Description of Historic Place
The Blackfriars Bridge, a reinforced wrought-iron bowstring bridge, was constructed in 1875. It spans the North Branch of the Thames River, on Blackfriars Street, in the City of London.
The property was designated by the City of London in 1992 for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law L.S.P.-3140-106). The Blackfriars Bridge has also been listed on the Ontario Heritage Bridge list, a list of provincially significant bridges, maintained by the Ministry of Culture.
The Blackfriars Bridge is a landmark, in the City of London, and has been a source of inspiration to local artists, writers, photographers, and historians for many years. The gentle curve of Ridout Street onto the east side entrance of the bridge augments the experimental qualities inherent in the structure, including its narrow width, the texture of the wooden deck and the streamlined elegance of its bowed profile. These characteristics and the steep, well-treed riverbanks and parkland create a rural feel in this downtown location.
Formerly the principle link between the City of London and its hinterland, the Blackfriars Bridge was the first iron bridge, in London, to span the Thames River. Constructed, in 1875, under the supervision of local contractor Issac Crouse, it replaced the last of several wooden bridges that had spanned the river, at this location, since 1826. None of these bridges could withstand the severe spring flooding. By 1889, all wooden bridges, in London, were replaced with iron structures and only the Blackfriars Bridge remains.
The Blackfriars Bridge is a fine example of bowstring construction and one of the few such bridges still standing, in Canada. It was designed and fabricated to an American prototype that was first patented by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Ohio, in 1870. Wrought iron was chosen because of its excellent qualities of strength, malleability and resistance to corrosion. A low parabolic chord tops the bridge and gives it a sense of floating above the river, as it extends over the Thames River, for an unsupported 212 feet. Other distinctive features of this style of bridge construction include; the pin connections, the timber decking and the lattice girders.
Due to a relatively low volume of traffic, Blackfriars Bridge has survived. It is the oldest wrought-iron bridge in North America still used for vehicular traffic. It is recognized as a significant example of early engineering technology.
Sources: City of London By-law (L.S.P.-3140-106); Research article by Harvey Revington and Eila Milne, 2005.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Blackfriars Bridge include its:
- prominent location spanning the Thames River providing a gateway between the downtown and former West London areas, of the City of London
- orientation to Ridout Street
- gentle curve that augments the bridge's narrow width, texture of the wooden deck and streamlined elegance of its bowed profile
- reinforced bowstring bridge construction, based on an 1870 prototype by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company
- wrought-iron construction including the low parabolic chord that tops the bridge
- unsupported length of 212 feet
- pin connections and lattice girders
- timber deck beams