Ask Alicia – Henley Bridge

Hi Alicia,

I’ve been thinking about another possible topic for Ask Alicia. I work at the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). The MTO is celebrating our 100th anniversary this year. Perhaps there could be a blog related to transportation, as St. Catharines has a great transportation history.

One potential blog idea I have related to MTO and St. Catharines transportation history is the QEW’s Henley Bridge over the 12 Mile Creek.  It’s a very unique carved bridge with a lot of historic importance. I believe this bridge is designed to look like a ship as a reminder of the Old Welland Canal below.  Also, I understand this bridge commemorates the dedication of the QEW by the King and Queen in 1939. The crests from all 10 provinces are carved into the bridge. It’s a very beautiful and historic bridge.  Does our museum have any interesting historic information / photographs related to the Henley Bridge and/or the Royal dedication of the QEW in 1939?

Regards,

Dan McKnight

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View of Henley Bridge, 2016 – QEW – Courtesy of Dan McKnight

Dear Mr. McKnight,

Thank you for your continued interest in the Ask Alicia blog.

The Henley Twin Bridges were constructed on North America’s first four lane divided highway, the Queen Elizabeth Way, in 1938-1939. The completion of this route was a monumental achievement for its time. The bridge was engineered by the Bridge Office Department of Highways under Chief Bridge Engineer, Arthur Sedgewick and was built by Goldie Construction.

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Construction of Henley Bridge 1938. St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1938.57.1.2

The elaborate masonry work on this bridge is not only beautiful and unique, but has sparked curiosity by citizens of St. Catharines and tourists alike for years. The stylized Viking ship prow motif placed at both ends of the bridge and bas-relief designs represent the shipping industry that utilized the First and Second Welland Canals (from 1829-1887), over which the bridge passes. The guard rails separating the lanes were meant to be the sides of the ship. Regal stone lions guard the bridge approach, each of which holds a coat of arms.  Also carved in stone are the provincial crests and the British Royal crest along with an inscription regarding the bridges royal dedication.

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Ship Prow 1940. St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1940.12.4.1

On June 7th, 1939 when the bridge was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and the Queen Mother. This was a milestone event as it was the first time that a reigning monarch had visited a sister Dominion. This ceremony also marked the completion of the QEW extension through to the Niagara area. In 1940, a crowd of 2,000 people gathered at the official opening of the bridge. The Honourable Thomas Baker McQuesten, Provincial Minister of Highways, declared the Queen Elizabeth Way officially opened.

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Official opening of Henley Bridge 1940. St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1940.19.9.1

 

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Large crowd at official opening. St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1940.19.9.6

The city faced a bit of a scare when the province ordered the monument to be moved to Ontario place to accommodate the widening of the bridge. The province faced a lot of harsh criticism and thankfully they maintained the placement of the stone masterpiece during all construction that occurred on the bridge.

The Henley Bridge is listed by the provincial Ministry of Citizenship and Culture under the ministry’s Ontario Heritage Bridges Program, as being of historical significance.

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Completed Henley Bridge 1940. St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1940.12.4.7

 

 

 

 

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