The history of the Quebec Bridge spans over a century

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Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

Chefs of the Fairmont Château Frontenac slice the enormous cake, representing the Quebec Bridge spanning the St. Lawrence River during the 100th anniversary celebrations.

The Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain near the Quai des Cageux was packed on September 23. Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Quebec Bridge was in full swing all day. Children played on bouncy castles, families enjoyed picnics and passersby admired the different Quebec Bridge sculptures.

In the evening, dignitaries made an appearance for the cutting of the ginormous 3D cake in the shape of the Quebec Bridge, baked and assembled by chefs of the Fairmont Château Frontenac. Lines of people waited to have their taste.

As the sun set, individuals sat along the banks of the St. Lawrence River with their eyes on the bridge, waiting for the celebratory fireworks. A sliver of the waxing moon even put in an appearance over the bridge for the occasion.

It is important to remember the history of this bridge. There was some question if a cantilever bridge could span the almost-one-kilometre distance between the two shores. During the construction years, from 1900 to 1917, hundreds of construction workers laboured on the project. On August 29, 1907, 76 workers died when the south span of the bridge collapsed. Another 13 died on September 11, 1916, when the central span fell as it was being raised into position. Construction ended on September 20, 1917, and the bridge finally opened after nearly 20 years of construction, and decades of planning, drawing and arranging funding.

A century later, the Quebec Bridge still spans the St. Lawrence River and remains the longest cantilever bridge in the world. Linking the two shores, it allows trains, cars, bicycles and pedestrians to cross.

“First, we are extremely proud of the engineering achievement which we have the honour to have in Quebec City for 100 years,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and MP of Quebec City.

“Second, in the region of Quebec, we are very lucky to have such a rich heritage, which demands a big responsibility. Third, it is important to take care of what we have and what we are, and to do it together.”

Earlier in the day, dignitaries including Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity and MNA for the Capitale-Nationale François Blais, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and Lévis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier unveiled commemorative plaques at each end of the Quebec Bridge, one at the park of the Marina-de-la-Chaudière and the other at the Quai des Cageux.

“I remember when I was a child ... crossing the Quebec Bridge in the family car to go to the Saint-Roch mall. I still have great pleasure in crossing the bridge,” said Mayor Lehouillier. He and Labeaume are working hard to have the bridge, which is owned by Canadian National, repainted and properly maintained.

“If the bridge could talk, imagine the stories we would hear,” said Samantha Livingston. “I spent my youth crossing it to visit family on both shores. I’ve seen marathons, trains, bikers, and more on that bridge. I’ve heard tales from my parents and uncles. I greatly enjoy looking at this beautiful engineering masterpiece.”