to The Depot and view our Rideau Canal-themed items for sale, as well as our books etc.

Hunter McGill

A Friend of the Rideau and Beyond:
A tribute to Herb Stovel

Like so many others, I was saddened to hear of Herb Stovel’s death on 14 March this year. Herb, a professor at Carleton, worked at the cutting edge of the heritage field, including many contributions to the Rideau Canal.

A year ago, I was asked to be the wrap-up speaker at the Sixth Carleton University Heritage Conservation. The theme of the gathering had been “Does Designation Work?” Before I turned to commenting on what we had had achieved that day, I addressed some complimentary remarks to Herb Stovel, making the point that if heritage is working, it has benefited much from his career that has been committed to ensuring that it does so. It was then my honour and pleasure to congratulate Herb as recipient of the 2011 ICCROM Award for meritorious service in the field of conservation, for the protection and restoration of cultural heritage, and for his contributions to the development of ICCROM. Later, I closed my talk on heritage by again turning to Herb and identifying him as an important part of our professional heritage.

What a career he had! Following education at McGill, Edinburgh, and ICCROM Italy, Herb worked at the cutting edge of the heritage field as it developed over recent years: the Ontario Heritage Foundation (1978-1984); Heritage Canada’s Main Street commercial-core revitalization programme (1984-1986); Director of Education for Heritage Canada (1986-1988); Director of the University of Montreal’s programme in “Conservation of the Built Environment” (1990-1998); Director of ICCROM’s Heritage Settlements Unit (1998-2004); Coordinator, Heritage Conservation Programme, School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University (2004-2012). During these years, Herb also embraced an administrative and leadership role with major professional organizations: President of the Association of Preservation Technology International (1989-1990); Secretary-General of ICOMOS International (1990-1993); President of ICOMOS Canada (1993-1997). And then there was the considerable corpus of scholarship, policy, and philosophically charged praxis he has left us in his thousand-plus articles, papers, reports, and books and his many lectures and seminars at universities, conferences, and missions world-wide.

But if Herb Stovel was known and respected by the national and international heritage community it is important that we, at the local level of the Rideau Corridor also recognize his good services and contributions to what we do. In 1998, he was the editor and principal author of The Rideau Canal Corridor Cultural Landscape Conservation Study for Parks Canada. His opening words in his Preface to this work capture the essence of the place:

The Rideau Canal and its associated landscape is one of the most fascinating areas of heritage value on the face of the earth. The partly man-made, partly natural channel and the nearby lands through which it passes contain a closely woven tapestry of historic themes profoundly illustrative of the early phases of settling and building Upper Canada set within a remarkably significant and stirring natural context.

What more is there is to say about our Rideau? Actually, the report had a lot more detail and methodological substance, but Herb clearly appreciated the rationale for our appreciation of this distinctive place and the fundamental principles that should underpin our present and future management and celebration of it.

That said, I know the man I know would want to acknowledge his friends and collaborators on the project: Nick Adams, Barbara Humphreys, David Jacques, Jim Mountain, Meryl Oliver and Rob Snetzinger. The same warm respect was also shown to his students, many of whom we have come to know throughout the Rideau Corridor. As student-scholars, they have expanded our knowledge of this place by their theses and projects. As professionals-in-training, they have served as interns in various municipal capacities. And all of them have demonstrated the knowledge and sense of mission that Herb instilled them.

It’s appropriate, therefore, that I close with Herb’s dedication of the Rideau Cultural Landscape to Larry Turner. He spoke of “his special vision for the Rideau’s future,” his “enthusiasm and knowledge,” his “life-long passion,” his “legacy of reports, articles and publications,” and concluded that his work will “continue to inform and inspire Rideau residents and visitors for many generations to come.”

The same could be said of Herb Stovel and his legacy to us.
- Brian S. Osborne
March 2012

Rideau Timescapes

For the past year, faculty and students from the Centre for Public History and the School of Information Technology, Carleton University, have been working on the Rideau Timescapes App. Built for iOS mobile devices, the app allows users to interact with the visual heritage of the Rideau Canal in new and exciting ways.

More than 700 historic photographs are available through a map interface. Short histories of the canal and its lockstations are available at the tap of a button. Overlay photographs in real time in place, and then slide through time to see the changing landscape in our unique Timescapes view. Rideau Timescapes offers a vast visual archive at your fingertips.

Join us for the official launch of the app:

When: 10:30 am, Thursday, May 17, 2012
Where: Canal Building Foyer, Carleton University
More Information: ccph.carleton.ca or e-mail pubhist@gmail.com

We will debut the app and demonstrations will be offered on site and at Hartwells Locks. Available in English and French, the official version will be accessible for download at the App Store.

Rideau Timescapes has been supported by the Canada Interactive Fund, Department of Canadian Heritage.

- James Opp, Carleton University

Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy

In the last issue of this newsletter, Don Marrin, Superintendent of the Rideau Canal, wrote about the work to be done to prepare a Rideau Corridor Landscape Character Assessment as a key element in the development of a Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy. Members of Friends will remember that concerns over the protection of heritage landscapes along the Canal were prominent in the ICOMOS assessment of the Rideau for World Heritage Site status in 2007.

Dillon Consulting has been contracted to do the landscape character assessment and the firm organized three workshops along the Waterway in March, in Manotick, Merrickville and Kingston. Attendance totalled approximately 100 and there were good exchanges at each site between the consultant team and members of the public. Field work is to take place from April through July-August with more workshops August-October. The team will take a water-borne tour of the Canal, with the assistance of Parks Canada, during the summer. Information on the documentation distributed, and other back ground material, is available at www.rcls-sacr.ca and the public is encouraged to contribute views to the consultant team.

There are some concerns about the scope and orientation of the character assessment as presently set out. Some observers have noted the absence of a heritage specialist on the consultant team, which is composed of planners and landscape specialists. Several participants at the workshops expressed concern at the narrow geographic scope of the study, and at the viewscape/visual assessment orientation versus the hoped-for wider study including natural and heritage/cultural values of the entire corridor, which is key to the integrity of the character of the study area as currently defined.

As might be expected, there has been lively discussion about the consultants’ choice of landscape character areas (four between Kingston and Ottawa, more geographic than landscape specific) and the landscape units (cultural and natural). It is hoped that the consultants will be able to factor in to their work particular attention to “hot spots” where development and other pressures are putting the heritage character of the Rideau Canal at risk.

In the longer term, the success of the assessment will be found in the support it provides the Landscape Strategy Steering Committee to do its job. A comprehensive, forward-looking assessment built on extensive public input to the consultant will be an important tool to help the Steering Committee build a useful consensus to guide all stakeholders along the Corridor in meeting their responsibilities to safeguard the unique heritage features of the Rideau Canal.

- Hunter McGill

Lockstation Photo Tour Videos

They’re done! Your editor has completed a series of photo tour videos of all the lockstations on the Rideau Canal. You can view the videos by going to our website at: www.rideaufriends.com :

Out and About

Come out and see us at the Friends of the Rideau booth – we’ll be at the Westport Heritage Festival on June 16, the Rideau Canal Festival in Ottawa on August 3-6, and the Manotick Classic Boat Show at the Long Island Locks on August 11.

Superintendent's Message

Parks Canada is preparing for another great season on the historic Rideau Canal.

Over the next three years, Parks Canada will be celebrating the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Canadians are invited to come and explore the places that highlight the story of Canada as it relates to this important time our nation’s history. Parks Canada’s 1812 commemorative efforts in Eastern Ontario will be focused at Fort Wellington National Historic Site, in Prescott on the St. Lawrence River. Many of you may be interested to learn however, that the Rideau Canal and many of its shoreline communities evolved as a direct result of the War of 1812 between the British and the Americans.

Luckily, times have changed, and visitors from far and wide (including our American neighbours and friends) make the journey every year to visit this special place, sharing in authentic Canadian experiences and activities, and creating a lifetime of memories to cherish. So, in the spirit of celebration and sharing, this year, I invite you to introduce someone new to the Rideau Canal. Come by boat or on land to each of our wonderful and unique lockstations; enjoy a quiet day or join in the activity at the many community festivals that animate the canal every summer.

For up-to-date information about Parks Canada, the Rideau Canal or links to the War of 1812 Bicentennial celebrations, or to join the conversations on Facebook and Twitter, visit our website at www.parkscanada.gc.ca


Don Marrin
Superintendent, Rideau Canal National Historic Site
Parks Canada

Membership Renewal

A reminder that this is membership renewal time (our membership year runs from June 1 to May 31). If your membership is up for renewal, you’ll find a handy renewal form with this newsletter. Please take a moment now to fill it out and return it to us (don’t let it get buried under that pile of papers on your coffee table).

We thank you very much for your support.


Our featured speaker is Dr. Bruce S. Elliott, who will be giving a talk titled “Researching Squatters, Labourers, and Tenants on the Rideau Canal.” Dr. Elliott is a Professor of History at Carleton University and an expert on both Irish immigration to Canada and genealogical research. His talk will look at the Irish who worked on building the Rideau Canal and the various records that exist today that provide information about these men. It’s sure to be an interesting and enlightening talk.

May 12, 2012 - 9:30 am to noon - Rideau Canal Museum - Smiths Falls - Everyone Welcome!

Friends of the Rideau is a volunteer, non-profit organization, working in co-operation with Parks Canada to enhance and conserve the heritage and charm of the Rideau Corridor.

For more information contact: Friends of the Rideau, 1 Jasper Avenue, Smith Falls, Ontario K7A 4B5 – Tel: 613-283-5810 – Email: info@rideaufriends.com – Website: www.rideaufriends.com.

Comments about the newsletter can be directed to the editor, Ken Watson, c/o Friends of the Rideau or by email at: rideauken@gmail.com

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©2012 Rideau Waterway Co-ordinating Association (Friends of the Rideau)