National History Committee

of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

Reversing Falls Bridge, St. John, New Brunswick


Mandate Page 3
Objectives Page 3
Guideline A Organization of the National History Committee Page 5
Guideline B Designation of Historic Civil Engineering Sites Page 7
Appendix i Nomination Form for a National Historic Civil
Engineering Site Page 10
Appendix ii Protocol for Plaquing Ceremony for a National
Historic Civil Engineering Site Page 11
Guideline C Gordon Plewes Award Page 15
Guideline D Oral History Page 16

*This document replaces a document originally prepared by W. Gordon Plewes in 1983 upon which the Society’s history programme was founded, updated in 1989 by Anthony Kruysse, and further revised in 1995 by Ralph Crysler and Peter Smith.


The Mandate of the National History Committee of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering is:

“to increase public and professional awareness of Civil Engineers and Civil Engineering as an integral part of Canadian history, heritage and society.”


The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering has stated that “it is a learned society intended to develop and maintain high standards of civil engineering practice in Canada and to enhance the public image of the civil engineering profession”. One aspect of this mandate is to ensure that tangible records of significant historic civil engineering achievements are preserved as part of the heritage of the people of Canada, and in esteem of the civil engineers and others who worked alongside them. To this end, the Society’s Board of Directors has mandated the National History Committee with responsibility to increase awareness of civil engineers and civil engineering as an integral part of Canadian history, heritage and society.

Accordingly the Objectives of the History Program of the National History Committee are to:

1. Identify and inventory civil engineering works which are of historic significance. The inventory is to list their locations and salient features

2. Promote greater public and professional recognition of works considered significant by such means as commemorative plaques and by disseminating information about location, accessibility and important features

3. Encourage study and research into historic aspects of civil engineering in general, and in related fields such as industrial archaeology, preservation technology and social and economic impacts

4. Arrange for the preparation and offering of papers for presentation at meetings of the Society or other forums, preferably with consideration for peer reviewed publication, and to encourage the publication of articles of general interest about historic civil engineering works and the lives and achievements of civil engineers

5. Cooperate with other organizations, public and private, on all matters of mutual interest including heritage

6. Record the contributions of notable civil engineers and others through oral history interviews, and ensure that these interviews are available to members of the Society and the public

7. Arrange for the preservation and safe keeping of historic civil engineering documents and artifacts, and the personal papers and artifacts of historic potential of prominent civil engineers by appropriate public archives and museums or in private collections where permission for scholarly access has been covenanted

8. Encourage the preservation of historic civil engineering structures and works and public access to the sites, by providing expert advice as may be helpful to the owners and local heritage interests

9. Provide advice on the preservation and accessibility of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering’s records of meetings, conference proceedings, and publications, and on the archives of the Engineering Institute of Canada which includes those of the original Canadian Society of Civil Engineers

10. Recognize outstanding contributions in support of the National History Committee’s mandate through honours and awards

11. Increase the Committee’s financial resources so it can provide funding to help carry out its activities

12. Seek out new initiatives including items not specifically listed in these Objectives which support the Mandate of the Committee and benefit the profession and the public.



The history program shall be implemented on a national basis, yet structured so as to encourage and facilitate local activities based on local opportunities and member interest, and to provide input to national activities. Accordingly, the history program at the national level will be carried out by the National History Committee, and locally by Section History Committees, all within these terms of reference. The National History Committee reports through the Administration Coordinating Committee to the Society’s Board of Directors.

A.1 The National History Committee shall consist of these members:

– The name of the Chair, who will usually be identified beforehand by the members of the National History Committee, is submitted to the Society’s Nominating Committee prior to being formally elected by the voting members of the Society. Normally chairs serve two-year terms, once renewable. (The past-chairs of the National History Committee are listed in Section A4.)
– Individual members having a special interest or expertise, appointed by the Chair,
– A representative appointed by each of the Sections,
– Consulting members (resource persons with appropriate expertise who are non- voting and not members of CSCE) invited by the Chair.

A.2 The National History Committee shall be responsible for these activities:

(a) Administrative Matters

– Preparing an annual budget for items requiring financing by the Society
– Maintaining minutes of meetings and providing Section History Committees with copies of the minutes and other items of interest
– Preparing an annual report covering significant national and local activities for inclusion in the Society’s Annual Report
– Encouraging donations to the History Program Fund within the CSCE Foundation
– Recommending to the trustees of the CSCE Foundation expenditures payable from the History Program Fund or from the General Funds of the CSCE Foundation.

(b) Established Activities

– Making recommendations to the Administration Coordinating Committee and, if approved, then to the Board of Directors on the designation of Historic Civil Engineering Sites following the procedures set out in Guideline B
– Encouraging the presentation of technical papers at Annual General Meetings of the Society, and on other occasions
– Recommending winners of the Gordon Plewes Award to the Society’s Honours and Fellowships Committee as per the procedures set out in Guideline C
– Encouraging the production and preservation of oral histories as per the procedures set out in Guideline D
– Naming a member to serve on the History and Archives Committee of the Engineering Institute of Canada.

(c) Other Activities

– Discussing matters related to the history of civil engineering with other parties with subsequent formal agreements being subject to approval by the Board of Directors
– Providing leadership and guidance as may be helpful to history program activities within Sections
– Seeking new initiatives, means and events that are covered by the Objectives included in these Terms of Reference

A.3 Where there is sufficient interest Sections are encouraged to name individuals who will be responsible for implementing the history program within a Section and for organizing Section History Committees. These individuals acting alone or as chairs of Section History Committees are expected to undertake the following activities:

– Identifying candidate works for designation as Historic Civil Engineering Sites as per Guideline B in this document
– Providing speakers who will present talks at local events on matters related to the history program
– Serving as Section Representatives on the National History Committee
– Providing reports on local activities to the National History Committee
– Working with other organizations concerned with local history and heritage
– Recording and archiving oral history by interviewing notable civil engineers, and arranging for any of their personal papers and artifacts of historic potential to be earmarked for preservation
– Seek funding for local history activities including plaques for Historic Civil Engineering Sites.

A.4 These are the past-chairs and current chair of the National History Committee
1982 – 1985 W. Gordon Plewes, Ottawa, ON
1985 – 1994 Anthony Kruysse, Font Hill, ON
1994 – 1997 Ralph Crysler, Burlington, ON
1997 – 2004 Alistair Mackenzie, Burlington, ON
2004 – 2009 Reginald Wallace, Toronto, ON
2009 – 2011 Alistair Mackenzie, Burlington, ON
2011- 2016 Calvin Sexsmith, Saskatoon, SK
2016 – 2018 Alistair MacKenzie, Burlington, ON
2018 – Michael Bartlett, London, ON


The designation of Historic Civil Engineering Sites is an important activity of the history program. Plaques which are placed at most sites identify to visitors the significance of the civil engineering works commemorated and, where possible, the names of the responsible civil engineers. The essential elements for designation as national historic civil engineering sites are that the works to be commemorated are chosen with care, the process and reasons for each designation are carefully documented to archival standards, and the information as to location, accessibility and salient features is readily available. Within these basic premises, the procedures to be followed are as set out below.


B.1.1 The designation of a historic civil engineering site normally starts with a nomination by a Section or the Organizing Committee for the Annual General Conference to the National History Committee. Nominations are to be submitted on “A Nomination Form for an Historic Civil Engineering Site” (See Appendix i to this Guideline) together with all supporting documentation.
B.1.2 The National History Committee will consider each case based on the documentation submitted, seek further evidence if required as to the significance of the work, and once satisfied that the pertinent requirements for designation are met, will recommend approval to the Administration Coordinating Committee and thence to the Board of Directors.
B.1.3 Unless delays occur through incomplete documentation, the time required for consideration of nominations by the National History Committee is normally not more than six months.


B.2.1 The nominated site or project must be of historic civil engineering significance by virtue of the purpose it was intended to serve, the nature and form of its concept, design and subsequent utility. With few exceptions the features of the work that determine its significance must have been completed at least fifty years prior to nomination.
B.2.2. The site or project must represent an outstanding aspect of civil engineering achievement.
Nominated sites or projects must have some special characteristics such as first project constructed, oldest project extant, or have made some significant contribution such as first project designed by some method, or on which some unique and significant construction or engineering technique was first used. Buildings which incorporate significant civil engineering characteristics of this nature may also be nominated. The project must have contributed to the development of the country or professional practice in a manner that can be clearly identified as significant, if not nationally, then at least regionally.
B.2.3 Sites or projects should generally be open to public viewing although safety considerations or geographical isolation may restrict access. There must be a suitable place to mount a bronze plaque, which can be viewed by the public although mounting may take place sometime after a site has been approved.


When preparing a nomination for the consideration of the National History Committee, the following matters must be addressed in the submission.

B.3.1 It is important that the significance of the project and its unique features be carefully and accurately explained. Information about published papers or reports on the nominated site is of importance. The names and biographic records of the individuals associated with the project must be included in the presentation as far as possible. Photographs, black and white or colour prints or slides should be included for record purposes and for later publicity releases.
B.3.2 The fact that a project is being nominated for commemorative status must be discussed with the owner of the site. A statement of the owner’s opinion regarding the nomination should be included.
B.3.3 Nomination of a site such as a road or a canal which lies in more than one Section’s geographical jurisdiction must be coordinated between them.
B.3.4 The cost of the plaque is normally borne by the nominating Section or Organizing Committee. The design of the plaque and bilingual wording is subject to approval by the National History Committee. The owner of the site is expected to provide a suitable mounting place for the plaque and to accept responsibility for its care and maintenance.
B.3.5 The nominating Section or Organizing Committee shall arrange, in cooperation with the owner of the site and with the approval of the National History Committee, for a suitable presentation and unveiling ceremony. (See Appendix ii “Protocol for Plaquing Ceremony for a National Historic Civil Engineering Site”.) As noted in Appendix ii the plaque is normally unveiled and presented by the President of the Society or by the President’s designate.


The originals or copies of all documentation, artifacts, plans photographs, etc. developed for each designation should be put into the National History Committee’s website, and placed in both a public and the Society’s archives.


International sites require special consideration and negotiation with sister societies, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers. Nominations may be initiated within the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering by the same procedures as for other sites. Negotiations will be handled by the National History Committee to secure the necessary approvals and cooperation of all parties involved.


B.6.1 Historic civil engineering sites, which are not of national significance, may be of sufficient local or regional significance to warrant designation as Historic Civil Engineering Sites. These will require the same research and documentation from the Section or Organizing Committee as specified in subsection B.3. These nominations using Form A are also to be submitted to the National History Committee for approval as set out in subsection B.3. The Section should retain a copy of the documentation and a copy should be deposited in a local museum or archive after designation is approved.
B.6.2 The nominating Section will provide an appropriate commemorative plaque for a Local Historic Civil Engineering Site. The design and bilingual wording of the plaque must have the approval of the National History Committee.
B.6.3 Sections should plan and conduct the plaque presentation ceremony so as to achieve local recognition. The support and participation of other local organisations (Chamber of Commerce, historical societies, service clubs, government bodies, etc.) will greatly enhance publicity and public recognition at such ceremonies. Wherever possible the protocols in Appendix C should be followed.


Date: __________________________________________________________________________________

To: The Chair, National History Committee
Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

From: ________________________________________________________________________
(Name of Section)
This is to nominate as an Historic Civil Engineering Site:

(Name of Project or Site)

Located at:


The Project or Site is owned by


In support of this nomination, the following documents are attached:

If this nomination of an Historic Civil Engineering Site is approved by the Board of Directors, the Section will follow and abide by the specific procedures for installation, unveiling and maintenance of the plaque.
___________________________________ (Section Chair)

(Chair of Section History Committee)




The nominating body for a National Historic Civil Engineering Site has the responsibility for organizing and financing the Plaquing Ceremony. Early planning is advisable, but no firm commitments should be made until formal advice has been received that the Board of Directors has approved the nomination.

A Plaquing Ceremony offers the opportunity for a prestigious local event, and every effort should be made to recruit local individuals and organizations to assist. People who are associated with the Project, either directly or through relatives and friends will appreciate being included in the Ceremony. It should, however, be remembered that the occasion is a CSCE event, and the Ceremony is to be conducted accordingly.


A Ceremony Committee should be formed as soon as there is a clear intent to commemorate a particular Site or Project. The Committee Chair should be a CSCE member knowledgeable in the workings of the Society. The Committee should have representation or input from:

– The Owner of the Site or the Agency having jurisdiction over the Project
– The local CSCE Section
– The local Municipality
– Associated Professional and Technical Bodies
– Local Historical Organizations
– Other Organizations that may be appropriate to a particular Site or Project


The date and time of the Ceremony will be decided by the Ceremony Committee. If the Ceremony is to take place during a CSCE Annual Conference, careful consideration needs to be given to the date and time so that as many of the Conference participants as possible can attend. Participation by local press and local TV Stations is very important from a publicity viewpoint and the timing of the Ceremony may have to take their requirements into account.

When the Ceremony is to take place at a time other than at an Annual Conference, consideration should be given to tying it in with an “Engineering Week”, a local “Heritage Day” or some similar event which can help to raise the profile of the event and generate publicity.
*This protocol was originally prepared by Alistair Mackenzie in 2000.


The location of the Ceremony is to be decided jointly by the Ceremony Committee and the National History Committee. Normally it will take place as near as is possible to the Site being plaqued. Local conditions may preclude the plaque being in its final location at the time of the Ceremony, in which case the Ceremony Committee should organize a temporary stand for the plaque and for its later attachment in its permanent location. Even when it is possible to locate the plaque in its final position before the Ceremony, it may be more appropriate the use the temporary stand especially where this will facilitate an easy and more dignified “unveiling” of the plaque.

A Ceremony Brochure which would be suitable as a souvenir should be available for the Ceremony. It should include the Society’s logo, basic information about the Site or Project, a brief explanation of the significance of the event, and possibly the program for the ceremony. The Ceremony Sponsor and a representative of the Owner should be encouraged to participate in producing the brochure.

It is essential that the members of the Ceremony Committee visit the site well before the Ceremony to ensure that anything requiring attention such as tidiness and local noise levels are handled in good time. A visit to the Site shortly before the Ceremony to check that all is well and to “rehearse” the procedure is advisable.

When, as is usually the case, the Ceremony is conducted outdoors, some or all of the following should be considered:

– a platform for the speakers or the main party
– a lectern to hold speech notes
– a PA system
– an “unveiling” stand
– seating for guests
– provision for protection from the elements
– display of the Society’s banner, and those of the owner, sponsor, etc.

When an indoor venue is used, in addition to most of the above requirements, the following should be considered:
– Appropriate room size for the expected number of attendees
– Adequate lighting, particularly for the platform and lectern
– Visibility of speakers and the main party.


The following list should be reviewed in order to decide on appropriate invitations for the particular occasion:
CSCE President
CSCE President-Elect
CSCE Senior Vice President
CSCE Past Presidents
CSCE Board Members
Chairs of ACC, PCC and RCC
Chair of National History Committee

Governor General
Prime Minister
Appropriate Federal Ministers
Local M P
Chair of appropriate Federal Body (Heritage, Parks Canada, etc.)
Lieutenant Governor
Premier of the Province
Appropriate Provincial Ministers
Local Member of Provincial/Territorial Parliament/Legislative Assembly
Chair of appropriate Provincial Body
Mayor of appropriate Municipality
Local Councillors, Reeves etc.
Representative of the Owner of the Site or Project
Representative of Sponsor
Representatives of associated Professional Bodies (EIC, CSME, etc.)
Representatives of local historical societies, museums, etc.
Children and Staff of local schools

Matters of protocol, etc. need to be addressed as they may affect attendances and the makeup of the official party. Invitations to dignitaries should indicate whether they will be asked to speak and/or participate in the formalities.

Deadlines should be set for return of invitations, press releases and the preparation of the Ceremony Brochure.


Guests should be welcomed by the Chair or a representative of the Ceremony Committee and given a copy of the program and ceremony brochure (possibly combined) and be allowed to congregate and converse before the ceremony.

The formal ceremony should not exceed thirty-five minutes and a typical programme would include:

1. Welcome of Guests and outline of the purpose of the event
Chair of Ceremony Committee –3 minutes

2. Remarks by attending dignitary – 5 minutes

3. Remarks by CSCE President –5 minutes

4. CSCE Program of Commemoration of National Historic Civil Engineering Sites,
Chair of CSCE National History Committee – 5 minutes

5. Historical Information about the Site/ Project
Appropriate local member – 8 minutes

6. Unveiling of Plaque
CSCE President and one or more attending dignitaries – 3 minutes

7. Official receipt of Plaque
Project or Site Owner – 3 minutes

8. Closing Remarks
Chair of Ceremony Committee – 3 minutes

The Ceremony may be followed by Official Photographs, Press Interviews, etc. as appropriate

Unveiling of the plaque is normally to be performed by the CSCE President or a nominated representative, together with appropriate dignitaries. The Ceremony Committee will have to consider any matters of protocol consistent with the guests.

Whenever possible, a “Reception” for participants and guests should follow the Ceremony.


Local newspapers, local TV stations, and the national media should be targeted to bring wide public attention to the ceremony and the significance of the Site or Project. In addition it is expected that the Ceremony Committee would arrange for an appropriate news item in the “Canadian Civil Engineer”.


The Ceremony Committee should submit a report on the event to the Chair of the National History Committee within 3 months of the ceremony. The report should include photographs, programs, brochures and media articles, texts of speeches, and list of attendees. Planning notes, list of actions taken, and suggestions which might assist organizers of future ceremonies may also be included.


In 1992 the Society established the “History of Civil Engineering Award” which was renamed in 1996 as the “W. Gordon Plewes Award”. The late Gordon Plewes had originated the Society’s History Program in 1982 and was the first chair of the National History Committee.

The award is given to an individual who has made particularly noteworthy contributions to the study and understanding of the history of civil engineering in Canada, or of civil engineering achievements by Canadians elsewhere. Measures of such contributions include, but are not limited to, the quality of publication and the effectiveness of leadership in promoting an increased awareness of the history of civil engineering.

The selection committee consists of the chair of the National History Committee and at least two other members of National History Committee. The recommendation of the Selection Committee after consideration by the National History Committee is forwarded to the Society’s Honours and Fellowships Committee for final approval.

Originally the Gordon Plewes Award was presented annually but recently the National History Committee has been recommending a winner every second year. Recipients need not be members of the Society, nor be engineers.

Previous winners of the award are:

1992 Robert F. Legget, Ottawa, ON
1993 Gilles Desaulniers, Longueil, QC
1994 Phyllis Rose, Toronto, ON
1995 Roy Minter, Whitehorse, YT
1996 Robert W. Passfield, Ottawa, ON
1997 Georges-Hebert Germain, QC
1998 Ken Coates, Waterloo, ON
1999 Mark Andrews, Ottawa, ON
2000 Norman R. Ball, Waterloo, ON
2001 Robert G. Harvey, Victoria, BC
2002 Michel L’Hebreux, Saint- Romuald, QC
2003 Andrew H. Wilson, Ottawa, ON
2004 Jerry Disher, Hamilton, ON
2005 Ralph Crysler, Oakville, ON
2006 Richard Wallace White, Toronto, ON
2009 Roberta M. Styran, St. Catharines, ON
2010 Teresa Charland, Ottawa, ON

2017 Siobhan Roberts, Toronto, ON


Commencing in 1992, the National History Committee sponsored interviews of prominent civil engineers as part of its Oral History initiative. The first seven interviews were conducted by Richard White, then a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, who interviewed the following civil engineers:

Hugh Adcock Cam McNab
Alan Davenport Harry A. Tregaskes
Roger Dorton Douglas Wright
James W. MacLaren
In addition, Bob Booth, Toronto, interviewed Robert F. Legget. The tapes which were provided by the National Archives of Canada were later deposited with the National Archives, and copies were kept by the Society.


D.1.1 Encourage the recording of individuals’ civil engineering careers by both the Committee and by Sections

D.1.2 Ensure that individuals who are to be interviewed have had careers of particular civil engineering interest for future engineering historians. Normally they should be carried out towards the end of a career. As far as possible the selection of candidates to be interviewed should address balance by geography across the country and by civil engineering disciplines.

D.1.3 Select experienced interviewers and, if necessary, pay them for carrying out interviews. Organize short courses or seminars as may be required for training new interviewers.

D.1.4 Establish the preferred format for the interviews and length using the existing Alan Davenport tapes as a model. Complete curriculum vitae should be given to interviewers prior to the interview in order to permit them to pre-select some of the most appropriate questions.

D.1.5 Establish the acceptable technical requirements for the tape recorder and tape, and for other recording devices. Where possible the Committee should cover the cost of the equipment for both interviews organized by the Committee and those organized at the section level.

D.1.6 Ensure that recordings of the interviews are archived by the National Office of the Society and at local organizations such as Historical Societies. The Committee is also responsible for maintaining the list of those interviewed, and for ensuring that the interviews are available on the CSCE website.


D2.1 Encourage deserving civil engineers residing in the vicinity of the Section to be interviewed and to have the interview tapes preserved in accordance with the policies of the National History Committee.

D.2.2 Recommend to the National History Committee local members who could be interviewers or could be trained to be interviewers.

D.2.3 Adhere reasonably closely to the interview format, recording equipment requirements, and general procedures of the National History Committee as noted in Section D.1, and seek its assistance if required.