Note: Bridge lengths given are a rough estimate.
Balls Bridge is a rare and highly significant heritage bridge that has, through substantial effort, been preserved so that it can remain open to light vehicular traffic. The bridge is located in a quiet, scenic setting, and visitors to this area are strongly encouraged to visit this local landmark.
The bridge is one of the few heritage truss bridges in Ontario that has actually been preserved. Sadly, since this bridge was saved in 2007, this bridge has only become more rare, given the number of bridges demolished elsewhere.
The Balls Bridge is technically defined as a two-span pin connected Pratt through truss. The bridge is supported by a concrete pier and one stone and one concrete abutment. The concrete abutment is at the west end of the bridge, while the stone is at the east end. Each span is composed of eight panels. The pin connected truss bridge was a common design during the late 1800s and early 1900s but faded away as new building techniques were developed. Due to attrition, this bridge type has become very rare today, especially in Ontario. However, the Balls Bridge remains today as an excellent example of this structure type, and a long one at two spans. Moreover, the 1885 construction date given for this bridge makes it ancient, setting it among some of the oldest wrought iron Pratt truss bridges in the U.S. and Canada. There are Carnegie mill marks present on the bridge, identifying the company who provided at least some of the iron. Not only is the bridge important because it offers a glimpse into the past, it is also a beautiful structure with many aesthetic qualities not found in modern bridges designed and built today. Bridges like the Balls Bridge were designed with a great deal attention given to the details. There is v-lacing and lattice present on various places of the bridge, which adds to the beauty. The complex arrangement of trusses form a geometric art that is unlike the simple beam bridges that are often seen on today's rivers and expressways. This bridge is irreplaceable.
Ball's Bridge is
a pin connected structure, which is a feature seen on the older metal truss
bridges. Pin connected truss bridges are very rare in Ontario, and as such the
bridge is significant. Furthermore, the bridge is two-span. In southwestern Ontario, multi-span truss
bridges of any kind are uncommon, and a multi-span bridge from this era is
extremely rare! Also, the bridge trusses do not show any evidence of substantial alteration, meaning the historic integrity of the bridge is very good. So, from a historian's perspective this bridge is a treasure.
Historical significance aside, a bridge such as the Ball's Bridge is so
beautiful, and speaks of an era when bridge building included an attention to
design and detail that is no longer given on the plain modern bridges of today.
The lightweight, yet complex truss structure is a beauty to behold, and it adds
so much to the surrounding area.
It would be nothing short of a crime to demolish or let collapse, this historic bridge. Driving across a truss bridge and experiencing the unique "tunnel effect" is something that people deserve to have access to. This is a bridge with history, and there are many people who have enjoyed this bridge, and many more who can discover and enjoy this bridge in the years to come if this bridge is preserved.
In 2006, the fate of this bridge was uncertain. The bridge was owned by the county and their was talk of abandoning or even worse demolishing the bridge. The bridge had been closed to traffic. Fortunately, the local community got behind this heritage bridge and formed a group called Friends of Balls Bridge. A well-attended public forum was held on October 26, 2006 where a variety of people presented before a group largely in support of preserving the bridge. Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org was one of the presenters at this event. Long story short, efforts to save the bridge were successful and the ownership of the bridge was transferred to the willing township. The bridge was repaired during 2007-2007 and reopened to light vehicular traffic. To improve safety while maintaining a historic appearance on the bridge, replica lattice railings which were more substantial than the pipe railings on the bridge were installed. Additionally, a headache bar, which was also tastefully designed to serve as a beautiful entrance gateway to the bridge was installed to ensure trucks do not use the bridge. Additionally, interpretive signage was placed near the entrance.
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