Power and Elegance

Beauharnois Generating Station

Beauharnois generating station
Beauharnois generating station
Art Deco style

The Beauharnois project was mind-boggling in size. It received worldwide press and was frequently compared to the building of the Panama Canal. The comparison was a natural one, since the headrace canal is also a strategic component of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The generating station is remarkable in a number of respects.

  • Dredging of the headrace—one kilometre wide, 24 kilometres long and an average of 10 metres deep—required more earthwork than the building of the Panama Canal.
  • The generating station is located close to the Montréal, Ontario and United States markets. This, from the outset, gave it potential beyond the local market. In fact, the financial arrangements put together by Sweezey to make his dream a reality were based on two contracts to sell the electricity generated: one with Ontario Hydro and the other with Montreal Light, Heat and Power.
  • Hydro-Québec's 1961 commissioning of the last of the station's 36 generating units marked the end of more than 30 years of construction. At that time, Beauharnois was considered the most powerful generating station in Canada; even today, it is one of the largest run-of-river plants in the world.
  • The Art Deco style of the powerhouse gives it an unusually elegant appearance, and this character has been carefully preserved, even after major renovations in the 1990s. It has been classified as a national historic site.