Hull was the first permanent town established on the Ottawa River. Wright and his associates were given ownership of large tracts of land in Hull and Templeton townships. The small agricultural community, called Wrightstown, quickly turned to the production of squared timber for the British market. The first lumber raft from the area, the "Colombo," reached Quebec City in 1806, heralding the beginnings of the lumber industry in the Ottawa Valley.
Ezra Butler EDDY, a citizen of Vermont, settled in Hull in 1851 and built up his equity by manufacturing handmade matches, washboards and clothespins. In the 1870s he became one of the leading sawmill operators at Chaudière Falls. His match and indurated fibreware production, as well as his pioneering efforts in pulp (1889) and paper manufacture (1890), made Hull one of the main centres of the pulp and paper industry. Axe factories, meat-packing establishments, textile firms and other related industries followed.
The city's core is an island linked to Ottawa by 5 bridges. It has been shaped by its original division into half lots by the Wrights, for rental purposes, and by the Great Fire of 1900, which destroyed two-thirds of the town.
In the early 1960s it was a typical medium-sized industrial Québec town, with 2-storey brick worker dwellings surrounding a few public parks and buildings, linked together by its business section. As fire, demolition and renovation took their toll, the main public landmarks fell, the city core was changed radically and large developments - Place du Portage and Terrasses de la Chaudière - were built.
The city extended into suburbia, with typical bungalows and shopping centres, and the old business section started to decline. Hull's population fell from 63 580 in 1971 to 56 225 in 1981 while that of its suburban sister cities (Gatineau and Aylmer) swelled from a combined 72 163 in 1971 to 101 683 in 1981. Since 1981 Hull's population has been increasing steadily, although its sister cities have been growing at a faster rate.
Hull's economy, essentially based on manufacturing in the 1940s, has changed radically. The majority of its labour force are now white-collar workers, with civil servants forming the largest bloc. The change began after WWII, with the closing of steel foundries and textile factories. The TRUDEAU government's decision to relocate a large number of federal civil servants in Hull accelerated the rate of change.
The political decision to transform Hull into the capital city's left bank has been interpreted by some as a growing dependency of Hull on Ottawa and by others (especially representatives of the leftist, nationalist and social pressure groups of the Île de Hull) as outright "dépossession." But for a vast majority of Hull residents this bulldozing away of inferior housing and worker tenement buildings has been heralded as progress and as the end of a way of life that was too closely identified to poverty and blue-collar values.
The creation of Hull's Roman Catholic Diocese (1963), the large-scale expropriation of land and the transfer of federal government employees (1970-80), the building of infrastructures (water, sewer, roads and bridges) vital to any modern development, the birth of institutions such as the UNIVERSITÉ DU QUÉBEC and the CEGEPs (the French language CEGEP de l'Outaouais and the English-language Heritage College), and the arrival of large shopping centres have repatriated a good deal of cultural and commercial activity.
Hull has slowly become similar to Ottawa. In some ways it is now capable of being a rival of Ottawa, although there is still a very long way to go before Hull can boast to being an equal of Ottawa. In order to do so, the 3 sister cities of the Québec side of the national capital (Hull, Gatineau and Aylmer) will have to put aside the often intense rivalry that plagues the left bank's development. As is the case in Ontario, Québec is intent on cutting down on the number of municipal entities. A union of Aylmer and Hull or of Aylmer, Hull and Gatineau is probably inevitable in the near future.
The exponential growth of the federal civil service and the general economic context led to the closing of old factories (textile and meat-packing) but did not prevent the pulp and paper industry from modernizing and adjusting to the new economy. Scott Paper and E.B. Eddy Forest Products are still important employers and Hull has been able to attract new industries to its industrial parks and to its Technoparc in particular. Firms such as Digital, CML Technologies, ACDS Graphic System and many others have invested in Hull, banking on the NRC market potential.
Hull's cultural and social life is closely linked to that of Ottawa, Gatineau and Aylmer. It offers services that do not exist in the surrounding Québec municipalities, such as Université du Québec à Hull, the École de musique de l'Outaouais, the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Hull, a regional centre of Archives nationales du Québec, the Palais des Congrès convention centre, Théâtre de l'Île as well as a branch of ÉNAP (École nationale d'administration publique). In 1989 the CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION was moved from Ottawa to a new curvaceous and futuristic-looking complex near the Alexandra Bridge in Hull.
Hull is well served by radio, TV and newspaper, though some of these are based in Aylmer, Gatineau and Ottawa. In addition to the Université du Québec and the CEGEPs, many Hull residents attend the UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA and CARLETON and Saint Paul universities.
The winter festival Bal de neige, as well as open-air shows, exhibitions, theatre and concerts, reflect the vitality and distinctiveness of Hull's French culture. The city is the home of the Casino de Hull, built on the edge of what used to be one of Canada's largest limestone quarries, now an extension of Lac Leamy and the Ottawa River. A marina is built on the doorstep of the casino. A few hundred metres away is Gatineau Park (administered by the NATIONAL CAPITAL COMMISSION), with its lakes, parks and 50 km of recreational pathways, part of a 200 km network of cycling trails that serves the NRC.
Author PIERRE LOUIS LAPOINTE
Links to Other Sites
An online exhibit devoted to the architecture of old Hull. Focuses on residential, commercial, industrial, religious and municipal buildings. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.