Heritage committee wants Desjardins Canal designated historical
Kevin Werner, Dundas Star News Staff
Published on Mar 06, 2009
Hamilton’s heritage committee has asked staff to consider designating the Desjardins Canal under the Ontario Heritage Act.
“This is a landscape of concern,” said Francis Thorp-Neufield, the committee’s Dundas representative. “It was important to the (community’s) history. I think it is worth it.” Ms. Thorp-Neufield introduced the motion to have the landscape designated at the committee’s meeting last week. She said later the Desjardins Canal needs to be protected because of its historical importance the surrounding community.
“This is for history reasons and to preserve the integrity of the landscape,” she said.
When asked if the designation was in response to a proposal to build a storage facility in the area, she dismissed the idea.
“It has nothing to do with the storage proposal,” she said.
“There are buildings and landscapes in Dundas that we, as a community, are so proud of and that we should protect,” she said.
To have a landscape or building designated under the Ontario Heritage Act is an involved process. City heritage staff is required to conduct a heritage assessment on the property, which could take a few years due to the backlog of designation requests, and the limited resources within the department. It is unknown how long the heritage assessment will take on the canal.
Art French, chair of the heritage committee, said any designation would take place no earlier than 2012.
A historical designation from the city on a property or landscape provides some protection to the property. If any proposal to change the building or property is submitted to the city, it needs to be approved by the heritage committee. The city can also monitor and sometimes force the owner, through a recently approved bylaw, to improve the building or landscape if it is deteriorating.
The Desjardins Canal, named after Pierre Desjardins who was killed trying to raise money to finance the canal’s construction, was constructed to give Dundas easier access to Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes. When it officially opened on Aug. 16, 1837, it allowed businesses to thrive, as they shipped goods, such as flour, across the province. The little hamlet of Dundas began to burst its seams, booming to a population of about 14,000. But in only a few short years, the canal was competing against the rapidly spreading railway lines, in particular the Great Western Railway that connected Niagara Falls with Windsor, Hamilton and London. When a low bridge for the rail line was constructed in 1869 over the canal, it nearly decimated canal traffic, preventing high masted schooners from travelling along its waters.
The canal was hindered by financial problems since its creation, and in 1877, the ownership of the canal was transferred to Dundas. In 1895 direct rail service to Dundas began, effectively ending use of the canal.
The remains of the canal can be seen north of Cootes Drive and in the rotting logs located in the shallows of Cootes Paradise.