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Just a Memory

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We are very proud of the many significant buildings that still exist in Brockville. However, there are a number that are no longer with us. The five photographs below may remind some of our readers of buildings that have disappeared from view, or introduce to others, one or more they have not been aware of.

Horton Public School

9 James St. E., Brockville
photo taken around 1905

The Horton School was opened in 1899 to accommodate elementary students from the central and eastern part of town. It was a four-room brick school that took over the site of the old Grammar School (later the Brockville High School) and was named after Dr. R. Nelson Horton whose efforts on the School Board were appreciated. After closing in 1950, the former school served for a time as the home of the Royal Canadian Legion, Brockville Branch.

Anne & William Fitzsimmons House

24 Home St., Brockville
photo taken in 1973

The Fitzsimmons House was built in the 1840s for a growing family of 10 Fitzsimmons children. William Fitzsimmons (1819-1894) was a builder and politician who served his community from 1847 to 1882. This house was torn down in 1974 to make way for the Buell-Fitzsimmons Manor for Seniors.

The Comstock Building

11-17 Court House Ave., Brockville
photo taken around 1960

The Comstock Building was erected by William H, Comstock in 1886-87. It housed the head office and Canadian factory of the W.H. Comstock Co. Ltd.. Also in this building was D.A. Cummings Co., Beale & Summerby, lawyers, Edgar, Willows & Locke, insurance, and Prus & Martin, architects. The building was demolished in 1966.

1 Thomas St., Brockville, ON [now demolished] Electric Power Plant - taken about 1905

Electrical Power House

1 Thomas St.
photo taken about 1905

Thomas Street is a short dead-end street in the west end, south of Hartley St., and was named after Thomas Wilkinson (1832-1912), who for a long time was manager of the Brockville Gas Co. and the Central Canada Coal Co. When electricity was introduced to Brockville in 1887, Wilkinson and the Gas Co. built this generating plant to produce power. The electricity created from coal-powered steam engines was used to power some early arc lamps in the downtown area. In 1893 their new company was known as the Brockville Light & Power Co.

“Waterniche,” The Woodcock – Delahaye House

101 Hartley St., Brockville

Brockville landscape and portrait artist Percy F. Woodcock (1855-1936) and his wife Aloysia (Pratt) were the earliest known residents of Waterniche. It was, however, after 1909 for many years connected with the family of Thomas Delahaye, who was the managing director of the National Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (earlier the Cossitt Co. Ltd.) for many years. A disastrous early-morning fire on June 2, 1951 destroyed this house, while owned by Dr. Thomas J. Goodison.

Sources: Two of these photos were published in the 1906 Brockville Old Boy’s Re-union special magazine. The photo of the Comstock Building was shot by an unknown staff member of the Recorder &Times. I took the one of the Fitzsimmons House during the time of the 1973 Summer Museum held there by the Brockville & District Historical Society. The various details about each building were extracted from many different sources, as usual.

The General Isaac Brock Monument

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unveiled, August 19, 1912

The monument to the memory of Maj.-General Sir Isaac Brock which stands on the edge of Court House Green in Brockville was erected in 1912 as a centenary project by the local Gen. Brock Chapter, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.


This group of Brockville women had worked for over seven years to bring about the erection of a suitable bronze bust surmounted on a granite monument. Their efforts at fund raising collected a significant amount of money and enthusiasm to get the job done. The sculpture of the head of Brock was the work of Ottawa sculptor, Hamilton MacCarthy, whose fame was wide-spread in Canada.

Guests of honour attending the ceremonies in Brockville the day of the unveiling included, Colonel Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence; Mrs. Albert E, Gooderham, of Toronto, National President of the I.O.D.E.; Sen. Daniel Derbyshire; John Webster, MP; A.E. Donovan, MPP; Mayor Charles W. MacLean and the members of Council; Counties Warden Nelson Webster of Landsdowne, and other members of Counties Council.

Events for the afternoon centred around a specially-erected platform to the left of the draped monument. Hundreds of people arrived in the early afternoon to find the best vantage points. Col. Hughes accompanied by a guard of honour arrived from the Armouries about 3:00 pm and joined the party on the platform. The event was chaired by Mayor MacLean and he was accompanied by Mrs. G. Crawford McClean, Regent of the Brock Chapter, along with her executive, Col. Biggar, A.D.C. to the Minister, Judge H.S. McDonald, Lieut. Col. William S. Buell of the 41st Regiment,, Police Magistrate Joseph Deacon and others.


[These photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Brock Monument Unveiling

Mrs. Ida McClean, the Regent of the General Brock Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) and Brockville mayor Charles W. MacLean are seen on the platform in this photograph taken during the events related to the unveiling of the new monument erected to the memory and celebration of the life of General Sir Isaac Brock.

Sources: This interesting photo was sent to the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times in 1975 by Doris L. Rankin of Syracuse, N.Y.. It was first published in “Out of the Past” on December 20, 1975.

Following a short introductory speech by the mayor, Col. Hughes approached the flag covering the new monument and from a position on the platform pulled the rope to reveal the work of art to the public who cheered and applauded for several minutes. He then addressed the audience and in his speech touched on various patriotic themes, and complimented the ladies whose efforts resulted in the handsome stature now in their midst.

Then, while the regimental band played “Rule Britannia,” young Nora Wilgress presented Mrs. Gooderham with a large bouquet of white roses. Next, Mrs. McClean officially presented the monument to the Town of Brockville with the reading of a written proclamation. Rising in acceptance, Alderman C.W. MacLaren recounted the hard work and success of the local chapter of the Daughters of the Empire in this endeavor and in other charity work. He also spoke amidst the cheers of the crowd about the military accomplishments of General Isaac Brock and other historical references from the past.

The sculptor, Hamilton MacCarthy was also asked to speak, which he did, mentioning that his maternal grandfather was wounded while serving in the War of 1812 under Brock, along with his father’s uncle who lost his life in one of the battles.

Hamilton MacCarthy, sculptor

The sculptor of the bust was Hamilton MacCarthy of Ottawa

The last speaker was local historian, Judge Herbert Stone McDonald who entertained the audience with a recounting of the cross-border events of the War of 1812 which took place in this area of Upper Canada.

A late afternoon tea at the Brockville Armouries for all the platform guests was held to end the day’s events.

This new plaque was placed near the monument to General Brock in November 2007. It points out how Brockville came to be named after Brock the leading British officer in Canada and the hero of the War of 1812-14. The re-naming of Brockville from Elizabethtown came about shortly after the general was slain in the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812.

Copyright, June 2008, Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

Map of the St. Lawrence River Canals – 1907

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[This map can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

This is a portion of an excellent map of the St. Lawrence River drawn by A.U. Almon, a delineator for the Department of Railways and Canals. Showing here is the eastern Ontario stretch of the river from Brockville to Lake St. Louis at the convergence of the Ottawa River. It shows the location of all the early canals . This map was published in 1907.

St. Lawrence Canal Construction

Efforts were made as early as 1701 to overcome the difficulties of moving boats upstream on the St. Lawrence River in the face of rapids which existed between Lachine and Montreal. This early construction was resumed in 1717 but abandoned in 1718 without completion because of the huge expense of excavation through rock conditions.

More than a hundred years passed before the government of Lower Canada succeeded in completing the Lachine Canal (8.5 mi.) in 1821-1825.

In Upper Canada a series of rapids from Cardinal to Cornwall made travel by any boat of size a difficult task. Further downstream the route between Lake St. Francis and Lake St. Louis was also treacherous.

Early canal construction, being very expensive, only called for a minimum depth and size. Four foot depth was considered adequate for bateau passage but by the time the larger “Durham” boats were common, engineers were recommending nine feet depth as the standard. In addition, widths were increased, and when locks were built, the length of each lock was now increased to over 100 feet. This allowed for fleets of boats or barges moving together.

The three small canals collectively known as the Williamsburg Canals shown on the map as the “Galops” (7.375 miles), the “Rapide Plat” (4 miles) and the “Farran’s Point” (.75 miles) were completed in 1847. These were mostly needed to move the new side-wheeler steamers upstream.

The Cornwall Canal (11.5 mi.) was commissioned in 1833, but was not completed until 1843. It was designed to furnish a passage around the “Long Sault” rapids.

The Beauharnois Canal (11.25 mi.) was constructed to overcome the “Cascades”, “Cedar” and “Coteau” rapids, and is the only one attempted on the south side of the river. It was undertaken between 1842 and 1845. This canal proved unsatisfactory because of low water levels and a crooked channel.

Some years later this part of the river was supplemented by the new Soulanges Canal (14 mi.) opened on the north side in 1899. It was far more modern in design, contained five locks and was built at an expenditure of over 6 million dollars by 1905.

Present day conditions are the result of a joint Canadian-U.S. development, the St. Lawrence Seaway which was negotiated in 1954. Opened in 1959, the international waterway now permits the passage of ships up to 222.5 metres long by 23.2 m. and a maximum draft of 7.9 m. to travel from Montreal to Duluth, Minn.

The sad disruption of river villages, and the building of the large power dams is another story that can’t be told here.

Sources: This is part of a larger map entitled “St. Lawrence, Ottawa, Rideau and Richelieu Canals” included in a set of maps in the Annual Report of the Canadian Department of Railways and Canals for 1907. The original envelope that enclosed them was addressed to James McDougall, a Brockville grocer and the father of the late Dr. Jack McDougall.
The primary source of information on these canals was found on an Internet site entitled: “Historical Sites – The Canals of Canada” developed by Bill Carr.

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