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Old Lakeshore Road Bridge

Old Lakeshore Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: January 2, 2004, September 10, 2004, and 2012-2013

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Old Lakeshore Road Over Cull Drain (Perch Creek)
Location
Sarnia: Lambton County, Ontario: Canada
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1910 By Builder/Contractor: Jenks-Dresser Company of Sarnia, Ontario

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
100 Feet (30.48 Meters)
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This bridge is in storage!

Bridge Status: This heritage bridge has been relocated and placed on the ground in nearby Mike Weir Park!

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Status of Bridge In 2016

This heritage bridge which for years was closed to vehicular traffic but open to non-motorized traffic. By 2013 however, the bridge had been fenced off and closed to all forms of traffic including pedestrians. After much argument, the City of Sarnia (which wanted to remove the bridge) was finally talked out of scrapping the bridge, and instead the bridge was non-destructively removed from its abutments and placed on the ground in nearby Mike Weir Park, Brights Grove. The exact coordinates of the bridge's location today are 43.028016, -82.276604. The intent of this action is that the bridge remains available for restoration and reuse, either in its original location or in a new location. Meanwhile, in its current park setting, the bridge remains visible and viewable by the public.

In 2016, the bridge has been and will be featured in community events. From June 11-12, the free tour "Doors Open Lambton County" included the Cull Drain Bridge with some historical pictures and memorabilia. Another free event, From Sept.18 to Oct. 22, Gallery in the Grove (the art gallery located on the second floor of the Bright's Grove Library), is scheduled to host an exhibition of bridge artifacts and photos, as well as artwork it has inspired.

The future of the bridge remains uncertain, but locals remain interested in either restoring the bridge and reinstalling it in its original location, or perhaps identifying another adaptive reuse of the bridge in the Sarnia area.

An Era Long Past

A long time ago, this was the main lakeshore shore highway that went east and north from Sarnia, Ontario. The current alignment for the lake shore road is now further from the lake, and is known as "New Lakeshore Road" As you might guess the now-fragmented road that this bridge was once a part of is called "Old Lakeshore Road" Most of Old Lakeshore is gone now, perhaps due both to residential development taking over abandoned parts of the road and also a flood that eroded away parts of the road in 1973. A tiny stretch of it remains in this area, in the form of a dead end road that terminates at the bridge, which is today closed to vehicular traffic. However, the bridge remains in heavy use by pedestrians and bicycles, and east of the bridge the wear of non-motorized traffic has maintained a trail, although the asphalt roadway no longer remains.

The bridge is located right at the mouth of the Cull Drain, as it empties into Lake Huron. As such, the bridge offers a beautiful view of the lake, a unique setting for a heritage truss bridge.

Technical Information

The Old Lakeshore Bridge is a 100 foot polygonal Warren pony truss. The polygonal top chord employs a "camelback style" five-slope design. Abutments are made of concrete. The bridge was built in 1910. Steel on the bridge was made by Carnegie Steel. The bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic for several decades. The bridge is in an unaltered condition. The truss shows no noteworthy alterations. The abutments are original. The bridge's truss members are traditionally composed utilizing riveted built-up members including the use of period details such as battens and v-lacing on the built-up members.

Original lattice railings remain on the bridge although some panels are damaged or missing. An unusual detail is that the lattice railings are composed of bars, rather than angles. Although the lattice railing of nearly all bridges of this era built in the United States used bars, the vast majority of lattice railings found in Ontario and perhaps all of Canada employ angles instead of bars in the lattice. It seems obvious that the use of angles would provide greater strength to the railings, but it is unclear why each respective country stuck so rigidly to either bar or angle.

Statement of Significance

This bridge is historically and technologically significant in both the local and provincial contexts. The bridge is historically significant provincially as an exceedingly rare surviving example of a bridge documented as having been built by the Sarnia-based firm of Jenks-Dresser (sometimes called Jenks & Dresser). Around the time this bridge was built, Jenks and Dresser split the company so as to operate an additional company in neighboring Port Huron, Michigan. Also, the Sarnia Bridge Company was apparently a descendent of this company. As a bridge located in Sarnia that was built by a Sarnia company, the bridge is also historically significant on a local basis. The bridge is also technologically significant on a provincial level as an early surviving example of a polygonal Warren truss bridge in Ontario. Most pony truss bridges built during this period did not have polygonal top chords. Finally, the bridge's 100 foot length is fairly long for a pony truss built during this time.

Preservation Potential

As mentioned earlier, the bridge as well as the roadway east of this bridge is no longer in use by vehicular traffic, however prior to its complete closure, the bridge remained in relatively heavy use by pedestrians and bicycles, who utilized the roadway west of the bridge, followed a trail east of the bridge. Former vehicular truss bridges like the Old Lake Shore Drive Bridge have repeatedly proven themselves to be both functional and economical to preserve for non-motorized use. The Old Lakeshore Drive Bridge sits in a uniquely scenic location: how many heritage pony truss bridges can claim to offer a spectacular view of one of the Great Lakes? The Old Lakeshore Drive Bridge also continues to serve an important function as a non-motorized crossing. For all these reasons, the Old Lakeshore Drive Bridge appears to be a strong candidate for preservation in its existing location for continued non-motorized use. While the bridge trusses remain in decent condition, deck stringers and deck surface may be worth considering for replacement as they are not historically significant and show signs of deterioration. Replication and repair of the original lattice railings should be included in the scope of work. If modern pedestrian railings need to be added for safety, the original lattice railings should be left in place as well. Any added modern railings should have a low visual impact to the bridge. Cable or metal pole railings generally are more preferable than heavy wooden railings. Possible additional enhancements to consider at the bridge site might be the improvement of facilities around the bridge to make it more accessible to non-motorized traffic, in particular improving the undeveloped trail east of the bridge. Better-defined parking for vehicles would also be beneficial. Interpretive signage discussing the bridge and its significance would also enhance the visitor experience.

Other Interesting History

Maxine McBryan from Forest, Ontario emailed HistoricBridges.org and mentioned that although the water this bridge is crossing is sometimes called Perch Creek (including on the sign on New Lakeshore Road), this is in fact incorrect. Apparently, somewhere along the line somebody got confused, and the incorrect label has stuck around. An except from the email is below, which also discusses some history of the bridge.

Comments about the bridge and the waterway from Maxine McBryan:

My great great grandfather, James Yeates, his son, and my grandfather, also James William Yeates had the property that abut the Cull Drain. I see you have Cull Drain (Perch Creek) listed as the location. I know they are calling it Perch Creek now, which is a big, big mistake. You see Perch Creek never drained anywhere near where the Cull Drain was originally dug. It flowed out the south end of Lake Wawanosh which was the lake they were draining way back in 1860. The Perch Creek flowed east to where it drain into Lake Huron at Bright's Grove. The 911 people are calling the original Perch Creek, Cow Creek. Cow Creek was actually a tributary which joined Perch Creek about a mile or half a mile before they reached Lake Huron. I don't know who is responsible for making these mistakes when they put the 911 addresses out, but they sure didn't know their geography or history. Another story I remember my grandfather telling us was when the bridge was out after the storm of Nov. 1913. I'm not sure if he meant it was washed out (which wouldn't surprise me) or if he meant it was so badly damaged they couldn't use it. But he said it was a problem because there was no way to get across the drain at that point. I think there was another private bridge on their property, though, north of where the railroad bridge is now.


Detailed Bridge Narrative By George Sunaitis, December 2000

The Cull Drain Bridge on Old Lakeshore Road

An almost forgotten bridge within Sarnia city limits still stands -barely, as this is written towards the end of the year 2000. It is this writer's hope the community will rediscover this structure before it collapses and realize its critical necessity in a logical expansion (and new, combined Official Plan endorsed) of Sarnia's Bluewater Trails network, segments of which exist in the public access portion of the waterfront. With the recent refurbishment of the original 1938-built Bluewater Bridge complete, the wonderful possibility arises that this Cull Drain bridge -which predates the first St. Clair River span by over a quarter of a century -can again see service after proper restoration.

Archival research has shown that: "Sealed tenders addressed to Robert Beatty , Sarnia, Ontario, will be received up until 12 o'clock noon on May 21, 1910, for the furnishing of material and erection of the steel bridge, 100 feet centre to centre in bearing by 16 feet clear roadway, across the Cull drain on the Lake road, 9th concession of Sarnia township. The steel work to be designed according to Ontario government specifications and carrying in addition to its own weight and the weight of the concrete floor, 100 lbs. per square foot, and a concentrated load of 12 tons on two axles 10 foot centres."

The Lambton County Reports from 1910 indicated "that the bridge over the Cull drain is erected and completed in accordance with plans and specifications for same." -(dated in Sarnia, Dec. 8, 1910) Entries in the Auditor's Report of 1910 for the Township of Sarnia for September and October show payments of $2000 and $500 to the firm of Jenks & Dresser . A reference to this firm is found in "Town Topics" of the Sarnia Weekly Observer from Aug. 30, 1910: "The partnership of Jenks & Dresser in the bridge works in Sarnia and Port Huron is dissolved and the Sarnia enterprise will be owned by Mr. Jenks and Mr. Norton while the Michigan end of the business will be owned by Mr. Dresser and Mr. Fuller. Both plants are doing a large and successful business.

That the steel was manufactured by the Carnegie Steel Company can be inferred from the rolled markings on the material itself. It's interesting that in the Columbia Encyclopedia's reference to Andrew Carnegie mention is made of: "His essay 'The Gospel of Wealth' (1889) set forth his idea that rich men are 'trustees' of their wealth and should administer it for the good of the public." In a round about way, it would indeed be yet another benefaction in Carnegie's long list if his revitalized steel could serve Sarnia again.

An internet search has revealed the underlined criteria for properly describing bridges. In this case it is a continuous 2QQD of 100 feet and its material is steel. The Placement of the travel surface in relation to the structure makes this a pony configuration where traffic goes between parallel superstructures that are not cross-braced at the top. Finally, its form is that of a Warren Truss, of which there are many variations. This design, patented by James Warren and Willoughby Monzoni of Great Britain in 1848, can be identified by the presence of many equilateral or isosceles triangles formed by the web members that connect the top and bottom chords. These triangles may also be further subdivided which is the case here with those having their apexes pointing down having this feature. This bridge also has the element of a queen post truss with a horizontal top chord to achieve a longer span.

The same auditor's report reveals a sum of $1100 paid October 28, 1910 to Alfred Kirkpatrick for building the abutments, the cement foundations on which the bridge rests. Mr. Kirkpatrick, a Petrolia resident, has been described as a giant of a man with broad shoulders and incredible strength. A site visit and inspection of the northeast section of the top of the curb leading to the bridge will find scrawled in the cement: "A. KIRKPATRICK- August 1910". Another reference to this audit for the same date shows a $478.12 entry, paid to F. Gutteridge for the cement supplied for the abutments and road deck. for this new bridge to have been built, a strip of land from lot 24 on the east side of the Cull drain had to be expropriated from the property of Angus Jamieson to widen the lake road. It was a similar case for James Yeates, owner of lot 25 on the western approach. The following is quoted from a 1910-dated clipping found in the Lambton Room of the public library in Wyoming: "A disappointment as to the value was the result and the matter went to arbitration. The land owners appointed Robert Fleck and the Council James S. Mclean. The two men thus chosen adopted the unique plan of settlement 1 without a third man, witness or counsel. They viewed the premises and recommended the Council pay Mr. Jamieson $180 and Mr. Yeates $165, and the trifling cost everyone bear his own. The value of the land was easy to get at. The main difficulty was to estimate the damage to the front of each farm by the strip to be taken and the timber and orchards to be affected." In this regard, another entry for legal costs in the same audit shows: "Hanna, LeSueur and Co., settlement in full for Yeates and Jamieson arbitration -$350". This number suggests the law firm was paid only $5 for their services. Adding the mentioned numbers shows total expenses of $4428.12 for this bridge, a rather heady sum for those days. For whatever official reason, the County of Lambton saw fit to pass Bylaw #430 on the 10th of June, 1910. This bylaw granted "the sum of $2300 to assist the Township of Sarnia to build a bridge over the Cull drain, north boundary of the County." This writer especially likes the anecdotal evidence offered by Mr. Stewart Jamieson, direct descendant of Angus Jamieson and current resident on the ancestral property. The bridge was actually 100'1" in length, long enough for grant eligibility apparently. If this is true, then it certainly gives new meaning to the colourful phrase: "You trying to squeeze an inch in on me there?" It would seem Sarnia Township did indeed to their senior level of government. Yes sir, to the tune of $2300! This bridge is a superb example of an industrial archeological relic. Its riveted construction and lattice railing and 16' road width are from much earlier times at the dawn of the automobile era. Archival evidence shows that this bridge has not seen a car pass over it for some time, perhaps even since the late 50's. It was not in service on St. Patrick's Day in 1973 when a violent storm scoured out much of Old Lakeshore Road between Telfer and Brigden sideroads. But the bridge still stood. Wisely placed new concrete and other techniques might rescue the presently degraded abutments. The steel seawall installed after the storm from this bridge to Huronview Park is ending its useful life over a quarter century : later. It remains to be seen whether there will be the political will and community support to recover and display the wealth of history Sarnia has, this bridge a very noteworthy part of our inventory .

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