Sunday, September 05, 2010


The Main Street "Stone Bridge"


Everyone living in Fredericton North knows of the "stone bridge" which spans the Nashwaaksis Stream at the intersection of Main Street, Sunset Drive and the Royal Road. But, most do not know its history.

The existence of a small wooden bridge in the mid 1800's is noted in the history books. At the time, there was a large gristmill owned by the Thompson gamily, and that "Y" junction of the aforementioned three roads was known as "Thompson's Mill". In 1895, the original wooden bridge was pronounced inadequate for the traffic that went over it. In the spring of 1895, tenders were called for a new bridge. The structure was to be two spans in length one of which would be covered, a great improvement over the existing bridge which like the one today was wide open to the weather. Why these bridges were covered is hard to tell, but it seems logical to assume that the covering served as a shelter against the weather, which could cause the wooden bridge to deteriorate.

The Nashwaaksis Bridge was opened in the summer of 1895. But something was missing, and that was a sidewalk for people on foot. It would be hard for anyone to walk, especially ladies in long trailing skirts, in the wake of the horse drawn carts and their trail of dung. It was 35 years later that the Province finally listened to the petitions of Nashwaaksis people and they got their sidewalk. On May 21, 1930, it was finally built on the "downstream" side of the bridge. There is an interesting fact about the bridge and the sidewalk. In 1895 it cost the Province $1,600 to build the bridge. In 1930 it cost $550 just to build the sidewalk. Inflation was rearing its ugly head even in those days!

The Nashwaaksis Bridge withstood many freshets and ice jams in the following years, but the year 1936 saw its demise. In the great floods and heavy ice that took out the railway bridge at Fredericton, the swollen Nashwaaksis overwhelmed the little bridge and swept it away. This was a real disaster, for the Nashwaaksis Covered Bridge was a very important link between the people upriver and the City of Fredericton. In those days, there were no bridges crossing the St. John River until one reached Woodstock. As soon as the floods subsided, immediate steps were taken by the province to replace it. A temporary bridge was put in place, somewhat lower than the original, to allow traffic to continue on its way. The next year, 1937, saw the building of the present lovely Stone Bridge, fortunately with an allowance for a sidewalk on the "down stream" side.

The sidewalk may have been adequate at the time, but not for long. It was very narrow, and pedestrians found themselves literally inches from the nearby passing motor vehicles. The present day "arched' sidewalk on the "upstream" side was constructed in the early 1990's.

This structure served as a hangout for my age group in the early 1970's. It was the height of "coolness" to sit on the side of bridge facing towards all of the nearby passing cars. This however soon became passé as we moved on to other locales, and the younger teenagers abandoned the bridge to hang out in the nearby Royal Road Park.

So there you have it, the history of our charming bridge. It may not be as storied as the Brooklyn or Golden Gate Bridges, but it's ours!

No comments: