Building Highway 7

Highway 7 under construction in 1932

It looks a lot different from the nicely paved Highway 7 we know today, doesn’t it? This is the well-known east-west highway under construction in 1932. Keith Millard, who graciously supplied the photo, says it was probably taken near Flinton Road, which is just east of where the buses now stop at Actinolite. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

My new cross-country pal Keith Millard – who discovered Meanwhile, at the Manse while researching the history of his family, the Kleinsteubers, who established the German Settlement in Elzevir Township in the mid-19th century – recently sent me a couple of very cool photos that I thought you folks would be interested in. They show Highway 7 in the Actinolite area when it was under construction, in 1932. These days one takes Highway 7 – part of the Central Ontario Route of the Trans-Canada Highway – so much for granted; it’s smooth and wide and nicely paved (especially after last year’s construction work on it; Raymond and I thought it was very thoughtful of the construction folks to redo Highway 7 just as we started using it regularly to travel between Montreal and the Manse in Queensborough), and it’s just there. And useful. But once upon a time it wasn’t there, and it had to be built. And what a project that must have been! Given that Keith’s photos are from 1932, in the Great Depression, I had guessed that the construction was a job-creation project, and that turns out to be correct. According to an excellent history of the highway here, the section between Peterborough and Perth was built in the ’30s to provide work (and thus income) to many labourers in those terrible times.

We know that these photos were taken in Elzevir Township because they come via two chaps named Art Robinson and Peter Forbes, who are seen in the picture I’m about to show you and who, Keith tells me, had homes in Elzevir’s German Settlement. Here’s another shot of the highway construction showing the two men:

Another view of Highway 7 under construction, this one showing Peter Forbes and Art Robinson, who lived in that part of Elzevir Township. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Another view of Highway 7 when it was under construction, this one showing Peter Forbes and Art Robinson, who lived in that part of Elzevir Township. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Really, it is quite something to be taken back in time by great old photos like these. And to be reminded of what a huge undertaking it must have been to blast through the rock of the Canadian Shield and build a stretch of road that nowadays we zoom over without thinking about it. Thanks for the history lesson, Keith!

2 thoughts on “Building Highway 7

  1. Great photo’s and history lesson Katherine. It still amazes Jos’s father every time he visits Canada how amazing we cut through the rocks to make our roads. Coming from a country built under the sea they don’t often see the ruggedness of our country. They are always impressed in places we take them. But in`1932 it must have been with much man made labor after the blasting. Amazing!

    • It really does make one think, doesn’t it? We travel so effortlessly over the highways in our cars that perhaps we don’t often think what hard work was involved in blasting a path for those roads through our Canadian landscape – particularly through the Canadian Shield.

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