Been there, done that…the original footbridge!

By Lorne Abugov

In these archival photos from the 1950s, City of Ottawa workers are seen midway through the annual winter installation of the temporary footbridge linking Herridge Avenue in Old Ottawa East and Second Avenue in the Glebe  Photo by City of Ottawa Archives

In these archival photos from the 1950s, City of Ottawa workers are seen midway through the annual winter installation of the temporary footbridge linking Herridge Avenue in Old Ottawa East and Second Avenue in the Glebe.
Photo by City of Ottawa Archives

If you thought the new footbridge under construction between Clegg Street and Fifth Avenue is the first structural link connecting Old Ottawa East to the Glebe, you’d be right – and wrong!

The much-anticipated pedestrian span is the first permanent structure to be built across the canal south of Pretoria Bridge and north of the Bank Street Bridge. But decades ago, Old Ottawa East residents, like Betty Hill, could cross the canal in the winter months using a temporary wooden trestle footbridge built and then dismantled annually by the City of Ottawa.

Hill, who was born in 1916, is likely one of few surviving Old Ottawa East residents to have walked across the original Canal footbridge connecting Herridge Avenue to Second Avenue in the Glebe.

“I used to cross the footbridge back in the 1930s as a teenager going to Glebe Collegiate or visiting our aunts and uncles in the Glebe,” Hill recalls. “It was just a temporary bridge made with lumber and a railing along the sides. It was very narrow, you know, and people had to squeeze in to pass one another.”

Archival photos of the original footbridge suggest that the City was installing the rough-hewn crossing each winter into at least the 1960s. Nor is it clear exactly what year the Herridge-Second link was first installed.

According to Hill, the City didn’t charge a fee to users for a winter crossing back then, but that didn’t hold true once the snow melted and the footbridge was dismantled each spring.

“Once that footbridge came down for the winter, we had no choice but to row across the canal if we didn’t want to walk to Bank Street or the Pretoria Bridge,” she says. “ Now I didn’t row across myself, but this old lady did, and I don’t remember that she rowed very fast, but she got us across. She kept her boat tied up at Clegg Street. It wasn’t cheap back then. It used to cost a dime each way, so for me, it was always a one-way trip”.

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Filed in: Front Page, Life Column

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