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Heffernan Street Bridge

Heffernan Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 19, 2013

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Guelph: Wellington County, Ontario: Canada
Structure Type
Concrete Open Spandrel Deck Arch, Fixed and Approach Spans: Concrete Slab, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1914 By Builder/Contractor: Galbraith and Cate and Engineer/Design: Ernest E. Clawson
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
490.0 Feet (149.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
2 Main Span(s) and 9 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is a very unique foot bridge. The bridge was designed to provide pedestrian access over both the Speed River and a railway, which today includes a non-motorized trail. It consists of two main open spandrel deck arch spans that cross over the Speed River, with additional concrete slab approach spans at each end, including concrete slab spans over where the railway was located. The highest point on the bridge was the crossing over the railroad, so the bridge has the unusual detail that the main spans have a deck constructed with a grade, giving the bridge a unique appearance. The bridge was extensively reconstructed in 1991. It appears that everything above the arch ribs including columns, deck, and railings were replaced at this time. The railings seen appear to replicate to some extent the original design. Despite the loss of original material, the bridge remains a noteworthy heritage structure because of its unusual design. It replaced a previous metal arch foot bridge at this location which likely dated to 1881. The below photo was taken ca. 1896 and shows the previous bridge at this location. Source: Guelph Public Library Item Number C6-0-0-0-0-1134

Information and Findings From Canada's Historic Places

Description of Historic Place

The Heffernan Street Footbridge spans the Speed River, in downtown Guelph, from Arthur Street to Woolwich Street, rising over Heffernan Street and spanning the Speed River. The two-span, reinforced concrete, open-spandrel arch bridge was built in 1914.

The property was designated, by the City of Guelph, in 1990, for its heritage value, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, By-law 1990-13541.

Heritage Value

Built in 1914 to replace an earlier metal arch bridge, the Heffernan Street Footbridge is part of a pedestrian route which was developed in the mid 19th Century, from St. George's Ward residential neighbourhood to the City of Guelph's downtown commercial centre. A footbridge has been in place at this site since 1881.

Designed by Ernest E. Clawson, the City Engineer, and built in 1914, by Galbraith and Cate, the Heffernan Street Foot Bridge is a representative example of an open-spandrel arch bridge. It was constructed of reinforced concrete, a material that was, by 1914, playing an increasingly prominent role in bridge construction.

The Heffernan Street Footbridge is a visually distinctive piece of Guelph's landscape. It is clearly visible from the two other main bridges in Guelph's City Centre. It forms a graceful double curve, often reflected in the water below.

Source: City of Guelph By-law 1990-13541.

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Heffernan Street Footbridge include its:
- reinforced concrete piers, arches, girders, deck and railings
- original location on Heffernan Street, connecting the St. George's Ward neighbourhood with the downtown commercial area of Guelph

Heritage Designation and Type: Yes, Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)


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