A New Lease on Life

Things didn't begin to seriously turn around for the community of Dowling until the 1950's. In the early 1950's, operations at the Levack and Onaping mines were in high production and with that, hundreds of mine workers were in need of a place to live. INCO was attempting to satisfy the need for accommodations by building additional apartments, boarding houses, and family homes in Levack while Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd. was constructing a new town in Onaping for its workers. Fortunately for Dowling, neither of these solutions were adequate to meet the needs of all the workers. Since Dowling Township was relatively close to the mines in Onaping and Levack, it provided the most suitable location for the building of homes. However, because it was largely owned by farmers, the companies could not just move in and start construction.

In 1954, Lionnel Rheaume, Emile Houle, and Barbara MacDonald owned most of the land north of the highway. They each decided to build a subdivision on this once fertile land, which later developed into the largest residential area in Dowling Township. When Lionnel Rheaume applied to start construction on a subdivision, there were only 267 people living in Dowling, which meant that most of the land mass was largely unpopulated. With Emile Houle and Barbara MacDonald also sub-dividing their properties, a building boom began within a year.

Dowling was an ideal location to establish residential communities because it was already cleared, it had adequate drainage (the land sloped towards the river), and it had a consistent flow of water. Prior to the construction of residential subdivisions in Dowling, many of the mine employees had to find accommodations in Azilda and Chelmsford, communities that were a good distance away from the mines.

As the residential lots became available in Dowling, they were quickly purchased by eager workers who had wanted to own their own land on which they could build their homes. The largest expansion took place in 1956 and 1957 as families started construction on their new homes.

With the development of multiple sub-divisions, streets were soon added to the landscape. These streets were named for the founder of the subdivision and members of his family. Among the street names given in the Lionnel Rheaume Subdivision were Rheaume Street, Lionnel Avenue, Gerald Avenue (in honour of Lionnel Rheaume's brother-in-law), and Gilles Court (in honour Mr. Rheaume's son).


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