“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article March 22, 1998
Centre Street Bridge
• Centre Street over the Bow River
• Built: 1916
• Architect: John F. Green, a pioneer engineer in the field of concrete bridges who also designed the Louise and Mission bridges.
• Contractor: City project using day labour.
• Craftsmen: The four concrete lions, emblems, shields and buffalo heads on the Centre Street Bridge were designed by Scottish stone mason James L. Thompson who came to Calgary in 1910. He worked as a labourer for the City and as a hobby, carved a lion for his garden at 2109 Centre Street North. The bridge lions, modelled after those at the base of Admiral Nelson's Monument in Trafalgar Square, London, were cast on the construction site, hoisted and cemented into place.
• Original cost: $375,000
• Original owner: City of Calgary (1916)
• Construction materials: Upper bridge - reinforced concrete. Lower bridge - steel and concrete.
• Architectural style: Upper bridge - arch superstructure. Lower bridge - "I" girders superstructure.
• Original detail: Reposing lions and concrete turrets. Four spans. Upper bridge is 583 feet long and 48 feet wide. Lower bridge is 480 feet long and 18 feet long.
First crossing at Centre Street was Fogg's Ferry in 1882.
• A.J.McArthur, who owned and subdivided Crescent Heights in 1906, formed a private company called the Centre Street Bridge Company Limited and sold shares to speculators and land holders on the North Hill. Lots were sold with a promise of a bridge connecting the new community to the downtown. The company built a $17,000 steel truss bridge with wooden approaches across the Bow River.
• Following the city's annexation of Crescent Heights in 1908 the bridge company built a steep road from the bridge to the top of the hill and the city installed stairs for pedestrians.
• Between 1908 and 1912 the bridge company and the city waged a battle over who was responsible for upkeep and repair of the bridge, which was by this time quite heavily used by residents of Crescent Heights, Mount Pleasant, Rosedale, construction workers hauling gravel to build downtown sidewalks and contractors dumping clay from downtown excavations at the base of the North Hill. The heavy traffic quickly wore holes in the planking.
• In April 1911 bridge owners put in a toll gate to recoup maintenance costs, a move which angered city officials and local residents. The toll was eventually abandoned but the bridge remained closed to heavy traffic. Crescent Heights promoters offered to sell the bridge to the city for $17,0000 but council refused to pay even $5,000.
• By 1912, the problem was resolved and the City bought the old Centre Street Bridge for $1300.00.
• Construction on a new bridge began in April 1915 and was completed by year end 1916.
• The lower deck was first designed as a pedestrian bridge only and converted for traffic half way through construction.
• The remains of the old bridge were sold to the provincial Department of Highways in 1917 for $1,500.
• October 1971 - $200,000 repair to foundation and reinforcement of the arches on the southern span.
• By 1973 more than 32,000 motor vehicles crossed the bridge daily.
• In 1974 the city installed a $220,000 temporary one-lane Bailey bridge across the Bow River for the duration of a $2 million renovation which closed Centre Street bridge between April and September. The temporary structure was for pedestrian, bus, taxi and emergency use only.
• Upgrading included installation of automatic lane lights to permit maximum traffic flow at rush hours, new surfaces on upper and lower decks and a three foot concrete barrier between pedestrian and automobile traffic.
• The bridge was officially re-opened September 30, 1974 by Mayor Rod Sykes and Highways Minister Clarence Copithorne.
• The story of Centre Street Bridge appears in Hugh Dempsey's book Calgary: Spirit of the West. For more information about Calgary bridges consult R.A. Welin's The Bridges of Calgary 1882 - 1977.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared October 15, 2002.
THEN: Centre Street Bridge
• Since Fogg's Ferry opened in 1882, the Centre Street crossing over the Bow River has been a major north- south thoroughfare. Crescent Heights developer A.J. McArthur and a group of private investors built the first bridge in 1907. Four years later, the city bought it for $1,300. A new four-span steel and concrete bridge completed in 1916 included upper and lower decks. The most distinctive feature was a quartet of reposing lions, two facing north and two facing south, designed by Scottish stonemason James L. Thomson.
NOW: Centre Street Bridge
• In 1992, the city officially designated the bridge as a municipal heritage resource. Seven years later, the bridge was closed for the third major structural upgrade since 1916. It reopened in September 2000 after a $13-million repair that included removal and replacement of the original concrete lions. More than 27,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Calgary Public Library, Central Library, Local History Room
Postcards from the Past
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