Links and documents
1915/01/01 to 1916/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Centre Street Bridge, built 1915-1916, is a concrete bridge with four arched spans and upper and lower traffic decks. It is ornamented by a pair of kiosks at each end topped by lion sculptures. The bridge crosses the Bow River, connecting downtown Calgary with Crescent Heights. It is a primary north-south transportation link for downtown. The bridge was protected as a Municipal Historic Resource in 1992.
The Centre Street Bridge is historically significant as the second oldest bridge to span the Bow River in Calgary. Completed in 1916, it replaced the original Centre Street Bridge which dated from 1907. The Centre Street Bridge has long served as one of the main links between downtown Calgary and areas north of the Bow River. For much of its early history the bridge also accommodated two street car lines in addition to automobile and pedestrian traffic. As such, the Centre Street Bridge was also instrumental in the early development of neighbourhoods north of the Bow River, especially Crescent Heights, Mount Pleasant, Tuxedo Park, Winston Heights and Renfrew.
The Centre Street Bridge is also architecturally significant as the most elaborate and ornamental bridge to span the Bow River in Calgary. Its graceful arched spans, classical balustrades, cantilevered balconies, and kiosks contribute to the beauty of the reinforced concrete bridge. The paired kiosks at each end of the bridge are surmounted with massive lion sculptures, which symbolize the British Empire, and are modeled upon those at Trafalgar Square in London. The kiosks are decorated with other symbolic sculptures and shields including buffalo heads representing Western Canada; a maple leaf for Canada; the rose for England; the shamrock for Ireland; and the thistle for Scotland. These sculptures were originally executed by James L. Thomson, a Calgary artist who was also responsible for the sculptures adorning the Bow Bridge in Banff.
John F. Greene, an expert Minnesota bridge engineer and architect was the design engineer of the Centre Street Bridge, and later designed the city's Mission and Hillhurst bridges. Assisting Greene with the Centre Street Bridge was George Washington Craig, the city's chief engineer as well as local architects Frank Lawson Jr. and J. Bernard Richards, the city's architect from 1917-1923. Other bridges designed by Greene include the outstanding Robert Street Bridge (1924-26) in St. Paul, Minnesota which has been listed on the American National Register of Historic Places.
The monumental and decorative character of the Centre Street Bridge makes it a primary example of 'City Beautiful' planning efforts in Calgary. It is also one of the small number of civic improvements carried out to generally align with the principles of Thomas Mawson's grand urban plan (1914) for the City of Calgary. When completed, the bridge was considered to be the finest of its kind in Western Canada.
Source: City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 04-113
The exterior character-defining elements of the Centre Street Bridge include such features as its:
- scale, with a length of 396 metres (1300 feet) and a 12.8 metre (42 foot) roadway width;
- reinforced concrete construction;
- arched spans containing spandrels with repetitive arches and the associated piers and abutments;
- under-slung roadway suspended by hangers;
- cantilevered balustrades (sidewalks) with classical balusters, cantilevered balconies, and paired kiosks;
- ornamental sculptures such as massive British lions, buffalo heads, and shields containing the symbolic emblems of the maple leaf, rose, thistle, and shamrock;
- decorative treatments such as the incised panelling, pilasters and grooves;
- concrete north retaining wall, impressed and articulated with panels.
Local Governments (AB)
Historical Resources Act
Municipal Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Bridge, Tunnel or Other Engineering Work
Architect / Designer
John F. Greene
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 04-113
Cross-Reference to Collection