Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kapuskasing Ontario :
The Model Town of the North

Kapuskasing is a forest industry town in Northeastern Ontario, about a ten hour drive from Toronto. This article considers four aspects of Kapuskasing's history:

1. Kapuskasing Internment Camp
2. Pulp and Paper
3. Garden City and Model Town
4. Postmarks

Kapuskasing began with the development of the National Transcontinental Railway. Known in 1907 as MacPherson Station, Kapuskasing was first established as a railway water stop, and served as a base while another section of the new National Transcontinental Railway was being built. In 1917, the name of McPherson changed to Kapuskasing.

Kapuskasing, an historical sketch by Watson Kirkconnell, published in 1921 by Jackson Press, Kingston, provides a detailed account of the first two decades of the settlement. (Plain text of the booklet can be read here.)

The Town of Kapuskasing was incorporated in 1921.

Slogan commemorating Kapuskasing's 50th Anniversary, 1971

1. Kapuskasing Internment Camp

During World War I, the Canadian government interned thousands of people who had immigrated to Canada from Austro-Hungary, the majority of whom were Ukranians. Most of the interned were poor or unemployed single men, and some were Canadian-born.

Kapuskasing, one of two dozen internment camps in Canada, held over 1,300 prisoners, the majority being Ukrainian immigrants. German, Austrian, and Turkish prisoners of war were later sent to the Kapuskasing camp.

Prisoners were employed in the construction of buildings and clearing of land for a government experimental farm on the west side on the Kapuskasing River. Isolation provided ideal security for the minimum security camp as the railway was the only access to the remote location. Prisoners who attempted to escape into the bush were turned back by endless muskeg and clouds of mosquitoes or minus 40 degree temperatures in winter. In 1917, most were paroled to help relieve labour shortages. Afterwards the camp was used briefly for prisoner-of-war and political radicals until its closure in 1920.

Internee/POW Mail

The Kapuskasing Post Office was established May 5, 1915 as a Military Internment Office with Major Clarke as its postmaster.

Kapuskasing Internment Camp to Toronto, October 17, 1918

Internment camp censor handstamp

Kapuskasing Internment Station handstamp

Kapuskasing Internment Camp to Toronto, December 17, 1918

Passed by Internment Censor, Kapuskasing, Ont.

Censor label used to seal the envelope

Kapuskasing Camp to Gutach (Schwarzwald), Germany, October 5, 1919

Kapuskasing circular date stamp

Incoming Mail

McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York to Mr. T.A. Altenberg, P.W. 1976, Kapuskasing, Ont., July 16, 1918
Kapuskasing Internment Camp censor handstamp, July 25, 1918

Passed by Internment Censor Kapuskasing, Ont.

A small cemetery marks the original location of the Kapuskasing internment camp.

2. Pulp and Paper
The Kapuskasing River Pulp and Timber limit was awarded in 1917 and acquired in 1920 by Kimberley-Clark as the Spruce Falls Company Limited. A small sulphite pulp mill was started up in 1922. In 1926, The Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company was incorporated under joint ownership of Kimberly-Clark and The New York Times. Construction of a 550 ton/day paper mill at Kapuskasing began in 1926. Beginning on July 13, 1928, The New York Times was printed entirely on Spruce Falls paper.

The New York Times printed on Kapuskasing newsprint

Spruce Falls Power & Paper Co. Limited corner card to Tillsonburg, November 9, 1946

Post Cards of "The Mill"

Kapuskasing photographer J. Paul Dumoulin produced real photo post cards from his photographs.

J. Paul Dumoulin correspondence to Toronto, February 2, 1943
Air mail + Special Delivery
The letter was received by the addressee later that day (2:20 p.m.)

Alex Wilson Pub. Ltd., Dryden

Pub. by Kap Camera Shop Ltd.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip toured the Spruce Falls pulp and paper mill in Kapuskasing during their 1951 Royal Tour.

In 1991, the newsprint manufacturing mill became an employee-owned company. Tembec Inc. acquired all of the company shares in 1997.

3. Garden City and Model Town

Alfred Hall, a consultant on town planning to the Ontario provincial government, drew up the 1922 plan for Kapuskasing. The plan of subdivision incorporated elements of the "Garden City" and "City Beautiful" town planning movements, and "the Neighbourhood Unit" concept.

  • The "Garden City" movement was a trend begun by British author Ebenezer Howard.He called for large circular cities in which the most important cultural buildings were arranged around large central gardens and were beautiful to view. Important civic buildings were to be grouped into garden plazas on the cities’ large circular boulevards. Howard’s perfect cities were finished with wide belts of greenery around their exteriors to provide land for farming and pleasure, and to keep them from growing too big.
  • The "City Beautiful" movement emphasized spacious, healthy cities in which beautiful architecture mixed with extensive, public gardens. (Wikipedia, December 2010)
  • The "Neighbourhood Units" concept was developed by American Clarence Parry. For Parry, the city should be made up of neighbourhood units, an area of family housing surrounding a local school and served by quiet streets for use only within the neighbourhood. Each neighbourhood was surrounded and defined with large arterial roads. The neighbourhood concept was a marked contrast to the conventional grid form that allowed traffic to go everywhere.

Kapuskasing Town Plan

The first provincially-planned single resource town in Ontario, Kapuskasing's design focused on a healthy living environment, architectural harmony, unified design and visual variety. The plan separated residential and industrial areas, included land dedicated to green space, parks and public buildings and a variety of innovative street patterns which remain today.

In July 2007, Ontario Heritage Trust unveiled a plaque to commemorate Kapuskasing-Garden City and Model Town. A comprehensive document prepared by the Trust is available on line.

a) Neo-Tudor Architecture

Spruce Falls commissioned the construction of three Neo-Tudor style buildings: the Kapuskasing Inn (1928), the Community Club (1928) and Sensenbrenner Hospital (1929):

i) Kapuskasing Inn

The Kapuskasing Inn was the town's landmark. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed at the Inn during their 1951 Royal Visit.

Kapuskasing Inn 1928

View from the Inn

A muddy car!

Kapuskasing Inn stationery to Toronto, October 5, 1936
This letter was posted in a letter box on the train bound for Toronto. The letter was cancelled on arrival with this slogan:

Aerial view

Kapuskasing to Hamilton, August 1957

"Owned and operated by Spruce Falls Power and Paper Co. Limited"

The Kapuskasing Inn closed in 2002. In May 2007 young arsonists set fire to the Inn which was damaged beyond repair. The remaining shell of the Inn was demolished in May and June 2008.

ii) The Community Club

The Community Club was the town's entertainment centre. Facilities at the "Club" included a soda shop, bowling lanes, men's lounge, women's lounge, library and an auditorium for sports, plays, dances and movies. Today the building now called the Civic Centre is occupied by municipal offices.

Kapuskasing's Neo-tudor buildings on Riverside Drive photographed from across the bay. "Club" (left) and Kapuskasing Inn (right)

iii) Sensenbrenner Hospital

The third Neo-Tudor building was the Sensenbrenner Hospital. Facing the hospital was a "City Beautiful" inspired triangular grassy area, the Gore.

Sensenbrenner Hospital
The Gore

The building was closed as a hospital in 1988 and is now an apartment complex called Drury Place.

b) The Circle

The "Circle", the main business area of the town, was inspired by the Garden City and City Beautiful movements. The streets of the Circle radiated outward like spokes from a wheel leading to civic areas (the Hospital and Community Club), residential areas, and commercial areas of the town.

Circa 1940

Circa 1960

A lovely aerial view of the Circle has been posted on the Kapuskasing Public Library website

c) Churches and Schools

United Church

Anglican Church

St. Patrick's Church

Eglise Immaculee Conception

Ecole Sacre-Coeur

Diamond Jubilee Public School

Ecole Immaculee Conception

Immaculee-Conception French Elementary School

Kapuskasing High School

Renovated Kapuskasing High School

Kapuskasing High School letter to Sudbury, September 29, 1954

d) Kapuskasing Post Office

The Kapuskasing post office was changed from a military office to a regular office on July 9, 1920.

The Post Office, built in the late 1930s, is located in the Circle.

e) Other


Lawn Bowling

Lawn bowling in the park

A view from the Kap Bowling Green

Riverside Drive

McPherson Avenue

McPherson Avenue runs from the paper mill to the Circle.


Horses pulling cart

Service station at the corner of Government Rd. and McPherson

Aerial view

Train Station

(Not in author's collection)

f) Souvenir Folder


In the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Kapuskasing Chamber of Commerce sponsored the publication of a "Souvenir Folder" to promote the Model Town of the North. The folder consisted of 10 panels on a 90 cm piece of paper, accordion folded. Both sides of the strip had pictures printed on each panel, with the exception of two text panels. The strip was sandwiched between thick paper covers creating a postcard folder.

Souvenir Folder pictures can be seen HERE.

4. Postmarks

This section deals with some of the postmarks in use at the Kapuskasing post office from the 1920s to the 1970s. Sub-offices and RPOs have not been included. The Kapuskasing post office acquired its first machine canceller in the early 1950s. Prior to this all mail was handstamped.

a) Duplex

Kapuskasing, July 4, 1925

b) Circular Date Stamps

October 24, 1927

December 23, 1928

April 28, 1934

November 27, 1937

The Northern Tribune

Kapuskasing to Toronto, October 8, 1938
13 cents paying 3 cents forward letter rate + 10 cents registration

c) Money Order Cancellation

Kapuskasing Money Order Cancellation, November 6, 1930
$1.62 money order mailed to Hamilton

d) Money Order Office Number Handstamp

Money Order Office Number 3292 used to postmark registered letter
February 3, 1958

e) Registration Handstamps

"Ont." (1958 cover)

"ONT." (1965 cover)

May 13, 1965

f) Roller Cancellation

Undated Roller, March 1, 1920

g) Machine Cancellations

September 21, 1953 (Inverted hub)

January 27, 1958

February 27, 1971
50th Anniversary Slogan Cancellation

h) Cancellations in use 1975

i) 1978 Slogan

Expo Scientifique N.E. Ontario Science Fair April 14-15 Avril
March 17, 1978 first day of slogan use