The tensions of the War of 1812 pointed out the need for an alternate route inland from Lake Ontario, and the Rideau Canal became the answer. Lt. Colonel John By, a brilliant military engineer, was assigned to oversee the project, and organized and led it from 1826-32. Once he had boots on the ground and saw for himself what had to be done, he knew it would have to be different from what his superiors in London had imagined.
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Constructing A Route Through The Wild
It would be a difficult project, with the hard work of thousands of men, many of whom brought family with them. People died of sickness and accidents.
Some of the tools of the time are displayed here.
It was once called Sleigh Bay, now called Entrance Bay. This wide stretch of the Ottawa River between Nepean Point (Kiweki Point) and Parliament Hill became By's starting point, with what became the Ottawa Locks as the biggest single stretch of locks in the entire Canal system, ascending up from the river.
A model of one of those locks is here.
By understood that steamships would be more important than the flat bottomed sailing ships that were primary in his day. He would oversee enlarged locks and wider canal areas to compensate. In doing so, he and those who worked on the project left a legacy that lives on today.
The Commissariat is part of that legacy, today serving as home to the Bytown Building, and solidly built.
A look into the entrance to the vault.
Looking up the narrow stairs. I must have missed this many time before I'd noticed it.
And into the vault itself, where goods and the payroll would have been stored in the time of the project.