It was a little more than 100 years ago that the Redwood Bridge was built in the North End of Winnipeg.
Completed in 1908 by the Dominion Bridge Company, the bridge officially opened in January of 1909, making it Winnipeg’s oldest remaining original bridge today.
The bridge got off to a troublesome start. The original design had to undergo significant alterations due to the location of the piers and legal problems arose over disputes about wages paid to workers.
A Manitoba Free Press article in 1908 reported that Kelly Bros. of Kenora, the contractors for the bridge’s piers, were "paying 15 and 17 1/2 cents an hour instead of the 20 cents called for under the fair wage clause in their contract."
When finally completed, the Free Press said that it consisted of 25 feet of clear roadway. The floor was "laid with six inches of concrete, reinforced with steel rods, and it carries two car tracks." It contained 700 tons of steel.
It was considered a huge benefit to the residents of East Kildonan along with the much anticipated streetcar service that was expected to connect those living on the east side of the Red River with the centre of the city.
East Kildonan continued to grow. Developers advertised lots for the new suburb of Fernwood, in an area "unequalled for its natural loveliness in Manitoba," and built throughout the area.
The bridge is thought to have been named for the Redwood Brewery which stood on the corner of what is now Redwood and Main Street. The Redwood House, built by William Inkster in 1857, also once stood on the site.
Electric streetcar service began on the bridge in 1910. The streetcars weren’t the only thing using the bridge. In 1923, 300 steers crossed over it and then sauntered down Main Street while being herded on their way to Teulon.
An Alberta steamer offered excursions from the Redwood up to the St. Andrews Locks for 25 cents in 1910. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the S.S. Kenora’s dock and offices sat north of the Redwood and took Winnipeggers on pleasure cruises.
Costly bridge repairs were made frequently over the years. In the ’50s, the bridge was considered overly congested and practically obsolete.
After years of delays the Disraeli freeway was born in 1960 to help reduce the amount of the traffic on the Redwood and free it up for repairs.
A major makeover was done again in 2006 when the handsome old bridge was officially re-opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Cheryl Girard is a River Bend-based writer who loves to write about all things Manitoban.
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