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Centre Street Bridge

Centre Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): C. Hanchey, CC BY-NC 2.0, flickr.com/photos/21953562@N07/

Bridge Documented: May 17, 2015

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Centre Street Over Bow River
Location
Calgary: Calgary, Alberta: Canada
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1916 By Builder/Contractor: James Patterson and Engineer/Design: John F. Greene

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
150 Feet (46 Meters)
Structure Length
1,300 Feet (396 Meters)
Roadway Width
42 Feet (12.8 Meters)
Spans
3 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is a beautiful concrete deck arch bridge that has a lot of architectural embellishment. John F. Greene, an engineer from St. Paul, Minnesota designed the bridge. The arch ribs bear a striking resemblance to the Robert Street Bridge in St. Paul, which he also designed.

The bridge is an open spandrel arch bridge with four arched spans and upper and lower traffic decks. Originally, the bridge carried two street car lines in addition to automobile and pedestrian traffic. The bridge contains a pair of kiosks at each end topped by lion sculptures. The kiosks are topped with lion sculptures (symbolizing the British Empire) and decorated with buffalo heads representing Western Canada. it was also known as the Bridge of Lions. For much of its early history the bridge also accommodated two street car lines in addition to automobile and pedestrian traffic. The bridge was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource by Alberta in 1992 and added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Information and Findings From Calgary Historic Resources

Discussion of Bridge

Centre Street Bridge (1915)
Alternate Names: 1 Centre Street SW
Address: 118 RIVERFRONT AV SE - View map
Year of Construction: 1915
Community: CHINATOWN
Resource Type: City Wide Historic Resource
Original Use Type: Transport
Original Use SubType: Bridge
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts
Architect: Greene, John F
Builder: N/A
Provincial Master Plan Theme: Urban Development
Development Era: 1914 to 1918 (WWI)
Legal Description: N/A
Other Significant Dates: N/A

Legally Protected/Federally Recognized:
Federal: No
Provincial: No
Registered: No
Municipal: Yes: see bylaw., Date: 27/7/1992

Significance Summary:
N/A

Statement of Significance
Description:
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.

Heritage Value:
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.

Character Defining Elements:
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.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Centre Street Bridge

 
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