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The bridge has always been the heart of Bridgetown. The current bridge is a new, conventional highway bridge opened in 1922. The lighting was provided by the town and the Business Improvement District Commission.
Originally, travellers crossed the river, pretty much at this point, by wading; it was the last ford. Before too long there was a ferry. The first ferry was operated by John Hicks as early as 1771 and the community was known for many years as Hicks' Ferry. The Hicks family have always been prominent in Bridgetown, one member (Henry D. Hicks) becoming Premier of Nova Scotia, President of Dalhousie University and a Senator.
The first bridge replaced the ferry in 1805. It was relatively crude, based on huge abutments in the river, needed to defeat the tides. Apparently it created noisy whirlpools and eddies when the tide turned. If nothing else, it created a barrier preventing ships of any size from travelling further up the River. “ Bridge town is a neat little village, taking its name from the bridge that connects Granville with Annapolis, and deriving its origin and support from the depot which is here formed at the head of navigation for the trade of Wilmot and the upper part of the two adjoining townships.” Haliburton, 1829.
Bridgetown “is also a seaport, and vessels of very heavy tonnage may come up the river, and discharge their cargoes into its bosom, an advantage which, notwithstanding the difficulties of the Bay and River navigation, is one of the first importance.” Howe, 1828.
Crude as it may have been, the first bridge lasted until 1878, when a covered bridge replaced it. The red covered bridge, with its famous sign " Keep to the Left and Walk Your Horses or You Will Be Fined", became a symbol of the town. (It was not until the 1920's that Town Council agreed that we should drive on the right.) This bridge endured until 1907, when it was considered too expensive to maintain, and a conventional steel bridge replaced it. This bridge was taken out by the great flood of 1920, which created the worst flooding ever seen in Bridgetown. Another steel bridge was built in its place, and served until the new steel and concrete structure we now have was opened in 1992.
View upriver from Look-Off
Tides at Bridgetown formerly rose and fell about ten feet. After the causeway was constructed at Annapolis Royal, tides became non-existent. With the development of tidal power, tides have returned to the river but seldom exceed a foot or so at the bridge. Across Queen Street, the grocery store is on the site of Captain Crosskill's store. There was a dock here before the town was laid out. Up the river you can see the iron railway bridge (the old highway bridges were similar, if less substantial). This bridge was an important link in the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, opened in 1869. Later this was the Dominion Atlantic Railway (famous as the Route of Evangeline) operated by Canadian Pacific. The old station is across the river and to your right.
Iron Railway Bridge
The large building you can see across the river on the right, the one with the turret, is the former St. James Hotel, later the Riverside Inn. Occupation of this site goes back to John Hicks (the original ferryman) and his home, integrated into an earlier version of the Inn but since burned. The present building was built in 1902; it remained as a hotel until about 1930.
You may wish to cross the bridge and look around.