Sunken Villages

Lost Villages of the St Lawrence Seaway

July 1, 1958 is remembered as Inundation Day in the region near Cornwall, Ontario. At 08:00 a controlled explosion tore open a cofferdam and four days later an area once home to 7,500 people disappeared under the waves of Lake St. Lawrence, part of the newly created St. Lawrence Seaway.

On the Canadian side, twelve communities, some dating back to the 1700s, were gone. Maple Grove, Mille Roches, Moulinette, Sheeks Island, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point and Aultsville were entirely destroyed; Iroquis was demolished and moved inland continuing on in name; and, about half of Morrisburg – including its waterfront, business district and main street – were levelled.

On the American side in St Lawrence County, the community of Croil's Island disappeared and, along Highway 37B, Louisville Landing and Richards Landing ceased to exist, and parts of Waddington were dismantled.

On both sides, large rural tracts and property, farms, cottages, and entire islands were flooded. Sacred sites were obliterated and the historic battlefield of Crysler’s farm – where in November 1813 Redcoats, local militia and …. [more]

Twenty-Seven Portraits

7,500 people lost their properties, homes, farms, churches, businesses to the Inundation. Twenty-seven individuals share their insights and experiences of living through the intentional destruction of their communities. These are living witnesses and their descendants whose lives are shaped by places - still alive and animated in their minds - which they will never return to.

Interviews & Videos

Short vignettes gleaned from hours of interviews across Ontario, Canada. Each person has their own page with short texts, photographic portraits and a video. These are their own words. The interviews followed in the wake of a Sunken Villages art exhibition of aerial photos of the remains of the lost villages.  Their stories, faces and voices became an integral part of the exhibition that followed, and this project.

the Sunken Villages Project

Three paths converged with the Sunken Villages project.

The first path was in the air in 2009 when - while flying over the St. Lawrence River - I, by chance, spotted a rectangular outline in clear, blue-green water. It looked like a foundation; but I didn’t believe what I thought I was seeing. I had never heard of houses, let alone whole communities, under water in Canada or the United States. A few banked turns later, I saw a road and more foundations. Then with a sidelong glance at a dam (the Moses-Saunders Power dam) a few miles away, it snapped into place.

The second path began in Cornwall in early 2010 when  … [more] 

 Sunken Villages - Aerial Photos of the Lost Villages

The ‘Exhibition’. Thirty-nine aerial photographs of what remains - seen from the air & through the water - of the Lost Villages. Roads. Churches. Locks. Stumps. Canals. Islands. Foundations. Bridges. Barns. Railways. And sometimes a boat, birds, swimmers and fish.

Each photograph is situated with geographical coordinates and the names of the Lost Villages.  Captions describe the images and situate them in their historical context from the 1700s through the 1950s to the present.