Description of Historic Place
Towering over the Welland Canal and constructed in 1927 is the City of Welland's most recognizable landmark, the Main Street Bridge. The bridge spans the Welland Canal at East Main Street near the core of the downtown, carrying the road to the west side of the canal.
The bridge is designated by the City of Welland By-law No. 10332.
The historical value of the Main Street Bridge lies in its association with the fourth Welland Canal, a vital water transportation route facilitating trade through Niagara. The bridge was constructed in 1927-1930 as one of three of the largest vertical lift bridges on the Canal. It was the most expensive bridge, at a cost of $986,363. The Dominion Bridge Company of Lachine, Quebec was awarded the contract, and Maguire, Cameron and Phin, a local firm, were hired as subcontractors for the concrete work. The superstructure was one of only two City of Welland structures to be built almost entirely by First Nations members, with the structural high steel work done by Mohawks from the Caughnawaga Reserve near Montreal and from a reserve east of Rochester, New York.
The bridge, along with the construction of the fourth Welland Canal, was part of one of the most massive public works projects ever undertaken by the federal Government, and played a crucial role in the economic and social development of Welland. The construction of the Main Street Bridge provided the only link between the east and west portions of downtown Welland. It serves, not only as an important transportation route for travellers, but as a symbol of the economic and social impacts of the projects undertaken by the federal government at the time.
The bridge is a steel structure composed of two massive towers with main columns, in box form, and a level central beam or truss span connected by a pulley system to carry the road.
An architectural masterpiece at an impressive height, the Main Street Bridge is a unique steel structure that dominates the landscape of the Welland Canal. The vertical lift bridge was designed at a time when the building industry began to be revolutionized by steel, and stands as a reminder of this effect on architecture. Two immense towers with main columns, in box form, rise above either side of the canal, supporting a central lifting span connected by a pulley system to huge counterweights. A two storey machinery house occupies the centre of the lifting span, with the lifting span being composed of two through girders of nine panels. The two sidewalks positioned on either side of the road are protected by hand railings and lattice. The bridge consists of a roadway width of 30 feet, a girder width of 34.5 feet and a length of 231 feet 5 5/8 inches, with 55-60 foot foundations, submerged under water. Set at an angle of 22 degrees, 24 minutes and 30 seconds off the normal 90 degree angle to the waterway, the bridge is unique in its position, as no other canal bridges were more than 12 degrees off square. The building's height and extraordinary design continue to make an impression, showcasing the architectural value of this stunning local landmark.
The bridge is part of the built landscape along the Welland Canal, serving as an indication of the canal's effect on transportation systems in Welland and other nearby municipalities. The bridge impacted economic and social activity in Welland by joining the east and west portions of the downtown across the Canal, contributing to its development in the early 20th century. The Main Street Bridge is part of a collection of heritage properties located in close proximity to the Canal in the downtown sector.
Sources: Heritage file - Main Street Bridge; The City of Welland By-law 10332.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Main Street Bridge include its:
- position on the Welland Canal, a major waterway constructed to facilitate transport and trade in the early 20th century
- continued use as a pedestrian and vehicular transportation link between the east and west portion of the downtown while not impeding the water route
- proximity to other downtown heritage properties
- size and massing as a local landmark, its image being used for countless City brochures as a symbol of Welland
- two massive towers with main columns, in box form, and a central lifting span
- construction materials, which became practical when steel began to revolutionize the building industry
- central beam or truss span
- pulley system of huge counterweights located in towers
- height, making it a dominant element in the downtown core
- two through girders and nine panels
- angled position of the bridge in relation to the waterway
- floor beams at all panel points carrying four lines of longitudinal joists set to take transverse joists at 3 ft spacing and curved to follow the slope of the roadway surface