Every two years the Calgary Heritage Authority community heritage plaque program places information plaques on sites of historical significance.
“The plaque program provides an opportunity to recognize important heritage sites throughout our city,” says Scott Jolliffe, Calgary Heritage Authority Chair. “Last year’s loss of the iconic Elbow River suspension bridges makes today’s recognition of four historic Calgary bridges all the more relevant. These plaques will help build awareness about the value and importance of these bridges, which have connected generations of Calgarians.”
The Calgary Heritage Authority recently completed a historical survey of Calgary’s bridges, and has added a number of significant bridges to the City’s inventory of historic resources. The heritage inventory can be viewed at www.calgary.ca/heritage.
The four sites that received plaques are:
The Langevin Bridge
Location: 4 Street SE at the Bow River; between East Village and Bridgeland-Riverside
Built in 1910, the Langevin Bridge replaced an earlier bridge and ferry crossing, and is at the location of an ancient river crossing on the “Old North Trail,” an important Aboriginal transportation corridor. The bridge enabled the extension of the new streetcar system across the Bow River. This is one of four Calgary bridges known as “Parker Camelback” bridges, because the framework of structural steel that looks like a camel’s back in profile. It’s also recognizable today for its LED installation, as part of the effort to revitalize the East Village.
The Hextall Bridge, also known as the old Shouldice Bridge
Location: Bow Crescent NW; between Bowness and Montgomery
This bridge was constructed in 1910 by businessman John Hextall, who sought to transform the area of Bowness into an idyllic garden suburb. Soon afterwards the City took over the bridge and put in a streetcar line. Generations of Calgarians came to know the bridge as the way to get to Bowness Park. In 1986 a new bridge was built and the old bridge found a new life as part of the regional pathway system.
12 Avenue Elbow River Bridge, also known as the MacDonald Bridge
Location: 12 Avenue SE at the Elbow River; between Victoria Park/Beltline and Ramsay
This bridge across the Elbow River was completed in 1911 and helped enable the development of East Calgary. Workers at the CPR Canadian Pacific Railway Ogden Shops, the Burns meatpacking plant and other major east side workplaces relied on this bridge and the street railway system, as did the residents of new residential communities in Ogden and Ramsay.
All three of the steel truss bridges being honoured were built to facilitate the rapid growth of Calgary and the street car system in the boom years prior to the First World War. The steel structures were manufactured in Eastern Canada, shipped west by rail and assembled on site with rivets, a technique that is clearly visible on the structures today.
The Mewata Bridge
Location: 14 Street at the Bow River; between Hillhurst and Sunalta
Built in 1954, the Mewata Bridge was the first major river crossing built in Calgary since the Louise Bridge in 1922. It helped to facilitate post-war suburban growth in northwest Calgary and the establishment of a system of one-way streets in downtown. A national newspaper hailed the bridge as a “milestone in the city’s vast post-war development.” The Mewata Bridge is of mid-century modern design, and was partly inspired by the recently completed Waterloo Bridge in London, England.
The Mewata Bridge is of mid-20th century modern design. It was built using “box-girder” technology, which uses steel-reinforced concrete beams shaped like a tube with multiple walls. When it was built it was the longest box-girder span in North America, the first in Western Canada, and the first example in Canada to use the new technique of butt-welded reinforcing steel.