LONDON, ONTARIO (CANADA)- Almost four months after the reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge in the world, located in Canada, the Blackfriars Bowstring Arch Bridge is starting to receive some well-deserved accolades for the work that was done for the bridge. As mentioned earlier, the 1875 product of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company finished second in the Ammann Awards in the categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year, good enough for silver medals. It won the Author’s Choice Award for the former mentioned category. And just recently, on 21st February, the bridge won the ACO London Conservation and Reuse Award, presented by the City of London. Here’s a photo of the presentation of the bridge upon receiving the award:
The photos were taken by one of the people who contributed to saving the bridge, Lincoln McCardle. Like many residents in London, Lincoln has close ties and memories of the bridge, as he hung out with friends and the like at the bridge while growing up. His mother, Judi, has even more of an attachment to the bridge to a point where she has had a house located in the “visual vicinity” of the bridge (and judging by the article, her house does have a great view with the bridge.) She has even painted pictures of the bridge and has collected some works on it!!!
It’s pretty difficult to say who were spearheading the efforts to saving the bridge, even though the two are two of the bridge’s biggest fans. However, there was a time when the decision between rehabilitating and replacing the bridge was that difficult to make. But when the decision was made to do the rehab, it was well worth the work. I had a chance to interview Lincoln via e-mail about the Blackfriars Bridge. Like the author of the Chronicles, he was in charge of the social network scene, devoting his time to bringing the Blackfriars Bridge to the attention of the people in London and beyond. Thanks to that alone, it garnered a lot of attention and support, which made the decision to rehabilitate the bowstring arch bridge much easier than without. To give you an idea, here is a youtube clip of him as an overture to the interview conducted with the Chronicles. Check out the finished product at the end of the interview and feel free to comment. Have fun watching the film and reading the interview. 🙂
1. The bowstring arch bridge had been closed to all traffic from 2013 until the project. What factors led to the decision to restore the bridge?
The decision to restore was actually very much in doubt for some time. While deemed the more expensive in the Environmental Study Report, it was decided that rehabilitation was the preferred option. I believe that key factors that went into this decision were: importance as a significant heritage structure, role within the parks and pathway system as well as transportation network and perhaps most importantly it’s value to the community. In short, people love it!
2. Who were the key players in the project to restore the bridge?
Most notably the city of London itself. As well as provincial and federal government funding. Much of the prlimanry work was done by Dillon Consulting and the actual construction and rehabilitation work was done by McLean Taylor Construction Limited. Of course, there were many community and heritage activists whom without this project may never have taken place.
3. Describe in phases how the bridge was restored, beginning with the dissembly and ending with the reopening?
The procedure to carefully lift the bridge was been developed with safety as a priority. The steps were as follows:
Remove non-structural items to reduce weight lifted.
Prepared temporary steel framing and cables to provide an apparatus for
Set up two cranes for the lift, one on each side of the river. Two additional
cranes set up for worker access.
Lift bridge off the abutments and lower it down to an area above the river for improved worker access, while continuing to support it from the cranes at all times.
Cut bridge at the mid-span with torches while supported by the cranes.
Lift each half of the bridge to the nearest side of the river.
Dismantle and inventory the bridge for delivery off site for rehabilitation.
After nine months of the off-site repair and rehabilitation, the bridge was returned back in place across the Thames River on August 15, 2018.
4. Where was all the work done?
The bridge was actually transported to St. Mary’s, Ontario where the work was done. (About a 45 minute drive away from the site.) it was decided that bridge removal and off-site rehabilitation provides benefits including a longer life expectancy and improved worker and public safety. Off-site rehabilitation within a large indoor space created a safer worksite, ensure better quality control, reduce the need for environmental protection measures and take advantage of the winter months to complete much of the work. It also allowed for hot riveting to mimic the workmanship of 1875.
5. Why was the bowstring cut into half before being flown? Why not use the truck or two helicopters at the same time for carrying the bridge?
Two large cranes were required simply to lift the bridge – including one that is amongst the largest in North America. The bridge itself is 216 feet (65.8 meters) and is the longest working span of that kind in North America – it was determined that cutting it in half was the only possible way to transport it.
6. What difficulties did you have in restoring the bridge?
While I wasn’t involved myself, it’s pretty common knowledge that the major obstacle was the condition of the bridge. The project team had to constantly measure their desire to keep as much of the original bridge as possible while satisfying safety codes. This piece of the original structure that was gifted to me will give you an idea of what they were up against:
The rehabilitation process involved an ongoing assessment of the condition of the individual bridge parts with a combination of reuse, upgrades and the fabrication of replicas. Much of the wrought-iron members were in good enough condition to reuse. For example, the pedestrian railing and lattice that exists in several locations on the bridge were reused with local upgrades where corrosion is severe and bridge design requirements dictate. The bowstring arch was also reused and upgraded where its condition required.
7. Some historians and bridge preservation claimed that restoring the bridge is not considered restoration but more like a replacement because of new materials that were used to replace the old plus some of the extra components added to the bridge which compromises the historical value of the bridge. What is your opinion on that?
I reluctantly see their point. While I’m confident that every effort was made to restore as much of the original structure as possible there were clearly beyond repair and severely corroded. These needed to be replaced with new similar looking parts to increase the longevity of the bridge. While all original parts would have been ideal and had simply been neglected to long and at this point I’m happy to have the original bridge back – or at least a as much as possible the 1875 design of it.
8. Was the bridge listed on any Canadian national registry prior to restoration? Did it maintain its status when it was reopened in November?
Yes and yes. Blackfriars Bridge is a heritage-designated property under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act on April 21, 1992 and is included on the Ontario Heritage Bridge List, a list of provincially significant bridge structures. In 2016, Blackfriars Bridge was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. In addition, it is included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
9. Up until this interview, has this bridge received any accolades or at least a nomination for its restoration?
10. The Paper Mill Bridge in Delaware has won the Ammann Awards in two categories: Bridge of the Year and Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, narrowing beating you in a voting marathon. In both categories you got second place, meaning a silver medal. In addition, you guys won the Author’s Choice Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge. Congratulations on both! What is the reaction have you guys been receiving?
It’s been really special to have a bridge that means so much to me appreciated by others. The truth is my personal goal was simply to raise awareness of the bridge – so to have it even nominated was far beyond my initial expectations. And to then win the Author’s Choice Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge is a dream come true. It really is a local heritage gem and to have it recognized outside of our corner of the world really validates what I’ve felt all along – we are blessed to have such a historic span. The bridge has supported Londoners for 145 years and its well-deserved that it gets some support in return!
11. We have some examples of bowstring arch bridges that have been sitting abandoned and waiting for restoration and repurposing. Among them include a bowstring arch bridge in Flensburg, Indiana, Livermore Falls Bridge in New Hampshire and the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge in Mankato, Minnesota, the latter still holds the title of being the longest historic bridge in the US and second longest in the world behind you. What advice would you give to the groups interested in restoring the structure and bring it back to life for recreational purposes?
It sounds cliché but team work makes the dream work. I honestly believe that this restoration would have taken place without a lot of people reminding their friends and neighbours that not only did this bridge exist but that it was special and deserved to be saved. The lower cost of simply replacing it with a new structure was tempting to local government but heritage is a non-renewable resource. Given the obstacles faced by this project, I would suggest that the best time to start such a campaign is 25-years ago, with today being the next best option.
“Blackfriars Bridge is one of the oldest and rarest bridges in Canada and an irreplaceable landmark in the Blackfriars/Petersville neighbourhood,” says Mayor Matt Brown. “This structure contributes to the character of our community. Preserving London’s built heritage matters and seeing the structure returned, looking just like it did in 1875, really brings our City’s history to life.”
And the finished product! 🙂
Many thanks to Lincoln for the interview and the photos.
This year’s results of the Ammann Awards is nothing like anyone has ever seen before. A record setting number of votes were casted in eight categories, and with that, a lot of suspense that is comparable to any bowl game in college football and waiting under a Christmas tree for Santa Claus to provide gifts. It was that intense. And with that, a lot of commentary that led to making some new changes in the award format and that of the Chronicles itself.
For the first time in the history of the Ammann Awards, there will be a podcast with commentary of the Awards in all but one of the categories. This can be found here but also via SoundCloud. You can subscribe to Soundcloud by scrolling down on the left column, clicking and signing up once you arrive there. Details on how podcasts will be used for the Chronicles will be presented in the next podcast, which will also be posted here. The table with the results of the Ammann Awards are presented here but in the order of the podcast so that you can follow. As in last year, the table features the top six finishers with some honors mentioned, but color coded based on the medals received in the following order: gold, silver, bronze, turquoise, quartzite and iron ore.
And so without further ado, click here to access the podcast but keep this page open to follow. The results in Best Photo is yet to come here.
2018 Ammann Award Results:
And lastly, the results of the Ammann Awards under the category Best Bridge Photo:
Photo 5: Sigler Bridge in White County, IL by Melissa Brand-Welch
Photo 13: Trolley Bridge in Waterloo, Iowa by Diane Ebert
Photo 10: Manhattan Bridge in Riley County, Kansas by Nick Schmiedeleier
Photo 3: Chesterfield-Battleboro Bridges by Dan Murphy
Photo 11: Route 66 Gasconade Truss Bridge in Missouri by Dyuri Smith
Photo 2: Tappan Zee Bridge in New York by Dan Murphy
As mentioned in the podcast, next year’s awards will be the same but under a new name: The Bridgehunter Awards. The name Ammann will be relegated to the Tour Guide Awards for US and international bridges; whereas the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge will be renamed the Delony Award, after the late Eric Delony. An additional category is being considered for a historic bridge threatened with demolition but has the potential to being saved and reused. The Author’s Choice Awards will remain the same as is.
While we’re talking about those awards, you can see the results and commentaries here.
To those who won in their respective categories, as well as those who finished in the top 6 or were honored, congratulations. You may now bring out the sect and champaign and celebrate. Prost! 🙂
Finally, after the last minute push for nominations, combined with all the registrations being added, the 2018 Ammann Awards voting Ballot is now here. Between now and 7th January, you have a chance to vote for your favorite bridges in each of the categories below. As in the past, there is no limit in the number of votes you can submit per category. Yet a couple minor items to keep in mind:
In the categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Mystery Bridge and Best Bridge Photo, only the photos with little information is available. This way, voters can have a look at the photos more carefully before voting. Especially in the Restored Historic Bridge, the voter should have a closer look at what was done with each bridge and decide what was done with it. All the information will be revealed when the winners are announced in January.
Before you vote, you can look at the Information for each of the candidates and click on the links for more Details. For all except the category Best Bridge Photo, you can find the Information by clicking onto this link here.
In case of questions on the voting process or any issues that come about, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at the following address: email@example.com. The polls will Close on 7th January at 11:59pm Chicago time, which means 6:59am Berlin time on 8th January.
Good luck and may the voting begin! 😀 We have a bumper crop this time around!
James Baughn- 16 years ago, Mr. Baughn created a website devoted to historic bridges in the midwestern part of the USA. Since then, Bridgehunter.com contains a database of millions of bridges, past and present, which includes photos, stories and history and interesting facts about the structures in the 48 mainland states, plus Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other US territories.
Kitty Henderson- Kitty is the founder and executive director of the Historc Bridge Foundation, located in Austin, Texas. Since 2007, HBF has been assisting people and parties in the US and Canada in preserving historic bridges, whose numbers have been exceptionally high. The HBF is not only an agency that provides services in that aspect, it is an advocacy group and also provides a Newsletter on the successes and importance of preserving historic bridges.
Todd Wilson- Together with Lauren Winkler, Todd runs the bridgemapper Website, which provides tourists with an opportunity of finding bridges in the eastern part of the US. Todd has been active in the field of historic bridges in the greater Pittsburgh area and has produced several written works including a pair of books on this topic.
Clark Vance-Clark Vance is a long-time math and engineering teacher in the greater Kansas City area, whose other occupation also includes researching on lost bridges and photographing bridges in the midwest, focusing mainly on Missouri and Kansas. Both of which he has been doing for many years.
The Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke)-Consisting of several locals living in and around the Aue area in the German state of Saxony, the Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke have been working together to save the almost 150-year old stone arch structure from its demise in the name of progress. The beauty behind this Group is that they are people who have learned a great deal behind the trials and tribulations in saving the structure, having more knowledge of the Bridge and the ways to save and reuse them than the politicians in Dresden (Saxony’s capital) who want to see the Bridge destroyed.
Edgar Mehnert- The Bridges of Aue (Saxony) would not be the bridges as they are, if it hadn’t been for this Gentleman, who researched on the bridge’s history and contributed a great deal in a book published a few years ago. Like Todd Wilson, Edgar has reisded in the area all his life and has see a lot of changes to the bridge landscape.
Jason D. Smith- One of the fellow pontists nominated the creator of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for this Award and with having the News column since 2010, which features the Othmar H. Ammann Awards plus the Author’s Choice Awards, plus success stories and tour guides on historic bridges in the US, Europe and elsewhere, it is highly justified to being nominated in this category.
Vern Mesler-A bridge preservationist just isn’t a preservationist, and a welder is not a welder without the precise instruction and the practical know-how of this long-time welder and teacher at Lansing Community College and manager of VJM Craftsman. Mesler has been doing this for 35 years and has hosted a metal craftsman conference held every spring for a decade.
Nathan Holth-Nathan Holth’s experience in saving and advocating for the preservation of historic bridges in the US and Canada through his website historic.bridges.org and his other Engagements in restoring historic bridges both in theory and in practice. He has been doing this for over 17 years and counting.