Description of Historic Place
Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-Electric Development National Historic Site of Canada is located at Queenston, Ontario, at the Niagara Falls. Built between 1917-1925, it was the first large hydro-electric project in the world, and was created by Ontario’s Hydro-Electric Power Commission (HEPC). The HEPC created the project in response to increasing urban and industrial demands for more electrical power in Toronto and southwestern Ontario. The site consists of a very large crescent-shaped site stretching approximately 22 kilometres from the mouth of the Welland River where it meets the Niagara River, through the city of Niagara Falls to the hydro-electric generating station situated on the Niagara River between the Whirlpool and Queenston. Official recognition refers to the entire development associated with the power project from its intake at the junction of the Welland River and Niagara River to the outtake at the Sir Adam Beck No. 1 Generating Station near Queenston including the gatehouse, penstocks, and powerhouse on their footprints.
Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-Electric Development was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1990 because:
- it claimed to be the first true hydro-electric mega-project in the world
- the design of the Queenston-Chippawa installation presented unique problems and required construction equipment, power conversion units, and a power canal of a size not seen prior to their use at Queenston-Chippawa.
By 1913, there was an increasing industrial and urban demand for more electrical power in Toronto and southwestern Ontario. As a result, Ontario’s Hydro Electric-Power Commission began to consider proposals for a possible generating station at Niagara Falls. After consideration, the HEPCO agreed to a proposal that utilized the watercourse of the Welland River, the building of a power canal around the city of Niagara Falls, and the building of a generating station on the Niagara River between the Whirlpool and Queenston. The project began in 1917 with the passing of “The Ontario Niagara Development Act” and the first unit of the development went into service in 1922.
The design of the Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-Electric Development presented many unique challenges. The size of the development required construction equipment and power conversion units of a size not seen prior to their use at Queenston-Chippawa. In addition, the 13.2 kilometre long power canal had to meet specific design characteristics rarely found in ship canals. When the installation was completed in 1925, the Queenston-Chippawa Hydro-Electric Development was the largest hydroelectric generation project in the world.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1990; September 2009.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its location in Niagara Falls, Ontario, beginning at the mouth of the Welland River and continuing to the hydro-electric generating station situated on the Niagara River between the Whirlpool and Queenston;
- its mixed urban and rural setting adjacent to the Niagara River;
- the individual components of the site and the spatial relationship between these components;
- the Welland River from its junction with the Niagara River, 6.8 kilometres to its entry into the power canal, including its placement and immediate banks;
- the single-leaf, roller type, motor operated control gate measuring 14.6 metres by 12.6 metres, constructed of steel and located at the upper end of the canal to allow water from the Welland River to enter the power canal;
- the 13.2 kilometre long concrete lined power canal, including the wide earth-cut trapezoidal section that extends from the Welland River to the control gates, and the rectangular rock-cut sections that eventually widen into a forebay with a maximum width of approximately 91.5 metres and sealed with gunite;
- the gatehouse with its reinforced concrete walls surmounted by a structural steel framework roof, including any remaining interior features, finishes and equipment such as the nine main units, a service unit, an ice chute, a 25 ton travelling crane, gates, racks, and other equipment necessary for the units;
- the steel plate penstocks that are nearly vertical and held in massive concrete anchor blocks, approximately 138 metres long and are joined to the powerhouse by a Johnson valve and supply line to which was connected a turbine scroll case;
- the monumental effect achieved by the powerhouse’s stepped-level massing set below the buttressed dam wall with a substructure constructed of concrete and a superstructure with a structural steel framework with reinforced concrete floors and roof; and concrete, brick and tile walls and partitions;
- the powerhouse’s interior configuration, features and finishes, including the main operating floor, erection space, and main station elevator;
- elements that facilitate daily work within the powerhouse including the maintenance shops and stores, lubricating and insulating oil plants, battery room, staircases, fully equipped hospital room, kitchen, dining room, and offices;
- remaining power generating equipment such as the turbine runner tunnel, main generators, transformers, generator units and sump pumps, motors, air compressors, and hydraulic equipment;
- viewscapes from the powerhouse across the forebay to the rock-cut sections of the power canal;
- viewscapes from the Welland River to the earth-cut trapezoidal section of the power canal to the northwest and the Niagara River to the east;
- viewscapes from the power canal across the city of Niagara Falls.