Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Heritage on Main: Main Street Bridges - Guest Post by David Loftson

Guest post and images provided by David Loftson, amateur historian. 
Edited by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp. 
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Upper Fort Garry, Main Street Winnipeg Manitoba, ca. 1874. Demolished. This was the fort, viewed from the south, on the eve of the removal of its walls. Image courtesy of the Manitoba Archives.
There has been a crossing over the Assiniboine River at the foot of Main Street for a very long time. Even before the first bridge was built, there was a ferry that crossed the river at that point just below Upper Fort Garry. 

View of Main Street ferry over the Assiniboine River below Upper Fort Garry, with the Hudson's Bay Company warehouse on the right. Image courtesy of website.

Manitoba Department of Public Works. Image courtesy of the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collection.
The first Main Street Bridge was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1881. It was a steel truss bridge. 

First Main Street Bridge, 1881 to 1937. Looking towards Upper Fort Garry. Image courtesy of the HBC Archives-1987-363-W-200-17a from Abigail Auld.
This was one of two toll bridges the company built; the other was the Broadway Bridge connecting Broadway and Provencher. The city bought the Main Street Bridge from the HBC in 1882, only a year after its construction. It was later demolished in 1897. 

Second Main Street Bridge, 1897 to 1931. Looking east with St. Boniface Hospital in the background. Image courtesy of the Peel Collection, University of Alberta.
The second Main Street Bridge was built in 1897 and demolished in 1931. This was a steel truss swing bridge. Early bridges in Winnipeg had to accommodate river traffic so they were built as swing bridges, like the current Bergen Bridge at Kildonan Park, lift or draw bridges like the old railway bridge at the Forks, or they were built high enough to allow traffic to pass under it, like the original Disraeli Bridge.

Bergen Swing Bridge. Image courtesy of Google.

An example of a lift bridge is the Old Railway Bridge at the Forks. Courtesy of the Forks website.

Old and New Disraeli Bridge. High bridges allowed river traffic clearance under the bridge deck. Image courtesy of the AXIS Inspection Group Ltd. website.

The third Main Street Bridge was built in 1931. This was a concrete bridge and the nearby Norwood Bridge was built to the same design. The original steel bridges were both only two lanes wide; the new 1931 bridges were both five lanes wide. The fifth lane, the middle lane, was reversible - northbound in the AM and southbound in the PM. Of course, this was after the streetcars were removed from the bridges in the 1950s. 

Third Main Street Bridge ca. 1931 (lower left corner). Image courtesy of the Forks website.
In 1938, the Main Street Bridge was renamed "The Bridge of the Old Forts" to commemorate the many forts built nearby. The plaque commemorating the new name was on a limestone base at the northwest corner of the bridge. Both were moved when the current bridge was built, and now sits at the northwest corner of the new bridge.

Third Main Street Bridge - plaque commemorating the new name of the bridge as "The Bridge of the Old Forts". Image courtesy of David Loftson.
The forth Main Street Bridge was built in 1996/1998, which is the bridge we use today. It is a twin span with three to four lanes in each direction, plus bus and bicycle lanes. 

The fourth Main Street Bridge, twin span complete in 1998. Image courtesy of Wiki Common.

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