Robert W. Passfield
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Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Support

Agenda Papers

Parks Canada historians, architectural historians, and archaeologists, are responsible for preparing research papers in support of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada’s mandate to evaluate the national historic significance of persons, places, and events, that are submitted by the public for potential designation. For many years, the research papers took the form of Agenda Papers, each of which was crafted individually by the author to document and provide a historical context for the subject, and, in the case of a place, the agenda paper also would include a recording (photos, plans, sketches) of the building, structure or site. In all cases, the agenda papers were well illustrated with visual materials keyed to the text.

Over the years, Passfield produced more than a dozen Agenda Papers on a variety of engineering works. Each Agenda Paper comprised a photo-recording (historic and contemporary photos, engineering drawings, and location map) of the engineering work; a brief overview history of its construction, function, and use; and an assessment of its significance within a national context.
  • "The Upper Dorchester Covered Bridge, Westmoreland County, New Brunswick" (1977-12)

  • “Hartland Covered Bridge, New Brunswick” (1977-63)

  • "The Hog Bay Trestle, Port NcNicoll, Ontario", (1978-02).

  • “ The Shubenacadie Canal, Nova Scotia", (1979-03).
    -commended by HSMBC for being “an excellent Agenda Paper”

  • "The Peterborough Lift Lock, Peterborough", (l979-28)
    -commended by HSMBC for being “an excellent Agenda Paper”

  • "The Wharf at Coteau Landing, Quebec", (1982-31).

  • "The Lillooet Suspension Bridge, Fraser River, British Columbia", (1982-53).

  • "The CNR Scherzer Rolling Lift Bascule Bridge, Smith's Falls, Ontario", (1983-06).
    - This unpublished Agenda Paper was heavily drawn on by Dianne Newell & Ralph Greenhill, Survivals, Aspects of Industrial Archaeology in Ontario (Toronto: Boston Mills Press, 1989), pp. 27-29.

  • "The Powerscourt Covered Bridge on the Chateauguay River, Huntingdon, Quebec", (1984-11).

  • "The Alexandra Suspension Bridge on the Fraser River near Spuzzum, B.C.", (1986-06).

  • “St. Andrew's Bridge-Dam, Lockport, Manitoba", (1990-62).

  • “The Koksilah River (Kinsol) Trestle, Vancouver Island, B.C.", (1991-52)

  • “Grandchamp Covered Bridge, Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier, Quebec” (1992-35).

  • "The Turcot Bridge, North Georgetown, Quebec", (1993-17).

HSMBC Submission Reports Templates, 1999

By the late 1990s, the Parks Canada program decided to adopt a standard format for papers submitted to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The rationale was to ensure that each submission captured the relevant data and presented it in a uniform fashion. It was intended, as well, to make specific the purpose of the submission; to set forth the HSMBC criterion most appropriate for its evaluation; and to facilitate the subsequent extraction of the data from the paper to meet program needs.

Three distinct templates (six in total: 3 English & 3 French) were developed and designed by Robert Passfield and Kate Macfarlane, Architectural Historian, Parks Canada, for use in preparing reports for submission to the HSMBC. A separate report format, and content requirement, was developed for HSMBC Submission Reports pertaining to a person, place, or event, respectively, with fixed entry categories and Explanatory Notes for guidance in filling out the template for each type of report.

These templates are now the standard reporting format for preparing a report on a person, place, or event for submission to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for the evaluation of a subject for potential designation as a person, place, or event of national historic significance. In 2003, Passfield added several entry categories to the HSMBC Submission Report templates to meet evolving program needs.

During the latter stages of his Public Service career, Passfield prepared at least a half dozen HSMBC Submission Reports in the new template formats.

HSMBC Submission Report – Place

Each of the following HSMBC Submission Reports in the Place template format dealt with an historic engineering landmark. The report generally include a recording (historic and contemporary photos, engineering drawings (if available), and location map) of the engineering landmark, with a brief overview history of its construction, function, and use, and an evaluation of its historic and engineering significance within a national context. Each report also assesses the historic integrity of the extant engineering work; identifies potential threats to its survival; and describes and delineates the boundaries of the historic property.

“Red River Floodway, Winnipeg, Manitoba”
HSMBC Submission Report – Place (2000-05).

“Myra Canyon Section-Kettle Valley Railway, British Columbia” ,
HSMBC Submission Report – Place (2002-18).

- Awarded the new Peers’ Prize, 2002, by the Historical Service Branch for the most outstanding report submitted to the Spring 2002 HSMBC meeting.

HSMBC Submission Report – Event

Each of the following Submissions Reports dealt with an important historical event. The reports provided an overview history of the construction of an historically important engineering project; placed the project within a contemporary technological context; and analysed and evaluated the engineering achievement realized in its construction within a national context.

“Construction of the Victoria (Tubular) Bridge, Montréal, Quebec”
HSMBC Submission Report – Event (1999-24)

“Construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway”
HSMBC Submission Report – Event (2002-59)

“Construction of the Lethbridge Viaduct, Lethbridge Alberta”
HSMBC Submission Report - Event (2003-63)

“Building of the Canso Causeway, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia”
HSMBC Submission Report – Event ( 2004-36)

HSMBC Submission Report – Person

The following Submission Report dealt with the evaluation of a person – a consulting engineer who was responsible for the design and the supervision of construction of most of Canada’s monumental long-span highway bridges from the 1920s through to 1958. It provides a biographical overview of the consulting work of Philip Pratley; comments on the significance of his major bridges; mentions the awards that he received in recognition of his outstanding bridge design work; and culminates in an assessment of his significance in the context of other renowned Canadian bridge design engineers.

“Philip Louis Pratley (1884-1958), Civil Engineer, Montréal, Quebec” HSMBC Submission Report – Person (2004- 50).

HSBMC Guidelines for Evaluating Historic Engineering Landmarks

In 1994, Passfield prepared “Guidelines for Selecting Candidate Sites (Proposed)” for potential submission to the HSMBC in support of an initiative to enhance the commemoration of engineering achievements. The proposed guidelines were presented in Appendix E, of his report on “Commemorating Engineering Achievements” (1994-55). These guidelines were subsequently adopted by the HSMBC, with but minor modifications in phrasing, for guidance in evaluating historic engineering landmarks within the Board’s more general criteria for the evaluation of national historic significance.

Plaque Inscriptions

A number of Plaque Inscriptions, pertaining to engineering subjects, were written by Passfield to commemorate persons, places, and events designated of national historic significance by the Minister of the Department on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. A person, place, or event, designated of national historic significance is commemorated by the erection, at an appropriate location, of a bronze HSMBC plaque inscribed with a bilingual text (English and French), identifying the subject, and setting forth its national historic significance.

Issue Analysis & Positioning Papers

Each of the following papers was prepared in support of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, either to aid in resolving an issue relating to a national historic site designation; to position the Board to clarify the meaning of an existing designation; or to provide guidelines to aid the HSMBC in dealing with a particular type of submission.
  • “Atlantic Charter Revisited, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland”, (1992-21)

  • “The Rossland Gold Mines Revisited, Rossland, British Columbia” (1997-77)

  • “Historic Engineering Landmarks Project, Consultations on Prioritizing Sites for Potential Commemoration” (1998-34)

  • “Carillon Barracks NHS, Argenteuil County, Québec” (2000-A05)

  • “Kootenay Mining Region, British Columbia” (2000-55)

  • “Brandon BCATP Hangar NO. 1, Brandon, Manitoba” (2001-05)

  • “Adequacy of the Commemoration of Colonel John By” (2001-12)

  • “Dual and Multiple Plaquings of a Single Designation” (2002-73)

  • “Lethbridge Viaduct and Historic Engineering Landmarks Designations” (2004-42)
Positioning Reports

"Canadian Waterways: 1608-l987", May l988, 92 p. An overview history of the building of Canada’s canals during the several different canal building eras. It provides a brief construction history of each canal, and its role within the national canals system. It was produced in the 1987 as a preliminary study in support of a HSMBC review of its canal designations, and was submitted to the Board in the spring of 1988.

"Commemorating Engineering Achievements" (November 1994), 65 p. A conceptual report that discussed the nature of engineering and the development of Canadian engineering; presented several potential approaches for commemorating engineering achievements; and proposed guidelines for assessing the significance of historic engineering landmarks. It was prepared in response to the National Historic Sites System Plan identification of “engineering achievements” as an under represented theme within the national historic sites system.

Assessment of Structures Reports

In the late 1980s, the HSMBC undertook an in-depth review of its canal designations with the intention of identifying individual buildings and structures within the Parks Canada heritage canals system that might merit designation in their own right. Passfield produced three major reports in support of that initiative.

“Assessment of Canal Structures: the Trent-Severn Waterway", May l988, 61 p., illus. An inventory and assessment of the historic structures (locks, dams, bridges, buildings) at 45 locksites on the 200-mile long Trent-Severn Waterway, wherein the most historically significant structures are dated, documented, described, and assessed for their historic integrity and engineering significance. The more significant structures and features are illustrated with photos, and historic and contemporary engineering drawing details.

"Assessment of Canal Structures: Chambly Canal", October l988, 175 p., illus. An inventory and assessment of the historic structures (locks, bridges, and buildings) on the 10-mile long historic canal, where a wide variety of structures (retractile bridges, bascule bridges, swing bridges, fixed bridges, masonry locks, half-timber locks, etc.), were built in different time periods to different design standards, with different operating mechanisms. All of the structures and their design features, as well as operating mechanisms, are identified, described, dated, and placed within a historical and technological context; are assessed for their historic integrity; and evaluated for their engineering significance within the context of Canada’s surviving historic canal structures. All of the significant features are illustrated with contemporary photos and details from historic and contemporary engineering drawings.

"Assessment of Canal Structures: the Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue and the Ottawa Canals", September l989, 72 p., illus. An inventory and assessment of the integrity and historic value of the lock and buildings on the historic Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue Canal at Montréal, and of the buildings and ruins of lock structures on three abandoned canals on the Ottawa River, with an overview history of the construction and operation of the several canals. All of the canal structures, and canal ruins are illustrated with contemporary and historic photos, and are located on maps.

Administrative History

"The Heritage Canals: Status and Significance", October l987, 116p. An administrative history that traces the acquisition of nine historic canals by Parks Canada; sets forth the mandates under which the canals were acquired; summarizes the terms of a federal-provincial planning agreement governing the Rideau Canal; and identifies the canals, and particular canal structures, designated of national historic significance, and the reason for each designation. This report was produced as a preliminary to a major in-depth review and re-assessment of HSMBC designations within the Parks Canada heritage canals system.

Cost-Sharing Assessment Report

“John St. Roundhouse National Historic Sites, Toronto, Ontario - Supplementary for Cost-Sharing” (1999-42) An assessment update of the historic value and historic integrity of an existing national historic site that had undergone a major rehabilitation and reconstruction as part of an urban park and underground parking garage complex development. The report assesses the impact that the park and parking garage had on the historic character, setting, and historic fabric of the site, and on its character-defining elements; and evaluates the potential impact of a planned restoration project on the historic value of the site.

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