Eyewitness: Thomas Burrowes on the Rideau Canal - Page Banner

The Eye of the Beholder


Watercolour: Upper Rideau Lake; Canoe en foute to Bytown; Westport in the Distance

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Upper Rideau Lake; Canoe en route to Bytown;
Westport in the Distance
Watercolour
Thomas Burrowes fonds
Reference Code: C 1-0-0-0-33
Archives of Ontario, I0002152

Through the eyes of artist Thomas Burrowes, we can see into Ontario’s past. Burrowes worked for 20 years – 1826 to 1846 – as a civilian employee on the Rideau Canal project, serving variously as overseer, surveyor and clerk.

It was as an artist, however, that he made his mark on history. In 1907, 115 of his watercolours were discovered in an attic in Detroit, Michigan. These works, now part of the Archives of Ontario collection of documentary art, give us insight into one of the most important engineering projects of the 19th century – the creation of a navigable waterway to link the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. They allow us to see the project as it progressed through the eyes of an alert and observant eyewitness.

Go to: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


In 2007, the Rideau Canal celebrates its 175th year with an international honour. It was recently confirmed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of more than 800 sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance.