Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site of Canada
Links and documents
1779/01/01 to 1781/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Situated in the municipality of Coteau-du-Lac, Québec, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, approximately 40 km southwest of Montreal, the Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site of Canada comprises the remains of the canal, the fortifications, numerous archaeological vestiges, a replica of the 1813 bunker, and many installations for interpretation purposes. The formal recognition consists of the site on its legal lot.
Coteau-du-Lac was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923 because:
- it is the site of one of the oldest lock canals in North America;
- from 1778 to the mid 19th century, the place was the site of a British military post which defended the corridor and facilitated the transportation of merchandise on the St. Lawrence River;
- the site was a strategic point during the American Revolution and during the War of 1812;
- the site was for many years the main port of entry of imports into Upper Canada.
Coteau-du-Lac’s heritage value resides in the fact that it is the first lock canal in North America. Built between 1779 and 1781, the width of the canal was doubled between 1814 and 1817 to facilitate the passage of Durham ships. Two other locks that were better adapted to the needs of the canal then replaced the three original locks. Today, major modifications to the surrounding landscape have caused the water level to fall approximately 2.5 meters, which resulted from the construction, during the 1940s, of a dike and a dam upstream from the site.
Coteau-du-Lac was, from 1778 until the mid-19th century, the illustration of an important British military post whose function was to ensure the protection of the navigable corridor and ease the transport of merchandise. During that period, the site was equipped with new buildings such as fortifications, an octagonal bunker, an explosive magazine, a guardhouse, and various other buildings that reinforced its military role.
Coteau-du-Lac’s heritage value also resides in the strategic roles it played in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812. Due to isolation and the difficulties in supplying the British military posts in the Great Lakes region, Coteau-du-Lac was built as a strategic defence point for the navigable corridor, thus easing the transportation of supplies as well as troops on the St. Lawrence River towards Upper Canada.
Finally, the strategic position of this canal made it a port of entry for imports to Upper Canada. Indeed, from 1797 and up to 1840, a customs office was in operation in Coteau-du-Lac. Fees were collected on wine, spirits and other imported goods into Upper Canada. The aim was to account for these goods in order to evaluate what part of the fees paid at the port of Québec were due to Upper Canada. The opening of such an office made Coteau-du-Lac the principal port of entry into Upper Canada.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes 1923 and June 2002; Commemorative integrity statement 2004.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on the shores of the St. Lawrence River;
- the peninsula forming a point facing the rapids;
- the viewscapes of Coteau-du-Lac rapids;
- the vestiges of the canal, its route and the old drain canal;
- the earthworks;
- the many vestiges of military buildings;
- the clover shape battery;
- the narrow navigable corridor between the point of the site and Arthur Island which faces it;
- the archaeological vestiges of the years 1779 to 1856
- the traces of the spatial and functional organization of the various components of the site;
- the ethnological collection conserved by Parks Canada, including an oil painting of Captain Henry Evatt, and his ceremonial sword and scabbard;
- the archaeological collection related to the digs conducted on the site in 1965-68 and 1982, conserved by Parks Canada.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
1814/01/01 to 1817/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Governing Canada
- Military and Defence
Function - Category and Type
- Military Defence Installation
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection