Home > History > Shawinigan Water and Power > The Role of SW&P in the Foundation and Development of the City of Shawinigan

The Role of SW&P in the Foundation and Development of the City of Shawinigan

At the time Shawinigan Water and Power was beginning the construction of its first hydropower generating station in 1898, the company embarked on a project to create a city. SW&P wanted to create a quality urban environment. The company sought to offer agreeable surroundings to specialized staff of other companies and workers alike. The will to create a new city from scratch was not unique in itself. Other companies in Quebec, Canada and the United States had also created new cities to lodge their workers and offer services necessary to their activities.

A mere year after its foundation, Shawinigan Water and Power acquired Lot 628, located along the Saint-Maurice River near the falls, in February 1899. The company now owned space devoid of construction of any kind on which it could design and build its urban project. SW&P mandated the engineering firm of Pringle and Son in Montréal to prepare the blueprint of the future city of Shawinigan.

The blueprint was completed in October 1899. It was a checkerboard plan with streets at right angles similar to the well-known urban plotting models prevalent in America. The plan recommended an orderly layout with industrial zones located in the peripheral regions of the city, residential areas for company management and residential areas for workers.

To achieve its urban layout plan, SW&P proceeded with the sale of its first plots of land in December 1899. Most of the plots were purchased by workers. Concern for the quality of urban space led SW&P to request that buyers have their building construction plans approved by company representatives. Moreover, the company demanded that new constructions feature at least two levels to encourage people to build multi-family dwellings.

SW&P itself was involved in the construction of homes and public buildings. In 1900, the company began work on a magnificent hotel, the Cascade Inn. Between 1899 and 1916, the company built close to one hundred residences for its managers and technicians. It participated actively in the foundation of a technical school in 1910 to better train workers and, in 1916, the establishment of a hospital. Moreover, the company built an arena in 1910 near the Saint-Maurice River.