The Town turns 100! It’s time to celebrate! In 100 years, Kapsters have founded dozens of organizations. We lived many memorable moments. Do you remember the ball games and hockey tournaments, the 1951 royal visit, the grand festivals? This century reminds us of the richness of our local history.
Before the Mill
Long before the Town was incorporated, the Cree and Ojibway knew the river. Did they set up camps there? It’s a possibility. They had named the falls and the portages and guided the settlers who wanted to exploit Northern Ontario’s natural resources, such as the territory covered by Treaty No. 9. And then, the railway appeared. During the First World War, the train brings hundreds of enemy aliens and Prisoners of War. They clear the land for a Dominion farm and those of Canadian veterans that came to establish a settlement. Everybody – or so – leaves Kapuskasing at the end of the war. During that period, Kimberly Clark buys a “timber limit,” builds a mill and a dam on the river.
The Birth of a Model Town: the 1920s
By deciding to build a paper mill along the Kapuskasing River, Kimberly Clark initiated the “Model Town of the North”. The Government of Ontario a beautiful city that would not depend on a single resource industry. It signs a memorandum with Spruce Falls and prepares a plan. By 1924, a few businesses appear in the Circle, and the first churches rise. With the New York Times on board, Kapuskasing will need a bigger mill, a bigger dam, and more housing. Despite the memorandum, Spruce Falls buys almost all the parcels and rents its houses to its employees. By the late ’20s, the town’s skyline takes shape: Spruce Falls built the Superintendents’ homes, Kapuskasing Inn, the Community Club and Sensenbrenner Hospital. And it continues to work on the beautiful park.
Kapuskasing Keeps Busy: the 1930s
The community gymnasium is popular, and the hockey games draw large crowds. Spruce Falls adds tennis courts to Riverside Park and builds a first indoor arena with a skating rink and two curling rinks in front of the mill. A golf course is cleared up. Everybody is busy! But the Great Depression hits the economy. A major federal construction program gives Kap an airport and a post office. Unions form the Kapuskasing Labour Council to help the social and economic betterment of Kapuskasing. The Second World War marks a new, positive economic shift. The airport becomes the base of a Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron, General Motors begins testing military vehicles, and the US Air Forces set radar headquarters in Kapuskasing.
Kapuskasing Grows: the 1940s
Let the economy roll! Spruce Falls launches its spruce planting program and begins producing consumer products such as tissues and napkins. Citizens found a Credit Union and a Caisse populaire. In 1942, Kapuskasing has nine hotels, seven grocery stores, five cafes, five pool halls, four gas stations and four clothing stores. From 1944 to 1947, Spruce Falls builds 120 residences between Devonshire Street and Gough Creek. The original urban plan of the town comes to fruition! Uncle Spruce helps to construct the Eastview baseball field and the first swimming pool.
Kapuskasing Spreads Out: the 1950s
In 1951, Kapuskasing has more than 4,600 inhabitants. The town keeps on growing! Northfield neighbourhood appears, and the townsite spreads eastward to the Eastview neighbourhood. Nearly 450 new lots are made available. In these areas, churches and schools are built, such as the Baptist Church, St. Patrick and the Presbyterian Church, St. Patrick and Eastview schools. Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix and Notre-Dame-des-Victoire churches and Jacques-Cartier and Jeanne-Mance schools are also opened. They are in Brunetville and Val Albert, two neighbourhoods outside the town limits. A possible amalgamation becomes a heated topic.
Beautiful Kapuskasing: the 1960s
The Sixties! From a commercial standpoint, things are booming. The Circle looks beautiful with its new fountain. The Chamber of Commerce and the Nadeau Mall appear, and Kapuskasing has local media—the Northern Times and CKAP. Kapuskasing undergoes many changes. Kapuskasing extends north, with the new Glenwood and River Heights neighbourhoods. Brunetville, Val Albert and West Riverside are amalgamated. A senior citizen’s home, North Centennial Manor, is built. The already popular Eastview Ball Field becomes a large sports complex, with football and lacrosse fields, tennis and volleyball courts. The Clear Lake Centennial beach is a new summer gathering place. Also, Spruce Falls is starting to refocus its operations. Uncle Spruce hands over the hospital’s management to the government, the community club to the Town, and sells Kapuskasing Inn.
Enjoying Kapuskasing : the 1970s
Kapuskasing is in full recreation mode! Volunteers found many clubs and organizations: the Sno-Rovers snowmobile club, the Golden Age Club, le Centre de loisirs, the Kapuskasing, Festival of Music, the Ron Morel Museum, le chœur La Borée and Kap Jubilee Singers, the Kap Nordic Ski Club. And there is a brand new Sports Palace on Brunelle Road. In 1971, l’École secondaire Cité des Jeunes opens its doors. It’s a new chapter for Kap: before, the French-speaking population had to attend KDHS (that provided a few classes in French) or the private Académie d’Youville to pursue high school education. There are over 2,000 high school students in Kap.
Ted Jewell’s Years: the 1980s
The mill is already 60 years old. Newsprint production processes have changed Spruce Falls shuts down some machines, while others start to produce paper from recycled newspapers. The Town is also going through changes as it becomes officially bilingual. A new Sensenbrenner Hospital helps the community to meet its long-term needs better; the former hospital becomes senior apartments. Many social organizations spring up, such as children’s aid, addiction, counselling, and Independent Living services. The Indian Friendship Center is also created.
Kapuskasing Takes Charge: the 1990s
After 70 years of operations in Kapuskasing, Kimberly Clark announces its intention to sell the Spruce Falls Power and Paper complex. The community reacts very strongly! After rallies and protests, the mill’s employees, Kapuskasing residents and Tembec buy the mill and put forward a modernization plan. They put an end to the river drive in 1994. Fishing enthusiasts are happy; they can now use the river in the springtime! Also, la Francophonie is dynamic in the 1990s. CKGN and L’horizon / Weekender are founded; Collège Boréal and Université de Hearst open campuses in Kapuskasing. Other ideas are born: a Saint-Jean festival and a community health center.
Proudly Kapuskasing: the 2000s
The Millenium begins on a positive note, employment-wise: the mining industry lands in Kapuskasing, with Agrium operating the only phosphate mine in Canada. Also, a new sports complex opens its doors with the extension of the Brunelle Road arena. The Lumberjack Heritage Festival and the Saint-Jean are the new summer rendezvous. Several tributes are paid to the local heritage, such as the public art installations from local artist Normand Fortin and the Kapuskasing river’s cruise. But Kapuskasing also loses a monument: Kapuskasing Inn. The censuses reveal a substantial decline in populations. The town also loses its youth and is looking for solutions.
Kap Heads Into a New Century: the 2010s
Initially, Kapuskasing is not meant to be a company town. With the 100th anniversary coming, efforts are made to diversify and stabilize the local economy, especially as it faces two closures. The mining operations come to an end and the federal government announces it will close its research farm. Through its economic development corporation, the Town of Kapuskasing buys the local institution to ensure it will keep on living. We also want to slow down the youth outmigration, as they leave to pursue their studies, start their careers and start a family.